The election for delegate in Virginia's 67th District, which has just under 5,000 voters in Loudoun with the remaining 47,525 in Fairfax, pits a political newcomer against a two-time incumbent.
Jim LeMunyon was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, beating Democratic incumbent Chuck Caputo by just 1,100 votes. In 2011, the spread was triple that in the district that includes South Riding, Chantilly, Centreville and Oak Hill.
The 67th District is a prototypical swing spot, voting for Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and for Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2009.
LeMunyon boasts a background in politics and policy; in addition to his four years in the Virginia House of Delegates, he previously served as chief of staff for California congressional representative Ed Zschau in the 80s and acted as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration from 1989 to 1993. He currently works as an adviser to the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who immigrated in 1975, is a political newcomer, but has served Fairfax in other capacities, including on the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission (2004), the Virginia Asian Advisory Board (2005) and the Governor’s Commission for National and Community Service (2006). In 2008, he was honored with Fairfax County's Barbara Varon Volunteer Service Award. Nguyen says his community service outlook is what prompted him to run.
“I've been involved in community service for a long time.” Nguyen told the Times-Mirror in a Sept. 25 interview. “I'm not running to be a politician, I'm running to represent my community.”
Both men noted that transportation is the No. 1 problem in their district.
LeMunyon, who serves as deputy whip in the house, initially voted against this year's bipartisan transportation bill. After helping to craft an amendment to keep more Northern Virginia tax dollars for transportation, he ultimately voted in favor of the bill, much to the chagrin of the two tea party groups in his district.
“I didn't wake up one morning some big tax and big government guy. I'm here to look out for your pocketbook even when you don't know it and you don't approve it,” LeMunyon said he told constituents. “Now we've got a lot in front of us and need to make sure that money gets spent the right way.”
The delegate also proposed House Bill 599, now signed into law, to prioritize traffic projects based on congestion relief benefits. LeMunyon is hoping more money will be allocated to regional projects with overarching benefits.
Nguyen also wants to focus on getting transportation projects properly done.
“I understand there are delays, but why can't we get things done quicker?” Nguyen said.
One strategy Nguyen has proposed is working on one traffic project at a time, rather than a barrage of construction projects. Ultimately, he said he supports the transportation bill and the money it brings, but wants to see actual progress on the projects.
Nguyen, who owns a small IT business contracting for the federal government, also supports more investment in STEM and health education and funding a pre-kindergarten program to attempt to alleviate the achievement gap in schools, which he says begin to take shape before students are even enrolled. Additionally, recognizing limitations within the budget, Nguyen hopes to generate partnerships between businesses and schools, noting there are benefits for both parties.
“Economy and education have to be combined,” Nguyen said.
LeMunyon, who sits on the education committee in the house, was endorsed earlier this year by the Virginia Education Association's political arm, the Fund for Children and Public Education. He introduced bills for reading and math remediation and to establish a Teach For America program in Virginia. Teach For America places recent college graduates in low-income communities to teach for two years. LeMunyon also advocates for open- enrollment, allowing students to go to any school within their school division, and keeping at least 75 percent of Virginia students at in-state college.
Business and social issues
Both candidates also discussed business, with Nguyen encouraging capital funding to local entrepreneurs and business owners, and LeMunyon advocating for tax credits for small businesses and extending the capital gains tax exemption for start-up businesses. LeMunyon also advocates changing the tax code in Virginia.
“We haven't updated the tax code in almost 30 years,” LeMunyon said.
As of Aug. 31, LeMunyon had raised close to $263,000 for his campaign, as compared to Nguyen's $40,000.
Correction: An earlier edition of this article stated LeMunyon voted for a bill requiring women undergo trans-vaginal ultrasounds before receiving an abortion, when he voted against it. The Times-Mirror regrets this error.