Manassas Journal Messenger | Colgan, Mabie friendship brings unique twist to Senate race

Four years after Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-29th District, beat a conservative challenger by nearly 16 percent of the vote, a more moderate Republican has stepped in to try and block him from winning an eighth four-year term.

That challenger is one of his friends.

Prince William Clerk of Circuit Court Dave Mabie, 60, surprised Democrats in 1991 when he became the first Republican elected to a countywide position.

Mabie said last year he would not run against Colgan, 77, but entered the race after Colgan delayed his decision on whether he would seek reelection. Mabie gave him a deadline of Jan. 1, 2003, which Colgan did not meet.

Both candidates shy away from speaking ill of each other, a departure from the negative 1999 campaign when Colgan faced Republican Bob FitzSimmonds.

FitzSimmonds lost with 42 percent of the vote to Colgan’s 58 percent.

Mabie narrowly beat out FitzSimmonds for the Republican nomination in a closed party nomination in June.

Mabie matches Colgan on many issues — both are pro-life and neither has ruled out tax increases if that is what it will take to address state needs. Mabie’s message is the district didn’t get into its transportation problems overnight and won’t fix it in four years — it needs a senator for the long term and one in the majority party.

He pledges to serve 20 years, or five terms.

The 29th District stretches from Haymarket to Manassas City to Nokesville.

“My time in Richmond is going to be dedicated to fixing our roads and I am not going to fail on that promise ? If I can’t fix what I said I’d fix, they can throw me out,” Mabie said.

His goals are for “substantial progress” to get Va. 28 south of Manassas widened and “substantial progress” to get Interstate 66 widened to Haymarket.

“If he gives 20 years, he’ll still be eight years behind me. I’ve got 28 years,” said Colgan. “Promises are easy to make but they can be difficult to keep.”

Colgan said this term will probably be his last.

In a county that is registering around 1,000 new voters a month, Colgan’s message has been to remind voters he is the most senior of any member of the Virginia Senate. He has a seat on the powerful budget conference committee.

Colgan’s value is widely acknowledged among moderate Republicans. He and Delegate Harry J. Parrish, R-50th District, are commonly referred to as a team.

Northern Virginia already lost Delegate John A. “Jack” Rollison, R-52nd District, who was chairman of the House Transportation Committee, when Republican Jeff Frederick beat him in a June primary, Colgan said.

A Virginia Beach delegate now has Rollison’s committee spot.

Colgan asked how much more does the county want to lose. His conference committee spot would go to a Richmond senator and then Northern Virginia could “get burnt.”

Colgan played a lead role in getting the first building of the Prince William campus of George Mason University built in 1995 and the second building of the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

The Prince William delegation delivered $40 million to widen I-66 to the Va. 234 Bypass this year, helped by a letter from Colgan to Warner to accelerate the project.

“He (Mabie) is a good guy. I like him, but he’s still going to be a freshman senator,” Colgan said.

Neither candidate has signed a “no new tax pledge,” which is par for the Senate because it is more moderate than the House. For Mabie, such an omission goes against the Prince William Republican Committee’s conservative faction that says if government controlled its growth it could find savings.

Mabie said it’s easy to say that government is fat and can be cut. “I don’t get the sense there is a lot of discretionary money that can be found,” he said.

That is a point Colgan agrees with.

“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to generate more revenue. We’ve got to have more revenue for schools,” Colgan said.

In Prince William 80 people are waiting for Medicaid mental health services, he said. “I think we have to keep [taxes] down too, but we also have to spend what is necessary, whatever it is,” Colgan said.

For example, Colgan said the nationwide average for cigarette taxes is 73 cents a pack. That would generate $420 million in Virginia assuming smokers continued at their rate of usage.

Mabie said he is more willing than Colgan to listen to the ideas of school vouchers and tax credits. On tax restructuring, Mabie said he wants to see the proposals, but he wants to see the state help out localities in reducing property taxes and the tax brackets for lower-income earners adjusted because they pay a disproportionate amount of tax, he said.

In the race, Colgan is out-raising and out-spending Mabie, according to financial reports current through the end of August. In August, Warner’s political action committee gave Colgan $10,000 and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine’s political action committee gave him $2,000. He raised $92,000 from June to August and spent $44,600.

Mabie raised $37,000 and spent $33,300 during the same period.

Mabie was a county police officer for 21 years. He was on the first shift of five officers when the police department started July 1, 1970.

Mabie was an Army military police officer from 1964 to 1967.

Colgan was in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and started Colgan Air, which operates out of the Manassas Regional Airport.

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