The 37th House district is one of only a few that will have Democratic a Democratic primary this year, as Janet Oleszek and David Bulova compete for the Democratic nomination to fight for Chap Petersen's hard-won seat in the House, which he is vacating to focus on his run for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor.
Yesterday morning, I enjoyed meeting Oleszek, a current at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board, at her campaign kickoff at the historic Old Town Hall in Fairfax City.
The kickoff event featured the usual laudatory introductory speeches from local officials and an address by the candidate herself in front of a crowd of about 70 supporters, but it was unique in that Oleszek also welcomed "town hall style" questions from the audience. (And unlike what happens at Bush's carefully staged fake "town hall" meetings on Social Security, nobody pre-screened the audience here.)
For me, the highlight of the event was meeting bloggers Shaula Evans from tsuredzuregusa and BOPnews and Lowell Feld from RaisingKaine, who has a great comprehensive and informative write-up on Oleszek's kickoff speech.
The Connection Newspapers in Fairfax recently profiled both Oleszek and Bulova, and these profiles show agreement in just about every issue raised by the newspapers such as reproductive freedom (both pro-choice), red light cameras (both support), increased funding for education (support), constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage (oppose).
Bulova, the son of Fairfax supervisor Sharon Bulova, has won an impressive array of endorsements from Fairfax County elected officials. But as newcomer anonymous blogger "not Larry Sabato" of the new Virginia House of Delegates 2005 Elections blog speculates, Bulova may have hurt his candidacy by stressing his support in Fairfax County in a mailing to voters in Fairfax City. Both Bulova and Oleszek live in the Fairfax County section of the 37th, but earning the trust of voters in Fairfax City will be critical to electoral success in this district.
The previous review of the race in the 37th by "not Larry Sabato" is a fascinating overview of the complicated relationship between the House primaries and the Lt. Gov. primaries, with "not Larry Sabato" speculating on whether Petersen's presence on the ballot will have coattails and whether a Republican House primary in the 37th will hurt Petersen's chances with potential Republican crossover voters in Fairfax City who may have otherwise supported him in the Lt. Gov. primary.
Oleszek was wise to hold her campaign kickoff in Fairfax City. Her announcement speech yesterday stressed her understanding of the needs of Fairfax City residents and her experience working with Fairfax City through the city's contractual relationship with Fairfax County Public Schools. Since either Bulova or Oleszek may face former Fairfax City Mayor John Mason in the general election (depending on who wins the Republican House primary) it is even more important that the Democratic candidate demonstrate commitment to Fairfax City voters.
It remains to be seen who will have the stronger grassroots campaign, but Oleszek has raised slightly more money last quarter and has demonstrated a willingness to try netroots outreach through her blog. With Shaula Evans on board with supporting the Oleszek campaign, I expect a healthy emphasis on grassroots campaigning, direct voter contact, and creative netroots outreach.