In the last week before Election Day, Danny Vargas (R) got one more huge infusion of cash from Virginia Republicans.
The Dominion Leadership Trust set up by House Speaker Bill Howell (R) to support Republican candidates has contributed a total of $306,504 in 2015 to Danny Vargas, $265,000 of it reported on Oct. 26. Howell also gave Vargas $50,000 directly, recorded Aug. 19, according to Virginia Public Access Project.
The Republican State Leadership Committee also made a $50,000 cash contribution in August.
Voters in the 86th district certainly noticed the $50,829 that Vargas received from the Republican Party of Virginia in “in kind” donations of nine different political mailings.
Retiring Del. Tom Rust, whose seat Vargas seeks, also donated $34,045 to Vargas.
TWO YEARS AGO, Jennifer Boysko lost her bid for the 86th district seat by just 32 votes, sixteen-hundredths of one percent, in a race against Del. Tom Rust (R). Boysko received 10,378 votes to Tom Rust’s 10,410, according to vpap.org.
This election season, Boysko got last minute contributions of $2,500 from Sen. Janet Howell and $1,000 from Sen. Barbara Favola. Boysko had $186,363 Cash on Hand as of Sept. 30, 2015 according to Virginia Public Access Project, VPAP.org.
Overall in 2015, Boysko received more than 900 donations of more than $100 for $234,400; and more than 1,000 contributions of $100 or less for a total of $44,350.
Vargas had received 126 contributions of more than $100 and 113 contributions of $100 or less as of Sept. 30, 2015, according to vpap.org.
THE 86TH District is 87 percent in Fairfax County and 13 percent in Loudoun County. In the most recent statewide election last November 2014, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) took 58 percent of the vote vs. Ed Gillespie’s 40 percent.
Republican Tom Rust, former Herndon mayor, has held the seat since 2002.
He won his last election two years ago over Jennifer Boysko by a margin of just 32 votes out of more than 20,000 votes cast.
“When I got into that race, people basically patted me on the head and said, ‘That’s cute of you to try. You’ll never make any progress on that.’ And then I came 32 votes short, said Boysko. “For me, running in that race, I was frustrated that the incumbent made some bad votes that I really disagreed with. I honestly had not expected to come that close.”
“But I did learn that my voice can make a difference,” she said. “Half the district came out for me against someone who had served us for so long and had done such a good job as a Mayor. I saw there was an opportunity for me in the future.”
At Chantilly High School last week, when asked by a student how to get other students interested in local politics, she brings up the 32 votes as the message of the power of democracy, of the power of each and every voter has.
VARGAS SAYS RUST called him around the time the former Herndon mayor announced his retirement.
“Del. Rust asked me to run and succeed him,” Vargas said. “The first thing I said was, ‘I want you to be there forever.’”
“I’m humbled, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my business,” said Vargas. “It probably took me a few weeks, I got advice from colleagues, I prayed, and I finally came to a conclusion that this a way to serve this community.”
Vargas brings up his youth, growing up in a broken home in the slums of Brooklyn, with a mother who struggled to raise him and his sisters without an education.
“There were times we were homeless and times we were hungry,” he said, grateful for the opportunities he has had to come back from what he calls the “humblest of beginnings.
“I don’t need another title, but I do need to make sure I give back,” Vargas said.
Boysko grew up in a neighborhood in Alabama, serendipitously in the same neighborhood as Mayor Lisa Merkel. She has worked as Dranesville Supervisor John W. Foust’s legislative assistant in Herndon for eight years.
“He is there for the community,” said Boysko of Foust. “His entire mission is in just making a difference … and making the community a part of the decision making, especially in land use and transportation issues. And I was very lucky to have a role in that, in helping bring the folks together to make a lot of those decisions as we planned, especially around the Silver Line Metro and other improvements in the Herndon area specifically.”
BOTH CANDIDATES love Herndon and are residents.
“It’s where our kids have been born and raised, and I love that it has that sense of community, of neighbors helping neighbors,” said Vargas.
“I have been active in the Town and in the community for 20 years,” said Boysko.
“I know my community well, I’m very very integrated and understand the needs of them and I think my role is to take their concerns and needs to Richmond so we make government work for our community,” she said.
Both love campaigning.
Boysko said she has knocked on 8,000 doors herself while her staff has made it to 30,000 households this campaign season.
“I’m a grassroots organizer, I go door to door to talk, to have a quality discussion with voters. I think that’s the most important thing that I can do,” she said.
“If I can listen to what’s important to a voter, they will realize that’s where my main interest is,” she said.
Vargas has also been out to visit voters.
There are a lot of families struggling to “make ends meet,” he said, and he has found that “people appreciate that they have a representative that can relate to what’s on their plate.
“I introduce myself, and say, ‘But I’m here to listen to what’s important to you,’” said Vargas.
CAREER PATHS do differentiate the two.
While Boysko has been involved legislatively, Vargas is a U.S. Air Force veteran and is the founder/president of VARCom Solutions and was a former vice president of global sales and vice president of Latin America for AOL.
He is the former chair of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development, a gubernatorial appointment, and former Chair of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m going to focus on increasing our economy,” he said. “Because of my business background, I believe I can do that. I’m a private sector guy.”
In his questionnaire, Vargas says his top five legislative priorities are to: grow and diversify the economy, strengthen education and workforce development, improve transportation, improve public safety and help our veterans.
Boysko says hers are to: “improve education and fully fund schools, including expanding early childhood education and reforming SOL testing; working with Governor McAuliffe and our local leaders to bring new jobs to expand our economy; bringing our fair share of transportation funding from Richmond and stop the initiative to toll I-66; expand Medicaid to cover the 400,000 Virginians without healthcare and free up the $5 million per day we already pay in taxes in Federal funds to tackle our other underfunded priorities like schools, mental health and transportation.”
TOLLS ON I-66 might make a difference in this race, even though both candidates oppose them.
In Herndon, Boysko says she has heard nearly unanimous opposition to VDOT tolling on I-66.
“I have not met anybody who is in favor of that from the community, everybody including me, believes that we are already being burdened enough by our own toll road along the Dulles Toll Road,” she said.
But Vargas campaign mailings infer otherwise.
“Voters can’t trust Jennifer Boysko to stop $17 tolls,” it reads. “Governor McAuliffe wants two things: $17 tolls for I-66 inside the beltway and Jennifer Boysko in Richmond to help him enact his transportation agenda.”
Boysko hopes the misrepresentation in mailers could turn into another way to get voters passionate enough to come to the booths on Nov. 3. “I’ve had people ask me my opinion on that and then people who have been very disgruntled, calling and saying, ‘I know you don’t support that issue.’”
Republican candidates have raised the issue of tolling on I-66 in all the local Dranesville races, including Supervisor Foust’s re-election campaign against challenger Jennifer Chronis, and incumbent Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34) who is battling Craig Parisot (R).
Both incumbents specifically said in debates they oppose the tolls only to hear their opponents claim they don’t minutes later.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Foust said, after the debates.
“Republican candidates are desperately trying to find an issue and they are claiming that their opponents support the tolling,” Foust said. “I’m telling you, pay attention to the facts.
“They have to stop fabricating issues and start talking about real issues,” said Foust.
Questionnaires for both Boysko and Vargas appear in this edition.