Virginia State Sen. Dick Saslaw, 35-year veteran legislator and current senate majority leader, will face opposition from both a Republican Party and Independent Greens of Virginia challenger on Election Day next month. His 35th State Senate District was redrawn to include the City of Falls Church last spring.
The Republican Party has put forth Rob Sarvis, a newcomer who considers himself a moderate Libertarian Republican, to face the incumbent Democrat.
Both Saslaw and Sarvis agree that one issue of great concern to 35th District citizens is transportation, and believe that their expertise can help to alleviate the burdens of congested roadways.
Debate over transportation has intensified, especially with plans underway to move more than 6,000 employees to the Mark Center in Alexandria as part of the Department of Defense’s large-scale Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
“Ultimately you’ve got to convince people to get out of their cars,” Saslaw said. “They aren’t unless we give them a transportation system that is worthwhile.” Saslaw noted that such investments in transit infrastructure take considerable funding, and added that his experience and seniority in the senate makes him skilled in “bringing money home for the area.”
It’s that type of work that Saslaw says has earned him recognition from such organizations as the non-partisan Virginia FREE organization, which named him Most Effective Senator, one of several endorsements he has earned during his current campaign.
Sarvis feels the amount of money used to fund transportation in Northern Virginia is disproportionate to the amount that Northern Virginians pay in taxes.
“We send so much tax money to Richmond that doesn’t come back up here,” Sarvis said, adding that he hopes that new system could be established that “doesn’t disfavor Northern Virginia.”
Both candidates are also concerned about properly funding education.
Saslaw plans to defend against cuts to education in these uncertain economic times, and is especially concerned for the small municipalities in his district, the City of Alexandria and the City of Falls Church, which he says cannot sustain budget cuts.
Sarvis, a graduate of Fairfax County Public Schools, sees money being wasted in schools on certain technology, and says that his experience as a software developer puts him in a good position to plan for a high-tech future for schools in the district. His education plans also include bringing more control of schools to a local level.
Sarvis, a native of Northern Virginia and a resident of Annandale since 2006, received a math degree from Harvard and was pursuing a doctorate in math at Berkeley before he left for a job at a startup as a software developer during the tech boom. When the tech bubble burst, Sarvis switched gears, earning a law degree from NYU in 2005 and then working as a law clerk. A pick-up in the tech field due to smart phone technologies in 2008 drew Sarvis back, and he currently works at the mobile-applications development company Wertago LLC.
Saslaw grew up in Washington, D.C. He served from 1958-1960 in the U.S. Army, later earning a degree from the University of Maryland in economics and establishing himself as a businessman in the gasoline and service station field. He moved to Northern Virginia in 1968, and began serving its citizens in 1976 in the Virginia House of Delegates. After four years in the house, Saslaw was elected to the senate. He has led the Democrats in the senate since 1996.
For Sarvis, election would mean a chance to bring “fresh blood” to Richmond.
“I never really saw myself as a politician-type person,” Sarvis said. “But I got increasingly frustrated with the quality of public policy. I feel like I have a lot to offer in terms of knowledge of public policy, and understanding education and technology policy.”
Re-election for Saslaw is continuing to serve the public that for the past 30 years has elected him to the work he enjoys as a state senator, and buckling down to continue to face ongoing clashes between the house and senate.
“If you look at the legislation that got through the house and what we stopped, you’d know easily why we are running again,” Saslaw said. “I’d like to make a lot of good things happen. Right now, my role is to stop a lot of bad things from happening.”
The Independent Greens have chosen Dr. Katherine Pettigrew to represent their party. News-Press calls for Pettigrew were not returned.