Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Exurban Battles Brew in Virginia

Karl Rove loves the exurbs. The supposed mastermind of President Bush's victory decided long before November's election that these rapidly-expanding communities contained the ever-elusive persuadable voters that would keep Bush in the White House.

The term exurb was first used in the 1950's to describe the sleepy, rural communities that existed beyond the confines of the traditional suburbs. New highways and the increasingly-popular automobile allowed workers to venture outside the regional cores of America's metropolises. And venture they did.

The exurbs of today are no longer sleepy, nor are they rural. They have become, instead, destinations in and of themselves, with vast office parks and shopping malls punctuating the seemingly endless sprawl. It is here that Karl Rove sought and found his persuadable voters. And it is here that the battle for Virginia's legislature is taking place.

A handful of high-powered incumbents face serious challenges in the exurbs of Northern Virginia. John Kerry narrowly won Fairfax County, the inner-most exurb, and the race to watch there is between Republican incumbent Dave Albo and Democratic newcomer Greg Werkheiser in the 42nd district.

Albo is a life-long resident of the district who cites cutting taxes and punishing criminals as his priorities. He recently, however, caused some controversy by proposing legislation that would reduce the penalty for child molesters. Werkheiser is considered by many to be a rising star in Virginia politics. He is a co- founder of the Virginia Citizenship Institute and has written speeches for both President Bill Clinton and Governor Mark Warner.

Werkheiser has taken an early lead in fundraising by amassing $81,000 during the last period, while Albo managed just $68,000. Werkheiser is sure to extend that lead between now and February 26, the date when Albo, currently in Richmond for the bi-annual session, can legally commence fundraising.

The Republican party has dominated Prince William County, an outer exurb, for as long as most can remember, but Democrats hope that rapidly shifting demographics brought about by an influx of new immigrants will work in their favor.

At the eastern end of the county, Republican incumbent Jeff Frederick, a political consultant, faces Democrat Matt Harrisonr, a management and information technology consultant in the 52nd district. Harrison has raised $36,000 and Frederick has raised $107,000. .

Republican Bob Marshall faces a vigorous challenge from retired fire fighter and Vietnam veteran Bruce Roemmelt in the 13th district. Roemmelt will surely attempt to point out Marshall's conservative social views and his inability to relieve the area's ever-worsening traffic. Marshall has raised just $24,000, a relatively low figure for an incumbent.
(fundraising data courtesy of Virginia Public Access Project)

Cross-posted at Political State Report

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