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House Call: As Albo Goes, So Goes Virginia

Amy Gardner

Hello politicos, and welcome to our second installment of House Call! This week we're going to drill down into the Fightin' 42nd District in southeastern Fairfax County, because you know what they say: As Albo goes, so goes the commonwealth.

Actually, as far as I know, I'm the only one who said that. But I think it's a reasonable way to describe what should be the Democrats' easiest pick-up of the year. If Republican incumbent Dave Albo hangs on again this year in one of the state's two most Democratic-performing districts currently held by Republicans (the other is Tom Rust's 86th District in Herndon and Loudoun County), then Democrats have little hope of winning the six seats they need to take back the House of Delegates.

It's really hard to say what will happen. Albo, when he has a challenger, is always deemed vulnerable. And yet he has always scraped by in a district that by most accounts is pretty evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The district includes West Springfield, where Albo grew up, as well as Lorton and a chunk of Route 1.

Greg Werkheiser, a nonprofit executive, lost by fewer than 800 votes four years ago; the final tally was 52 percent to 48 percent for Albo. A question for many is whether Werkheiser gave up some momentum by not staging a rematch in 2007. (He's got kind of a good excuse, though: He was busy setting up a nonprofit to help poor people.)

Still, Werkheiser's most recent fundraising reports showed a substantial disadvantage in cash on hand. And much hay is being made (by Republicans) of the view that the recent Democrat-leaning performance of the district was fueled by antipathy to President Bush, who is now gone.

Werkheiser said his cash on hand doesn't reflect the fact that his campaign has been up and running since January, raising more than Albo this calendar year and already spending money on voter contacts. Werkheiser said he and his campaign crew have knocked on doors numbering in the low tens of thousands. He'll also get plenty of money and attention from the state party come fall. But so will Albo, so that might be a wash.

In the end, what decides this race is whether the 42nd has truly become a Democratic district. The 42nd is a weird place, including some of Fairfax County's most Republican precincts (Fountainhead) and also some of its most Democratic (Lorton Station). Four years ago, the district was measured as 46 percent Democratic, and Werkheiser outperformed that number. Today, is the performance index higher? And does that pull Werkheiser across the finish line?

Certainly, Werkheiser should not rely on the so-called "Obama surge" vote -- the first-time or occasional voters who turned out to vote in last year's historic election but cannot be counted on for regular participation. He said he doesn't need them. With almost exactly 50,000 registered voters in the 42nd District, the race isn't likely to attract more than 20,000 voters to the polls -- meaning that the first man to 11,000 wins. Finding that many Democrats in the 42nd is absolutely doable, Werkheiser said.

And Albo's got some weaknesses. He sponsored the infamous abusive driving fees in 2007. On the one hand he was trying to find road money for Northern Virginia; on the other, Virginians hated them, which is why the legislature repealed them quickly.

Albo, a trial lawyer, also has a 4-year-old son, Ben -- and he isn't shy about saying he'd rather be home with Ben and wife Rita than knocking on doors in sweltering August.

Finally, Albo is acutely aware of how much the district has changed -- one reason why he spends most of his time talking about transportation. He also seems to acknowledge the vulnerability of his party. He said this week that the district is basically 50-50, but he also said: "You have to be a Republican or a Democrat to get elected. But I've always just run on doing stuff for the neighborhood. I wasn't a young Republican. I was a civic association president, and a spot opened up, and I ran."

But if you're thinking that both candidates agree that the 42nd is Democratic, check this out: Werkheiser said he expects many voters to split their vote -- between him and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell. Go figure.

Meanwhile, in the category of miscellaneous, here's the House Democratic Caucus's most recent propaganda on the playing field out there. Republicans, send me your material and I'll slap it up here too.

And don't forget to send your tips and opinions to me at gardnera@washpost.com or 703-383-5102.

Until next time.

By Amy Gardner  |  August 13, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Election 2009 , General Assembly 2009  
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Comments

For anyone that doesn't remember, the article doesn't mention that Mr David Albo is the traffic law lawyer who also was at one time described as the "chief architect" for those brilliant "Civil Remedial Fees" legislation in 2007.

Posted by: wheels979 | August 13, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

did the districts change because of the redevelopment corporations created by the dems moving dems into districts to change the voting outcomes...

Posted by: DwightCollins | August 13, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm tired of typical politician types like David Albo. I find it interesting that this article leaves out the fact that Albo lies to his constituents - as he did this past session - and holds extremist views that are out of step with the views of voters in the 42nd. While Albo has spent his career voting against women's health and commonsense solutions, Werkheiser seems like the guy who will actually get stuff done by supporting access to contraception and sex ed. Now THAT'S what we really need right now!

Posted by: Russj114 | August 13, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Dear wheels979 and Russj114, the immensity of your ignorance is staggering. "lies to his constituents...holds extremist views..." etc? You forgot the silly accusation that he supports child molesters, as Werkheiser asserted in his failed run. Unscrupulous wannabes like Werkheiser know they can foment false perceptions because people like you choose to buy into it without actually knowing anything about the reality of the situations. Dave Albo is a smart, skilled and conscientious representative. You may disagree with some of his positions, but your statements are just stupid.

Posted by: citizen42 | August 13, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

"Dear wheels979, the immensity of your ignorance"

What specifically are you referring to? is my ignorance... was he not responsible for the "Civil Remedial Fees" legislation in 2007?

Didn't it make national headlines and was repealed just months after taking effect? Was it not a major embarrassment for Virginia?

Posted by: wheels979 | August 13, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Fair enough Wheels. My coment was more directed at the other poster. I do believe the Civil Remedial Fees was a reasonable attempt at funding transportation, thus disagree with your position. Like so many legislative initiatives (Obama's health care plan will kill my grandma), reality is obfuscated by invalid perceptions. The Civil Remedial Fees would not have resulted in a $3,000 fine for going 21 MPH over the limit. However, your points are valid.

Posted by: citizen42 | August 13, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for validating my point Mr. Albo cough... cough... I mean citizen42.

Posted by: wheels979 | August 13, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Ha. You're being funny now. I'm not him, but I do know him.

Posted by: citizen42 | August 13, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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