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Votes

Two Vying for Vacated Senate Seat

Mick Staton

In 1977 D. M. "Mick" Staton Jr. got his first taste of political life. His father was running for office and 7-year-old Mick went door-to-door campaigning for his father.

Many more campaigns would come and go as Staton grew older. He remembers the door-to-door campaigning and the parades he rode in the most from those days.

In 2003, for the first time Staton ran for office himself. He was elected to represent the Sugarland Run District on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Halfway through his term he is seeking to take the place of former state senator William Mims (R-33) who resigned, effective Wednesday Jan. 14.

"Mims did a very good job of representing this area," said Staton. He said Mims was a strong advocate for families.

STATON IS THE chairman of the Board of Supervisors' Transportation/Land Use Committee. "We deal with some of the most difficult issues facing the county on that committee," said Staton. Despite the difficulty of the issues, he said, he was able to achieve a lot of consensus between the members of the committee. "Even those who disagree with me respect me," he said.

The ability to achieve consensus, said Staton, is one of the main attributes he believes makes him the best candidate for the 33rd District Senate seat. Former state delegate Richard Black said Staton would provide a tremendous level of representation for the district, because of his intellect and the ability to achieve consensus on difficult issues, such as transportation.

Staton said the most glaring issue facing Fairfax and Loudoun counties is the issue of fairness. "There is a systematic pattern of looking to Northern Virginia as a revenue source," said Staton. The people of the two most affluent counties in the state not only bear the burden of their own roads and schools, but also the burden of other localities, he said. If the pattern continues, he said, the economic engine will grind to a halt.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT issue to the residents of the 33rd District, said Staton, is transportation. He said there is no one "silver bullet" that will solve the transportation issue. "It is going take everything," he said, "roads, rail, buses and new and innovative ways to pay for them." He said it is estimated the state needs a billion dollars a year to improve its transportation system. Former governor Mark Warner proposed a $72 billion budget for the two upcoming years. "One out of 72 is easy to find," he said.

One of the things Staton wants to do in regards to transportation funding is to look at the Virginia Department of Transportation's maintenance budget. He said more than 50 percent of the money sent to VDOT goes to maintenance, which does not have a good criteria for deciding its maintenance projects. He said one of the ways VDOT determines which roads to do maintenance on is a windshield survey. Two employees drive down a road, one drives while the other looks through a windshield to determine whether the road needs improvement.

Staton also said he hoped the Dulles Rail would be built soon, but is concerned about the cost. He said rail will not fix the transportation problem, because 90 percent of commuter trips will still be in cars. "You can't fix the transportation problem unless you fix the roads," said Staton. A way of funding road improvements, he said, is to ask developers to pay more for roads. This is an area he said he had a strong record in as the chairman of the Transportation/Land Use Committee. Black said Staton had insight on the area's transportation issues and has the intellectual ability to conceptualize those issues.

Some of the proposed funding sources for transportation, such as raising the gas tax or putting tolls on existing roads, will not solve the problems, said Staton. "Around 50 roads in this area are proposed for tolls," said Staton.

AS FAR AS education is concerned, Staton said there is a lack of state funding to Loudoun and Fairfax counties. The amount of education money a locality receives from the state is based on a composite index. The formula takes into consideration a number of federal employees who live and work in a locality as well as the affluence of the locality's residents. Staton said the tax rate in Loudoun could probably drop to 90 cents of $100 of assessed value if the county had the same composite index as Prince William County. With the same composite index, Loudoun would receive around $100 million more in education money. Staton said Loudoun County is not so much more affluent than Prince William County, but the difference is in the federal employees who work and live in the Quantico base in Prince William.

Loudoun has worked hard to do well in education, paying some of the best salaries to their teachers. However, the burden of building the new schools necessary to accommodate new families in a fast growing county should not fall squarely on the shoulders of the tax payers, said Staton. They should receive more help from the state.

STATON SAID HE would try to stop the urbanization of Loudoun County. He said as a supervisor he had a record of voting for fair and balanced growth. He said the county has instituted the most thorough proffer system, which now includes money paid for public safety agencies, which will protect the developments. "[Staton] has a reputation for making developers pay more money for roads and schools than ever before," said Black.

The recent development of eastern Loudoun, said Staton, is a symptom of Washington, D.C.'s growth. Over the decades, suburban areas surrounding Washington became urban areas, while rural areas became suburban areas. Staton said he wants to maintain the quality of life in Loudoun that will attract families. Urban surroundings, he said, do not attract families. Unless we stop the cycle, he said, western Loudoun will become the next suburban community.

"WE HAVE A very good candidate" in Mick Staton, said Suzanne Volpe, the chairman of the Republican 33rd State Senate Legislative District Committee. "Unlike the Democrats, we did not have to import a candidate in from another district," she said. Black, who spent eight years in the General Assembly as a delegate, said Staton is solid, reliable and diligent. "I can't imagine anyone who would work harder to represent the 33rd District," said Black.