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Independent Looks For Middle In Quest For House Seat

© Leesburg Today - 08/26/2015

Paul Brubaker knows that running an independent campaign for state office is an uphill slog, but he said last week that he wants to provide a voice for those in the middle of the political spectrum.

They're fed up with politics as usual, he said, so he's offering them an alternative in the 86th House of Delegates District, which comprises parts of Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

The major-party candidates were anointed early, the Herndon resident said: Jennifer Boysko lost by only 32 votes in 2013, so the Democrats nominated her again, and Republican Raul ""Danny"" Vargas is the handpicked successor of Del. Thomas Davis Rust, who is not seeking re-election after serving six two-year terms.

But the 54-year-old Brubaker isn't expecting his opponents to really address any issues. In the American political system nowadays, he said, nothing gets done except what's ""highly partisan.""

So he entered the race recently with the notion of appealing to middle-of-the-road voters.

He appears to have his moderate bona fides. Brubaker has worked in the private and public sectors, and in the latter, he was appointed to jobs by two presidents: one a Democrat, the other a Republican.

President Bill Clinton picked him for the Defense Department, where he became the deputy assistant secretary of defense and deputy chief information officer. In 2007, he was President George W. Bush's choice to lead the Research and Innovative Technology Administration at the Department of Transportation.

Then-Gov. Jim Gilmore, a Republican, also appointed Brubaker in 1998 to serve on the board of Virginia's Innovative Technology Authority, and he served as chairman of that body from 2001 to 2003 under current Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, then-governor of Virginia.

Brubaker said he believes several issues are important to the 86th District.

On transportation, he's running on an anti-toll platform.

Tolling is a poor way to pay for infrastructure, he said, and the arrangement is usually one-sided in favor of the company that has the contract to collect the tolls.

""I know this stuff cold,"" he said, noting his background in transportation.

Brubaker said he spent $1,700 last year on tolls, and he knows other folks who have spent as much as $3,000 to $5,000.

The candidate said he would push to outlaw tolls and raise the gasoline tax by 3 percent to replace the lost revenue. He also would aim to buy the state's way out of the toll contracts.

On the matter of education, Brubaker would push to get rid of Virginia's Standards of Learning standardized testing system.

""I think it's become overly bureaucratized,"" he said.

Brubaker said teachers should be paid more, as well, and he would like to see students be able to attend the state's public colleges and universities for free or nearly free.

Community colleges also should be used more as feeders to Virginia's four-year institutions of higher learning, he said.

""The community college system is a gem,"" Brubaker said.

In addition, he would like to see a program in which Virginia would help retire student-loan debt for those who agreed to work in the state government for a certain number of years.

Or, he said, the state could offer tax breaks to businesses that help their employees retire their student-loan debt.

Something ""bold and dramatic"" is needed to lessen this loan burden, Brubaker said, and it's not going to come from partisans.

""That's going to come from the middle,"" he said.

Brubaker also said he supports Gov. Terry McAuliffe's push to expand Medicaid eligibility to more Virginians in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

""I'm all for that,"" he said.

This is Brubaker's second run for office. In 1995, he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for state Senate against the current Senate Democratic leader, Dick Saslaw. Since then, though, he's actually raised money for Saslaw.

Brubaker holds degrees from two schools in his native Ohio: He has a bachelor's degree from Youngstown State University and a master's in public administration from Kent State University.

He is divorced and has two sons, Jackson, 14, and Gavin, 12.

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