Air Force vet takes on 18-year House vet

Source: By Jonathan Hunley

The House of Delegates’ 13th District has changed dramatically over the past few years: more people, more business, more traffic.

Democrat John Bell is banking on the notion that those changes foreshadow voters wanting another switch: that of their representative in Richmond.

Del. Robert G. “Bob” Marshall, on the other hand, is touting his 18-year record of speaking for residents in parts of Prince William and Loudoun counties. By the night of Nov. 3, it should be clear whose arguments won out.

Until then, political observers have a lot to contrast.

Bell claims that his Republican opponent’s time at the State Capitol has focused too much on social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.

He said he would target “commutes, jobs and schools.”

“I’m a frustrated commuter,” said Bell, who’s lived in both counties in the 13th District. “I go to McLean every day.”

One way to have more money for roads would be to improve maintenance efficiency, he said, thereby saving money devoted to that task.

On jobs, he said 13th District residents could benefit if two industries were brought to Prince William and Loudoun: the fields of alternative energy and automating medical records.

And on education, he said he wants to maintain the availability of extracurricular activities for students.

To defeat such an entrenched opponent, Bell has tried to literally reach as many voters as possible.

On Oct. 12, he said his campaign had knocked on 3,500 doors the weekend before.

“I don’t know of another House campaign in Virginia that had that much canvassing,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine told Bell workers and volunteers outside the campaign headquarters in Gainesville that day.

“Well, we think it’s an absolute key to victory,” Bell responded. “Door-to-door, face-to-face contact, make it real.”

Bell has been endorsed by stalwart Democratic groups such as unions and environmental groups, and by the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

As of Oct. 15, he had raised $395,004 in campaign funds, according to the State Board of Elections, and spent $320,471.

Marshall, conversely, had raised $105,640 this year, as of Oct. 15. He had spent $64,678.

But he points out that he’s frequently outspent by voters.

And he brushes off Bell’s talk about being overly concerned with social issues.

“Well,” he said, “he obviously is ignoring my real public record.”

He notes that he worked with other Prince William area lawmakers to get approval for widening Interstate 66 in the Manassas area.

And he pointed out in a debate before the nonpartisan Prince William Committee of 100 that Kaine, a Democrat, asked him — instead of a member of the governor’s own party — to introduce a slow-growth bill.

He also said he that he would like efficiency councils set up to always make sure Virginia is operating cost-effectively.

And he championed an unsuccessful bill this year that would have mandated insurance companies cover autism-related treatments.

So he’s not a right-wing nut, he said.

However, he’s proud of his stance of trying to protect life, and of authoring the state’s constitutional amendment saying that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

“How many people have a constitutional amendment behind their name?” he asked.

Staff writer Jonathan Hunley can be reached at 703-369-5738.