Charlie Taylor, a master electrician with the Prince William Park Authority, kicked off his campaign Thursday for the 52nd House District with the theme of “common sense.”
“Every day I see problems that need common sense solutions,” he said. “But I don’t see much in the way of common sense coming out of the House of Delegates, except from the Democratic side.”
Taylor, 50, is running against Jeff Frederick, 27, who like him has never run for office before. Frederick though has a victory: He pulled off a shocking upset over 18-year incumbent John A. “Jack” Rollison in a June primary.
For Democrats, that means to them this is their chance to win the seat because it is a swing district and one Frederick will have a hard time winning because he is more conservative than Rollison.
“This is a very winnable race,” said Richmond Delegate Franklin P. Hall, D-69th District, the House minority leader. Gov. Mark R. Warner carried the district and Al Gore nearly won it, he said. “It’s certainly one of the key races in the state,” he said.
Prince William is known as a stronghold for GOP voters, but Taylor’s gathering of more than 60 supporters showed the minority party’s candidates upbeat and ready to point out how the Republican Party is leaning to its right, unable to fully fund community needs like transportation, education and public safety.
“The extremism is weakening the Republican Party and it is turning off moderates and Republicans,” said Rick Coplen, who is challenging Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton. The prime example of the weakening is the defeat of Rollison, he said.
Frederick campaign manager Matt Robbins declined to answer specific points but said their June victory showed how voters are in agreement with their low tax platform.
“We’ve shown already we’ve been able to motivate and attract mainstream votes in a primary,” he said. “We love democracy and look forward to working twice as hard in this election.”
David Brickley, a former House delegate who is challenging Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31st District, said Republican sound bites are selling the public short.
“People are frustrated about skyrocketing tuition costs. Transportation. When I go door to door, they are interested in mainstream issues,” he said. For example, he said Republicans are pushing for school vouchers that would drain public school resources, he said. Meanwhile, Prince William schools cannot afford to have school nurses in all schools, unlike other jurisdictions, so teachers who have to perform tasks one would think a doctor should be doing, he said.
Republicans point out they increased K-12 education spending by half a billion dollars, but Brickley said “that was the governor who had to do that, not the Republican legislature.”
Anita Jackson of the Prince William Virginia Education Association said the group endorsed Taylor this week.
“I won’t put our tax dollars into schools only some of our children can attend,” Taylor said.
Taylor lives in Triangle with his wife Debbie. They have two children: Leah, 25, and George, 22, both graduates of county public schools. Taylor graduated from Woodbridge Senior High School.
Hall said the race is about whether Virginia will veer to the right or stick to its core values.
On transportation, Taylor sounded much like his opponent, stating the system needs to be better managed.
Frederick and Rollison in the spring primary race attacked each other more than any other set of candidates in the region, sending out press releases several times a week. Taylor said he is ready for attacks to come his way.
“Some things are still worth fighting for,” he said.
Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.