Arlington hasn’t gotten its fair share from the state — local politicians from both parties agree on that. But where the blame lies, and how to remedy the situation will be a central issue in Republican Steve Sass’ bid for the 48th district state delegate seat.
“We need to make sure we’ve got somebody who understands the issues, which Steve does, and somebody who can go down there and work with the legislators and with the Governor to actually get things done,” said David Avella, Arlington Republican Committee chair.
Arlington’s all-Democrat delegation hasn’t fared well, Sass said, and it’s time for a change. “They’re fairly ineffective, and they just can’t get anything done,” he said. “It’s vitally important that Arlington has at least one member of its delegation that’s in the majority so that we can get legislation out of committee.”
Opponents say that’s a red herring in deciding who will bring Arlingtonians’ concerns to the Assembly. “To say we ought to hire somebody for the job because he happens to be of the majority party of the moment, regardless of whether he represents our values or whether he is effective, is a non-starter of an argument,” said Dan Steen, Arlington Democratic Committee chair.
“For Steve Sass to come in and say, ‘Hire me because I’m the right party,’ doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective argument.”
SASS SUPPORTERS say several issues increase the Republican challenger’s chances for victory. For one thing, the 48th district, consisting of wide sections of North and South Arlington, is seen as less of a Democratic stronghold than other districts.
Sass has increased his visibility during the campaign by speaking out against a possible Major League Baseball stadium in Arlington.
Furthermore, GOP leaders are hoping budget problems in Richmond will tip moderate voters toward Sass, who is more fiscally conservative than the Democratic incumbent.
“Bob Brink has yet to see a dime he didn’t want to spend some place,”said Mike Lane, chair of the 8th District Republican Committee. “Steve wants to ensure that in tight budget times priorities are established and services are delivered.”
EFFECTIVE COLLABORATION with the Republican majority will require a Republican presence in the Arlington delegation, Sass said, but he knows many local voters demand balance. “One thing I would do as an Arlington Republican is separate myself from the national party and from the hard right-wing flamethrowers,” he said.
That means, if elected, his tenure in the Assembly would focus on coalition-building. “By working with the majority caucus, I can get things done,” he said.
Brink said he rejects the idea that sending “another loyal footsoldier to the majority party whose interests are antagonistic to Arlington’s interest” can bring results satisfactory to local voters. “There are a lot of things wrong in Richmond, but one of them isn’t that there are too few Republicans,” Brink said.
But continuing in the same direction without seeing results ignores the reality of the political climate in Richmond, Sass said. Public education continues to be underfunded, and “common-sense improvements” to transportation in Northern Virginia have stalled.
Sass wants to push to make repairing the Washington Boulevard bridge a top priority in the state transportation budget, and advocates turn lanes on Glebe Road and Lee Highway.
Sass, who holds an MBA and works as a defense consultant, said funding those projects will require better business minds in the Assembly. “I know how to run a business and how to see the government as a large business,” he said.
Sass subscribes to the idea that “government should only do what the people can’t do for themselves,” and highlighted the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority as a waste of taxpayer resources.