Fighting on the political playground

I?ve been substitute teaching a lot these past few months. I work primarily in a couple of elementary schools, and so I work with grades one through five.

There is a lot of differences in those age groups, but also a lot of similarities. I?m learning the old adage that says boys will be boys is really true, but also what it means, especially on the playground.

From my observations, boys are just being boys when they try to one-up each other. Boys are also being boys when they deny they did something so they don?t get in trouble. And boys are just being boys when they get really crafty and put a friend up to saying or doing something that makes a rival look bad or get into trouble.

Reading the political stories in the newspaper these last couple of weeks really makes me forget that I?m reading about grown men instead of the boys I?m teaching. These men have resorted to childish tricks, like one-upping, denying and instigating to keep themselves in the best light. There is hardly a race that?s exempt from this childish behavior.

The primary race in the 52nd House of Delegates District has both its candidates trying to one-up each other on their conservativeness. This ?who?s more conservative? debate reminds me of the kids chanting, ?I know you are, but what am I??

But just in case he?s outdone by Jack Rollison, Jeff Frederick has also resorted to deviousness. He, or his campaign, has blatantly violated campaign laws by posting lots of signs in the road medians, especially where Route 1 intersects with Dale Boulevard. Also, Frederick wants voters to believe that although a major campaign contributor and supporter of his campaign is an Internet guru and has written a book entitled ?The Little Book of Political Dirty Tricks,? he knew nothing about his campaign owning the rights to a Web site address with Delegate Rollison?s name.

I may have been willing to give Frederick the benefit of the doubt on that one until the letter to the editor by Lester Gabriel on April 26. In his letter, Gabriel insinuates that he had only just sat down to talk with Frederick a few days before the letter was published.? However, he is listed on Frederick?s Web site as being one of his major supporters.? Additionally, Gabriel is listed as the chairman for the Woodbridge Republican magisterial committee, of which Frederick is a member and both are quite active members of the Prince William Taxpayers Alliance.

Only the truly na?ve would believe that Gabriel and Frederick never really sat down and talked to each other or that Gabriel didn?t know what Frederick?s positions were, as the letter clearly implies.

There?s another race that also pits conservative against conservative ? the race for the 29th District Senate seat. Bob FitzSimmonds is proving himself genius at using the school boy?s trick of getting others to do your dirty work. Much was made of Dave Mabie?s decision to not participate in a debate. While a lot of hot air is being wasted in implying that Mr. Mabie doesn?t like Muslims, in fact, Mr. Mabie should be commended for behavior unbecoming of a politician ? restraint, caution, and common sense.

While Mr. FitzSimmonds was busy getting his supporters ? in this case Denny Daugherty and Faisel Gill, both members of the Prince William Taxpayers Alliance (anyone else notice a common thread here?) ? to set up a situation that would have resulted in the political suicide of Mr. Mabie, Dave opted instead to concentrate on wooing those actually likely to vote in the convention to be held later this month.

And these shenanigans aren?t the sole property of Republicans. The sheriff?s campaign, like the Frederick campaign, is playing the it?s not my fault game. Although I would agree with former Prince William Republican Committee chair Bruce Baxter that this is much ado about little, I was dismayed to read that the sheriff?s campaign manager, Craig Bieber, wants us to believe that he knew nothing about this law, which was passed in 2000 (HB1141) while he was Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia. But if you believe Frederick, you must also give Bieber the benefit of the doubt.

Of all of these, however, the winner of the playground battle is Prince William Democratic Committee Chair George DeLimba. DeLimba has taken the role of playground bully to an extreme. While claiming on one hand that incumbents should welcome challenges from within the party, DeLimba is carrying through on a promise he made several years ago ? that he would see to it that Supervisor Hilda Barg was not reelected. He is a driving force behind the opposing candidate in that Democratic primary. And if that wasn?t enough, DeLimba spitefully recruited a candidate to run against former Democratic Committee Chair Keith Scarborough in the Occoquan Supervisor primary.

We could sit back and remember that boys will be boys.?Or maybe we should let the girls in to play.

A two-time Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates, Denise Oppenhagen now enjoys writing about her peers from her home in Lake Ridge.