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NLS Talks about the 29th Senate District

By Greg L | 26 July 2006 | 29th VA Senate, Manassas City | 5 Comments

Not Larry Sabato has an excellent post up regarding the 29th District. It’s definitely worth stopping by to read this one. Charles Colgan (D) currently holds the seat, and Bob Fitzsimmonds (R) has announced his candidacy.

Colgan is flush with cash, with a balance of $34,919 according to the most recent disclosure posted on VPAP, with all of it raised from PACs and corporate donors. Fitzsimmonds has a balance of $4,261, largely from individual donors and resulting from a campaign kickoff a few months ago. Neither candidate has been campaigning for the Senate very much, and in Bob’s case he’s been active on several other Republican campaigns. It’s still very early in the election cycle for a 2007 race, so none of this comes as a surprise.

Also potentially in the mix is Hal Parrish, who rolled $93,471 into his councilman’s campaign war chest from Harry’s campaign account, and no one believes he’s going to require that for re-election to City Council in 2008. His choices are to run for Mayor if Doug Waldron steps aside (unlikely), challenge Jackson Miller for the 50th House of Delegates (unlikely), or take a shot at the 29th Senate.

Colgan is indeed vulnerable, as NLS points out. In addition to the demographic shifts noted, the political shifts in this district will be significant. This is a district that has become increasingly conservative, and Colgan’s support of tax hikes and other policies that 29th District voters see as outrageous will make any re-election campaign very difficult. Other than obtain gobs of earmarks for his district, Colgan hasn’t exactly won a whole lot of support with his record so far.

This is Colgan’s last plausible opportunity to choose a successor and engineer a transition, and the chances of that happening smoothly are not very great. The PWC Democratic party is in some disarray, the Manassas democrats are hopelessly ineffective, and the Manassas Park Democrats have no organization at all. Unless Colgan reaches into the Manassas establishment for a crossover candidate, there likely will be some major organizational issues, and even then the Manassas establishment has far less influence in the 29th Senate District than it has in the 50th House of Delegates District.

If Colgan decides to try to tough it out and try for re-election, it may have more to do with the lack of transition opportunities than any real desire for another term. If and when any additional candidates announce, Colgan’s intent on the future of this seat should be pretty obvious.

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  1. RHarrison said on 26 Jul 2006 at 12:15 pm:
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    Colgan will likely be paying considerable attention to Miller’s campaign. If Miller can win 55% of the vote or more, I think Colgan will be far less likely to run again. As I understand it, Colgan was very close to not running last time, deciding to take on Dave Mabey only at the last moment. If he watches Miller run up a huge victory this November, Colgan could easily decide not to bother.

  2. RHarrison said on 26 Jul 2006 at 2:20 pm:
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    That, of course, should be “Dave Maybe.”

  3. Bwana said on 26 Jul 2006 at 4:22 pm:
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    My understanding was that there was a lot of last second stuff…that Colgan was a last second add to the field only after major urging from Gov. Warner, and that Mabey got into it last time only because of a fear that if-Fitzsimmons? I am blanking on the name-won the race then Mabey would not be able to have a shot in 2007.

    Of course, Chuck has lost a friend and supporter in Harry Parrish, so I do not know how that plays…one thing I know will not come out is how Chuck’s election to the Senate in 1975 actually delayed the expansion of Va. 234 between Manassas and Dumfries from 2 to 4 lanes…ah, but that is a story for another time.

  4. anonymous said on 26 Jul 2006 at 8:49 pm:
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    Please, tell that story. I’d love to hear about it. I couldn’t believe, in 1988, the only way to get from one end of the county to the other was either 2-lane Davis Ford (and it was fun getting stuck behind a truck carrying porta-potties) or 2-lane 234.

  5. Bwana said on 26 Jul 2006 at 10:42 pm:
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    Well, since you asked…and please forgive the history lesson…

    In 1971 Selwyn Smith was elected to the State Senate representing all of Prince William County (Manassas and MP were not yet independent cities). As a former Town attorney and-I believe-Commonwealth’s attorney, and loyal campaigner for candidates of the old Byrd Machine, he was already wired into the General Assembly and became an accolyte and fast friend of Senator Ed Wiley of Richmond (who later became the father-in-law of the Kathryn Wiley who had interesting contact with Wm. J. Clinton). Wiley was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Because of Selwyn’s clout and his friendship with Ed Wiley, he was able to secure funding to widen Va. 234 between Manassas and Rte. 1. This was on the books, near the top of the highway schedule-and desparately needed in a county that was among the fastest growing in the country.

    PWCo was growing fast in those days, and despite the efforts of the Board Chair (elected by the board from among their membership) Chuck Colgan, a group of four called the “Four Horsemen” voted for every spending project that came down the line. Their wild spending found much disfavor in Western PWCo, so much so that it helped drive Manassas and Manassas Park to seek and then receive city status, a developement that did not add to the clout of the western reps on the board-which included Colgan.

    PWm was completely in the 8th district, and was represented by Stan Parris, who won the seat in 1972 with a plurality in a three way race. Herb Harris, member of the Fairfax BOS got the democratic nod in 1974, and was endorsed by all elected democratic officials in the district…except Selwyn. Senator Smith was personal friends with Stan Parris, and refused to campaign against him. Truth be told Selwyn was more sympatico politically with the conservative Parris than the much more liberal Harris.

    Harris crushed Parris in 1974 in the “Watergate elections”, and set about consolidating control of the area by purging dissident elements He knew he could not control Selwyn, so a primary opponent was needed. Chuck Colgan stepped into the ring, probably eager to get off the County Board but stay in politics.

    Selwyn lost the primary, Colgan went to the Senate, and Harris got his purge. Harris held the seat until 1980, when he lost it back to Parris in the Reagan election, then lost again in a 1982 rubber match.

    Here is where it gets interesting…the first of the Arab oil embargoes had already kicked in-older readers will remember the odd/even gas rationing, and between that and the Kepone clean-up in Hopewell state funds were limited. The GA was looking for places to cut or reassign funds. Ed Wiley decided there was no pressing reason to widen Va. 234 way up in Godless Northern Virginia, and saw no reason why the man who beat his friend should get the political benefit of the widening. So Ed Wiley moved the improvement down the schedule, where it languished for another decade or two.

    You might question this, and ask for proof of Selwyn’s clout…all I can offer is that upon being defeated the Democrat Selwyn Smith was appointed Virginia Director of Public Safety by Democrat turned GOP Governor Mills Godwin, then reappointed by GOP governor John Dalton. When a circuit court seat came open in Prince William in the late seventies, the General Assembly ignored the recommendations of the PWCo Bar Association and chose Selwyn to hold the seat…a combination of events unlikely to occur to someone without clout in Richmond.

    That is the story-or at least the way it was always told at the old People’s Barbershop in Old Town Manassas.

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