The State Senate race in the 34th District is sizzling with action, but early stages of the campaign prove it’s all about the money.
At her campaign kick-off event at the Vienna Fire House, Friday, April 13, Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34) said her reelection bid will "easily be a $1 million campaign."
But her Democratic opponent, J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen, a former state delegate and a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2005, is showing that he can raise money too. In the first three months of his campaign, Petersen has raised about $185,000. He’s still well behind the $580,000 that Devolites Davis has raised to date, but he’s not worried. Petersen said he’s had more than 550 individual donors this year — more than any other candidate statewide, he said.
"That’s what I’m most proud of," he said, at his "Chappy Hour" fund raiser at the Vienna Inn, Thursday, April 12.
In a race that is widely viewed as one of the Senate’s most competitive this year, voters in the 34th District have demonstrated inconsistent voting patters. The City of Fairfax portion of the district had a 57 percent voter turnout in 2006. At that election, voters aligned with the Democrats when 53 percent of them voted against the marriage amendment and 56 percent voted for the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate. More than 54 percent, however, voted for U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11 ) — the Republican incumbent — according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.
However Davis, who is Devolites Davis’ husband, saw a much smaller margin in the city’s results than he did in 2004. In that election, which was also a presidential election with a much higher voter turnout of 73 percent, Davis beat out the Democratic candidate by 20 percentage points. He won by less than 10 percentage points in 2006.
FRUSTRATION WITH the U.S. government and President George W. Bush has some voters swinging to the other side though — a move Petersen hopes will help him in his Senate race.
"Since George Bush ran, I haven’t voted Republican," said Sandy Canlas, a Virginia Department of Transportation employee who identifies himself as an independent. "They tote the [party] line or you go nowhere. I don’t agree with that."
Canlas, an Oakton resident, is supporting Petersen this year because he wants to see a change in power in the Senate, just as voters wanted for the U.S. Congress last year. Change is an underlying theme in Petersen’s race.
Devolites Davis said the Democrats want control of the Senate for political reasons, not because they want to accurately represent their constituents’ interests. She said Petersen claims Democrats will bring new ideas, but points out that Republicans were the ones carrying the transportation legislation earlier this year.
"I didn’t see a single plan from the other party," said Devolites Davis. "I carry legislation I think is going to make a difference."
Petersen said his party is the party of the people, and his experience as an attorney is a skill he’ll use in the Senate. He said he likes representing people, which is why he’s seeking to continue his career in state politics.
"I’d like him to replace the current incumbent," said Peg Hausman, a Vienna resident. "He’s got the experience and capability to do a good job."