With the election last month of sitting State Delegate Barbara Comstock to fill the 10th District U.S. Congressional seat vacated by the retirement of Frank Wolf, Comstock’s 34th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates is now up for grabs in a special election that will be held Tuesday, January 6. That is, in less than two weeks.
It’s been a short but punchy campaign for the two candidates chosen by their respective parties in “firehouse primaries” last month.
Democrat Kathleen Murphy is running a high-profile and aggressive campaign and is looking to turn the district from Republican to Democratic control, in the process becoming only the second Democrat since the 1960s to hold the slot. She ran against Comstock in 2013 and lost by just 422 votes, but that was when Comstock was seeking a third two-year term. This time, Murphy faces no incumbent.
The Republican seeking to fill Comstock’s shoes is Craig Parisot, who obviously enjoys Comstock’s active support. But Parisot moved to in the district relatively recently, coming from Cheverly, Maryland, where he ran for mayor in 2004 and received only four votes (the winner got 50).
The 34th district butts up against Falls Church in McLean and extends into Loudoun County, and has gone back and forth between Republicans and Democrats ever since the late Del. Vincent Callahan Jr. vacated it after 40 years in 2008. Having retired, Callahan, a popular moderate Republican, died this Sept. 30 at age 82 from exposure to the West Nile virus.
In 2007, voters elected the first Democrat in the district in decades when Margaret Vanderhye was elected over Callahan’s hand-picked successor. But in 2009, Barbara Comstock won the first of three races for the seat, in all cases gaining an advantage based on support from Callahan.
That advantage will not hold for Parisot, which is one reason that Murphy feels she has a good chance of winning. The district was split evenly between Obama and Romney in the 2012 presidential election, therefore personal energy and the ability to tap into voter interest will be key to its outcome.
On the surface, each candidate fits a classic profile of their party.
Murphy, a graduate of American University, was a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Commerce and an aide to U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson. She is the current president of the consulting firm Johnson Murphy and Associates.
Parisot is in his fourth year on the board of Volunteer Fairfax and the board of the 2015 World Police and Fire Games to be held in Fairfax next year.
Murphy has the endorsements of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the Virginia Education Association, EMILY’S List and the LGBT Democrats of Virginia and lists education, women’s rights, voter rights and transportation as among her key issues.
Parisot, according to his website, has a “passion to broaden the community of people actively engaged in the conservative dialogue by focusing on the core values of limited government, strong national defense, humanity and liberty.” He is a member of the board of advisors of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. He is described on his website as “a firm believer in American exceptionalism,” adding that he “is running to make state government smaller, more efficient and more open…using his private sector experience to cut wasteful spending, and balance the budget without raising taxes….reducing regulations and taxes.”
A Murphy campaign flier states that she “will stand up for the values and priorities of our community by working across the aisle to grow our economy and build a better future for our children.” Her three stated priorities are to protect the funding of local schools, to keep Northern Virginia moving forward, relieving congestion, replacing aging infrastructure and promoting innovation, and to fight for common sense measures to prevent gun violence, such as universal background checks.
The voter registration deadline for this special election is Dec. 30, which is also the last day to apply for an absentee ballot by mail. January 3 is the final day for in-person absentee voting, and January 6, election day, is also the deadline for absentee ballot returns. On election day, polls will be open from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.