GOP leaders back Rollison in race

Delegate John A. “Jack” Rollison III showed he has the backing of influential county and state Republicans at his Monday campaign kickoff to counter an inner-party challenge for his seat.

House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore spoke in support at the kickoff as did master of ceremonies, Sean T. Connaughton, R-at-large, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, and Delegates Harry J. Parrish, R-50th District, Robert G. Marshall, R-13th District, Michele B. McQuigg, R-51st District, and L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31st District.

Supervisors Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, and Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge, whose areas Rollison represents in Richmond, were also in attendance.

“I see lots of big wheels in this room,” said Dumfries Mayor Mel Bray, a democrat, himself showing bipartisan support for Rollison.

Prince William’s four other state delegates lack challengers from any party so far this year, while Rollison, 52, is facing political newcomer Jeff Frederick, 27, in a June primary for the Republican nomination.

“We are at our best when we are united behind our incumbents,” Kilgore said, himself one of the state’s strongest conservatives. To have strong leadership as the majority party, republicans need to re-elect their current leaders, he said. “If you want money for transportation, you have to go through Jack Rollison,” Kilgore said, referring to Rollison’s chairmanship of House Transportation Committee and the House Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation.

Rollison is widely acknowledged to be one of the most well-versed Richmond lawmakers on transportation issues. He helped craft the budget language that Gov. Jim Gilmore used to begin phasing out the car tax, which now amounts to a $40 million tax cut for Prince William, he said.

His Transportation Committee oversees the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the subcommittee oversees the agency’s funding.

He also crafted the language that Gilmore eventually adopted into the Virginia Transportation Act of 2000 that dedicated $100 million in general fund dollars to transportation. That stream of cash was cut off when state revenues dropped in 2001, and this year Rollison and Marshall pushed unsuccessfully to revive the funding.

“I would like to continue to fight for our conservative Prince William values. I believe we can do more to move the commonwealth toward policies that respect life, uphold our constitutional freedoms and shrink the size of government,” Rollison said.

Rollison voted for the repeal of the estate tax, the partial-birth abortion ban and the abortion consent bill this year.

But in Prince William, conservative is a relative term.

Frederick is labeling Rollison a liberal over the transportation sales tax referendum.

Rollison was the main architect of the referendum that became the dominant issue for state politics last year. Gov. Mark R. Warner took up the cause, and endorsements were leveled by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Rep. Tom Davis, R-11th District, but the issue was soundly defeated by voters in November.

Rollison’s supporters Monday praised him for pushing for controversial solutions, which they said is what leaders do, rather than just be a politician.

“He’s stood up when others wouldn’t stand up,” Connaughton said. “But they are solutions when nobody else was offering solutions. [Opponents] are just complaining.”

The 52nd District race will largely be over in two months because a Democrat is not seen a serious threat.

Open primaries attract small numbers of voters so motivating support will be important to both sides.

In 2001, Bob Berry challenged Rollison on the same anti-tax platform carried by Frederick. Four percent of the district’s voters came out, or 1,565 votes, with Rollison winning 65.7 percent.

Rollison had $27,194 cash on hand in the last report filed in January. On Monday, he accepted a $10,000 check from Buck Waters on behalf of the Virginians for Transportation Solutions political action committee.

Frederick had $5,549 on hand in his last report. He has spent $3,241 and received in-kind donations totaling $22,606, the bulk of which came from his technology company GXS, $13,741, and political consulting, $8,000. Frederick also repaid a $12,000 loan from himself.

Frederick has endorsements of nine members of the Prince William County Republican Committee and past and present chairmen of the Prince William County Taxpayers Alliance, according to his Web site.

All but two of Frederick’s contributions over $100 came from individuals outside Prince William.

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.

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