I feel sorry for the good people of Dale City and the other communities that are part of the 31st District of the House of Delegates.
This fall they will have to choose between the incumbent, Republican L. Scott Lingamfelter, the carpetbagger from Lake Ridge, and former delegate David G. Brickley, a craven opportunist who bolted the Democratic party in order to snag a lucrative state retirement package.
I would not blame voters for simply sitting this election out. The two political parties, both dominated by special-interest groups and big financial contributors, are supposed to recruit candidates who will advance broad public interests, but in this task both have failed.
Lingamfelter, a freshman delegate, is a newcomer to Dale City. He formerly lived in Lake Ridge, but when he decided to run for the Virginia House of Delegates, he realized he would be bumping heads with Michele McQuigg, the former real estate agent who was elected to represent the 51st District (which includes Lake Ridge) in a special election in 1998. Always the good Republican, Lingamfelter pulled up stakes and hustled over to Dale City where he could run in the newly created 31st District.
In his short time in the House of Delegates, Lingamfelter has unapologetically championed a far-right agenda, including a bill that would’ve required the posting of the Ten Commandments in all public schools in Virginia. A retired Army officer, Lingamfelter has been most at ease with other far-right ideologues, including Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, and Delegate Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun County. He has done nothing to advance the interests of mainstream citizens.
Former delegate Brickley is also unappealing, but for different reasons. He previously served 22 years in the House of Delegates, representing the 51st District, which at the time included most of Lake Ridge, Dale City and the surrounding communities. He was re-elected in the fall of 1997, but quickly abandoned his seat when Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III offered him a senior position in the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Gilmore wanted to weaken the strength of the Democrats in the House of Delegates, and Brickley went along with the scheme, mindful that in doing so he would become eligible for a state pension worth an estimated million dollars. Democrats who had supported Brickley and worked in his campaign were stunned by this turn of events.
Voters will most likely express their revulsion of the political process by sitting out the election, thus allowing activists and special interests to determine who gets elected. But there is, of course, a second course of action: they can vote for James Smith as a write-in candidate! That way, both Lingamfelter and Brickley will be sent packing.
Who, you may ask, is James Smith? I don’t know. All I know is that The Community Phone Book, 13th edition, lists at least eight men by that name in Dale City. I’m sure they are all good citizens – people who work hard, pay taxes and care for their families. They may be Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. None of that matters.
The only thing that matters is that they are not ideologues or opportunists who cater to special-interest groups. If James Smith is elected, as I hope he will be, the Board of Elections can sort out which one should take office. Thus, there is hope for democracy, after all.
Note: My July 29 column stated that some individuals have collected and forwarded contributions totaling $200,000 or more to the Bush re-election campaign. Though some readers have challenged the statement, I stand by it.
Gary Jacobsen lives in the 51st District.