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Sun Gazette: Grade the Candidates: House of Delegates Edition Print
BY Scott McCaffrey

Created: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 12:00 pm

Having given the event a good couple of weeks to age gracefully, the Sun Gazette takes a look at the performance of candidates vying for Arlington’s four seats in the House of Delegates when they gathered at the Arlington County Civic Federation’s candidate forum the day after Labor Day.
Only one of those seats is contested, and that race likely will not be close.
Nonetheless, the forum was a chance for the public to see which candidates – veteran and newcomer alike – brought their A-game to the event, and which appeared to be phoning it in.
Because there was so little in the way of partisan back-and-forth, we’ll eschew the grading we did in the state Senate races, and stick with narrative evaluations of the performance of the candidates:
Bob Brink (Democratic incumbent, 48th House District): The most senior member of Arlington’s House delegation, Brink saw his district revamped this year to include portions of McLean, a community he represented parts of prior to the earlier redistricting in 2001.
Unlike the other three Democratic contenders – Patrick Hope in the 47th, David Englin in the 45th and Alfonso Lopez in the 49th –Brink this year picked up opposition, in the form of Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy and Kathleen Gillette-Mallard, an independent with Tea Party ties.
With experience and a knowledge of the Civic Federation format on his side, Brink merely had to run out the clock with a basic stump speech and the expected answers to questions from the audience (he’s in favor of offshore wind farms, won’t take a no-new-taxes pledge and supports a statewide housing trust fund).
Brink probably is the most bipartisan in spirit of the Arlington delegation, as he’s more eager to get things done than take stands that have relegated some Arlington legislators to back-seat status in the Republican-led legislature. He always comes across as eminently reasonable and responsible, as he did in this case.
Janet Murphy (Independent Green, 48th House District): A real estate agent from Arlington who is aligned with a party whose slogan is “more trains, less traffic; more candidates, less apathy,” Murphy seemed at times a little overwhelmed by the experience of taking the stage in a political debate. But she also managed to come across as genuine and engaging.
“I’m way out there” on environmental issues, she said in response to one question. Late in the debate, we weren’t sure if she was making a joke or not, but she first said she was running for the House of Representatives and then for the House of Burgesses before coming up with the right office.
She had strong feelings on a number of issues, seeking a repeal of the Dillon Rule that aggregates power in Richmond at the expense of localities (good luck with that!), and also pushing to use surplus state funds for renewable-energy initiatives, such as offshore wind farms.
Although she has very little chance of winning on Nov. 8, Murphy performed fine for a newcomer.
Kathleen Gillette-Mallard (independent, 48th House District): That’s Mallard as in the duck, “but I won’t duck the issues,” promised the McLean resident who officially is an independent but who has ties with the Tea Party.
Largely focusing on taxation and spending issues, Gillette-Mallard intimated that Brink, who has been in office since the Clinton years, had overstayed his welcome. “We’re at a crossroads,” she said.
She took stands on issues but often with qualifications: On the issue of downstate mountaintop-removal mining, she said she was against it, but only if there were ways to retain jobs; asked if she would take a “no new taxes” pledge, she confessed to mixed feelings about the issue.
Gillette-Mallard clearly either didn’t read, or chose to disregard, our pre-debate admonishment to candidates to avoid using the “I’ll bring more of our tax dollars back to Northern Virginia”line, which knocks her down a peg in our estimation. She wants consideration of a flat tax in Virginia.
We give her credit for answering with straightforwardness in the Q&A session. Asked what committees she would like to serve on if elected, she chose the education and transportation committees, which seem pretty reasonable choices although, in the latter case, probably a long-shot for an independent newcomer.
Like Murphy, Gillette-Mallard seemed happy to be on the dais, and she likely isn’t expecting much more than a modest finish come Election Day. Also like Murphy, she left a positive first impression.
Patrick Hope (Democratic incumbent, 47th House District): It’s been smooth sailing for Hope, the freshman who faced no intra-party challenges this year and is unopposed for re-election.
In his stump speech, Hope noted his successes in his first two years in office, not so much in getting legislation through the meat grinder in Richmond as in winning the accolades of his peers (who elected him co-chair of the freshman caucus), interest groups (winning “legislator of the year” awards from the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians and the Virginia Transit Association) and even Gov. McDonnell (who appointed him to his health-reform panel).
Hope told Civic Federation delegates that he has an open-door policy in Richmond – “I meet with every single person” – which may in part be due to the fact it can get a tad lonely being a junior Arlington Democrat in the GOP-heavy House of Delegates.
A smooth presentation from Hope, and there were no stumbles that were major enough to enshrine in the notebook for future reference.
David Englin (Democratic incumbent, 45th House District): Englin also is unopposed in the general election; last time out, in 2009, he had a Republican opponent who essentially gave up midway through the campaign.
As usual, Englin gave a breezy stump speech that worked to show him as a bipartisan conciliator on the one hand and as a champion of progressive values on the other. With neither an opponent nor questions from the audience (the same as with other unopposed candidates), there wasn’t much of a chance to get from monologue to dialogue.
Unless we missed it from another candidate, Englin was the only one of those who participated in the Civic Federation forum who specifically directed the public to his Web site. A good touch; we were surprised that others didn’t do the same thing.
Alfonso Lopez (Democrat, 49th House District): Lopez spent most of the spring and fall engaged in a Democratic primary fight with Stephanie Dix Clifford, so while he is a first-time candidate, he had plenty of opportunity to polish his stump speech. And his presentation to the Civic Federation was a good distillation of what we heard during primary season, stripped (as seems the smart move) of much of the partisanship.
Lopez has no opponents on Nov. 8, so he can cruise to victory in the seat now occupied by Adam Ebbin, who is expected to trade up and win the 30th state Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Patsy Ticer.

 



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