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Jody Wagner Campaigns in Fairfax

At the Democratic Club meeting in Fairfax County's Greenspring Village retirement community, there was no hemming and hawing Tuesday about whether Virginia should boost the gas tax to fix Northern Virginia's roads.

From the mouths of lieutenant governor candidate Jody Wagner, fellow Democrat Del. Vivian E. Watts, and several folks in the audience, the message was: Bring it on.

"I drive the roads, and I don't like sitting in long lines, so I don't mind paying more, because I'm using it," a man asked from the back of the room during the Q&A. "Why can't we add 10 cents more? Would that do it?"

The man noted that Virginia ranks among the lowest in the U.S. for its gas tax.

Wagner, after noting that it took her more than an hour to drive about six miles from a hotel in Herndon to a meeting in Tysons Corner, did not explicitly endorse raising the gas tax. But the thrust of her remarks suggested that she believes not only that higher gas taxes must be part of a long-term solution, but that other new revenues might also be necessary.

"Whatever we do, we've got to make sure it's tied to usage in some fashion," Wagner said. "It needs to fall on people that are use the transportation system. Second, it needs to be broad-based in its application. And, third, it has to be sustainable."

Citing her own switch from a vehicle that got 20 miles per gallon to one that now gets nearly 50, Wagner said the nation's motorists are shifting toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, thereby reducing the amount raised by gas taxes.

"It is not the ultimate panacea we would like to think it is," Wagner said. "So, ultimately, that is not the ultimate solution. It may be a bridge. But, ultimately, we're going to have to be more diverse in the way we handle it because people are going to start moving away from gasoline."

Watts, meanwhile, said she thought Deeds "was extremely responsible" when he pledged to find new revenue for transportation.

And both characterized the transportation plan pushed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell and the rest of the GOP ticket as a dodge that relies on what Wagner called "phantom" sources of revenue, such as offshore oil wells and privatized liquor stores.

Wagner, who passed out small samples of the popcorn produced by her business, also jabbed her opponent as a no-show lieutenant governor. Of 67 meetings of commissions to which he belonged, incumbent Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has shown up for only four, Wagner said.

"That's a 6 percent attendance record," Wagner said. "Now, at my company, if somebody shows up six percent of the time, they won't be showing up for very long because they won't be working for me for very long."

Asked about the GOP's sizable lead at the moment, Wagner said she was not concerned by polls showing McDonnell with at least an 8-point advantage over Deeds, a gap that has carried over into the rest of the ticket. Wagner said many voters remain undecided while she and Del. Steve Shannon, who is running for Attorney General, were just their getting TV ads up.

One subject that barely came up Tuesday was McDonnell's stridently conservative, 20-year-old thesis for a Christian college master's degree. Watts acknowledged that, while ringing doorbells soliciting Democratic votes, many Northern Virginians expressed the feeling that they had already heard enough about McDonnell's grad school views of women working outside the home. They told her they needed to hear more about Deeds.

In response, Wagner said she and Deeds would put into practice their party's view of working women, when they team up to campaign together this weekend.

"I think it's important that people see that the Democratic ticket is more diverse," Wagner said.

---Fredrick Kunkle

By Anne Bartlett  |  October 13, 2009; 7:08 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Lieutenant Governor's Race , Fredrick Kunkle , Jody Wagner  
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