Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick plans to hold no ordinary state-level political fund-raiser on April 19.
For starters, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, will host. And the event will be held outside the Woodbridge delegate’s 52nd District.
Frederick supporters will socialize and offer monetary support for his re-election bid in Washington, D.C.
“We try to mix stuff up,” Frederick said. “We do events in our district. The biggest event we have ever done was in our district — the crab feast. Other events we try to go to where it’s most convenient for the people attending.”
Local Democratic leadership wondered why Frederick would leave his district to raise funds.
But Stephen J. Farnsworth, associate professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, called it perfectly natural.
“You go where the money is,” Farnsworth said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that a fund-raiser in Dale City wouldn’t generate nearly as much money as a fund-raiser on Capital Hill or K Street. Any politician in a competitive race would be a fool not to take opportunities to raise money that come their way, provided they’re consistent with the law.”
In the November election, Frederick will likely face Democratic Prince William County Supervisor, Hilda M. Barg, who represents Woodbridge.
Gov. Mark R. Warner encouraged Barg to run, and attended her March 13 campaign announcement in Prince William County. Frederick wouldn’t confirm that this fund-raiser comes in response to Barg’s challenge, but he hinted at a connection.
“We don’t have the benefit of the governor coming to my district, saying ‘We’re going to give $400,000 to run against this guy.’ With the governor and his Richmond pals putting hundreds of thousands of dollars in to defeat me, I need all the help I can get,” Frederick said.
But some might question the choice of holding a fund-raiser with U.S. House Majority Leader DeLay. In recent months he has faced an inquiry by the House ethics committee and a criminal investigation of his Texas-based political action committee.
He also spearheaded the controversial congressional involvement in the case of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman who died Thursday after being the subject of a long legal battle between her husband and her parents.
Frederick refused to comment on DeLay’s ethical troubles.
“The bottom line is that if Mr. Frederick has decided to tie his fortunes to Mr. DeLay’s, then it really casts considerable doubt on Mr. Frederick’s judgement,” said Rick Coplen, Prince William County Democratic Committee chair.
“If there was a national Democrat that was as tainted and as ethically challenged as Mr. DeLay is, I would certainly strongly recommend to any Democratic candidates that they not do a similar fund-raiser,” he said.
DeLay, known as “The Hammer,” might help Frederick retrieve financial support, but it could cost him some votes, Farnsworth said.
“Tom DeLay is a pretty polarizing figure,” Farnsworth said. “You’re not going to generate a lot of interest in your campaign from centrist voters if you stand side-by-side with this highly controversial, highly partisan and apparently scandal-plagued politician.”
Local Republican leaders did not return calls for comment Thursday.
The state delegate said he has support from DeLay, as well as many other sources, “from people’s door steps to the halls of Congress and beyond that.”
Frederick has also held fund-raisers with other members of Congress, he said, like U.S. Rep Tom Davis, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 11th District, which overlaps Frederick’s state district.
“We will have more events with national leaders in the coming months,” Frederick said.
Coplen saw this fund-raiser as Frederick looking toward higher office.
But both parties recruit people, Farnsworth said, and this race has garnered much interest from Washington.
“Given the fact that there are so few competitive races in Virginia because of the gerrymandering, a lot of the money gets funnelled into few races. This looks to be one of the marquis races,” Farnsworth said.
DeLay’s staff didn’t return repeated calls for comment. But Farnsworth speculated as to one reason why the congressman would want to help Frederick.
If DeLay can help defeat Warner’s candidate — Barg –that might hinder a potential future Warner candidacy for higher office. The Democratic Warner will conclude his one-term, non-renewable stint as Virginia governor this year.
“Anything can be done to demonstrate that he is less popular in Virginia than he appears would be some thing the Republicans would be enthusiastic about doing,” Farnsworth said.