Ramadan, Bell battle for House 87th District
This November's race is shaping up to be just as tight.
Ramadan, a Republican, is squaring off against Democrat John Bell, a retired Air Force major making his second bid for the state house. Bell in 2009 unsuccessfully challenged Republican Del. Bob Marshall in the House's 13th District. Because of redistricting, Bell's South Riding home is now in the 87th District.
Demographics, paired with the 2011 results, make the race one of the most compelling in Northern Virginia; 56 percent of voters in Ramadan’s district cast ballots for Democrat Barack Obama in the 2012 election, compared to 43 percent for the GOP's Mitt Romney.
Bell has campaigned as a political moderate focused on transportation, education and health care.
“I think we've lost moderates both in the General Assembly and nationally, and we need more moderates,” Bell said in a Sept. 30 interview with the Times-Mirror. “Moderate has somehow become a bad word, but I think it's a good word.”
Ramadan, in his own interview Sept. 27, said he feels confident his record will lead voters to elect him to a second term. The Republican highlighted his work as a founding member of the House's Business Development Caucus and on veterans issues.
Additionally, Ramadan has earned praise from Loudoun residents for his efforts to reduce the toll rates along the Dulles Greenway.
Dealing with business-related issues, Ramadan championed a bill that requires the State Corporation Commission to integrate their online forms with the Virginia Business One Stop website. He also sponsored a measure to limit restrictions by homeowners associations on home-based businesses
On transportation, Ramadan opposed the contentious 2013 transportation legislation that many of his local Republican colleagues voted for. Ramadan, a signer of Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge, said he wasn't willing to greenlight the tax hikes associated with the transit bill.
Bell has highlighted Ramadan's opposition vote as a key contrast between the two candidates. A former finance officer in the military, Bell said he “doesn't understand how anybody, in this area especially, could have voted against” the transportation funding legislation.
Bell's campaign has pointed out that Ramadan, in mailers to constituents, touts successes on local transportation projects, despite having opposed the legislation that funds some of those initiatives.
For his part, Ramadan said: “What constituents have seen over the past year is my actual results on transportation. Constituents don't care how you do it, you get it done.
“I'm proud that I was able to get the [road] projects that I wanted regardless of my vote,” Ramadan said.
When it comes to political finance and ethics reform in Virginia, Ramadan hasn't been free of scrutiny in the past year. This spring the Republican was called out for failing to disclose a 2012 trip to Taiwan paid for by the Taiwanese government. Ramadan first denied that he had to disclose the trip, despite the fact two of his colleagues included the economic development-related travel on their disclosure forms.
Ramadan eventually amended his financial statement to reflect the venture at a cost of $7,000.
Ramadan has also been tied to the gift scandal surrounding Gov. Bob McDonnell. According to media reports, Ramadan appeared before a grand jury investigating the governor; however, a clear connection or involvement on Ramadan's part isn't clear.
The 87th District candidates also differ on expanding Medicaid in the Virginia through the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Bell firmly supports the expansion, saying it will bolster the economy while providing health care to much of the state's poor, while Ramadan opposes because he doesn't believe the federal government is capable of living up to its funding promise.
Endorsement wise, the Democrat has earned the support from the Virginia Education Association, Planned Parenthood and the local chapters of the International Association of Fire Fighters, while Ramadan is being backed by the Virginia Police Benevolent Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.