Examining Northern Virginia's Catholic Congressional Candidates
When Congressman Tom Davis (R, VA-11) announced he would not seek re-election in 2008, political forecasters quickly moved the district into a toss-up, lean Democrat district. Regardless of the 2008 national trends, the district would have likely remained a Republican seat due to Davis’ previous electoral success in a year when Virginia turned very purple.
The 2008 race for the 11th District, one of the most Catholic in Virginia, was between Democrat, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly and Republican, Northern Virginia businessman Keith Fimian. Connolly defeated Fimian by nearly forty-two thousand votes, and the district provided President Obama a fifty-five thousand vote victory, a dramatic shift from the previous two Presidential elections.
As a Catholic, who lives in the 11th District, there was one particular series of events in that year’s race that troubled me. On seven occasions the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee sent out attack pieces against Keith Fimian for his membership in a “radical group.” The radical group the mail pieces actually referenced was Legatus, the Catholic business leaders’ group. The mail pieces were inflammatory and extremely anti-Catholic toward a group of business leaders who follow their faith.
Two points to make on the bigoted mail pieces:
- The seven mail pieces were dropped over several weeks and went unanswered by the Fimian campaign. The lone exception is a September 10, 2008 Washington Post article discussing the mail pieces.
- Since they continued, it is clear at no point did Gerry Connolly, a Catholic originally from Boston who spent six years in a Seminary, call for them to stop.
Fimian’s 2008 comments to the Washington Post are hard to follow. “They’re engaged in the politics of personal assassination,” Fimian said. “Legatus is entirely a social organization. It . . . takes no position politically. The members are concerned with serving the poor and with social justice and family issues. To somehow imply that I’m in favor of these things because there are links from the Web site to other organizations that Legatus says it doesn’t endorse is essentially lying about my position.”
So what Northern Virginia Catholics had in 2008 was one candidate, awkward and timid in defense of his faith, and another condoning the anti-Catholic attacks.
The results have been to send one more Catholic to Congress to be a consistent vote against the Church. Gerry Connolly’s election has resulted in his votes for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House, Obama-care, co-sponsoring the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and supporting same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C. These are just some of the ways he voted against non-negotiable Catholic teachings while agreeing with Nancy Pelosi on 97 percent of his votes. Unlike Nancy Pelosi, who regularly makes up Catholic doctrine, Gerry Connolly studied it for many years. Maybe he didn’t pay close attention during his time in the seminary.
2010 is now a different year though. The national trend is tilting in a different direction than 2008. Americans are finally more attentive than ever before to Washington’s runaway spending habits and the overreach of the Obama administration into our lives. Faithful Catholics are also paying attention, as a result of the election of the most pro-abortion president ever, to those in Congress, such as Gerry Connolly, who are enabling the Obama agenda.
Keith Fimian was quick to announce he wanted a re-match against the incumbent Congressman. Then in January, Fairfax County Supervisor and life-long Northern Virginia resident Pat Herrity entered the Republican primary. Both men are Catholic.
Shortly after Pat Herrity’s announcement, surrogates for the Fimian campaign began, what I would call, a whisper campaign against Herrity’s positions on the issues of life and marriage. It even went so far that people in other states were telling me where Herrity supposedly stood on the issues and that Fimian was better. Curious to see what each candidate was saying and annoyed by the veracity of the surrogates – I visited both websites. On Herrity’s website it is very simply stated, “I believe that the family is a core institution to our society. As a father of two wonderful children, and as an adoptive parent, I believe we should support and encourage adoption. As a practicing Catholic, I am pro-life, and I support the Defense of Marriage Act.” On Fimian’s website, I found not a single mention of the same issues, a fact communicated back to the Fimian surrogates. (Note: since then Fimian has placed this information on his site)
As Virginians enter the final week of the primary season, our mailboxes are filled each day with a different direct mail piece. The Fimian campaign claims Herrity raised county taxes. The Herrity campaign points out Fimian’s failure to pay taxes as evidenced by an IRS Tax Lien. Herrity points to specific county budgets where he supported tax cuts. Fimian states the tax lien is a result of the work of a contractor which is a troubling answer from a certified public accountant. The only real benefactor to all this primary debate is Gerry Connolly who gets to save his money to use for the election in November and, regardless of this back and forth, one thing I have only seen on Herrity’s mail pieces is a pro-life declaration.
I know Keith Fimian and have spent time with him. Elections must be less about relationships and more about who can win the privilege to be sent to Washington to get the job done. Not to be content with the information on Pat Herrity’s website or mail pieces, I met with him, looked him in the eye, and asked him some very tough questions. I left the meeting not only confident of Herrity’s commitment to life and marriage but also having met with someone who knows what it takes to run and win a campaign in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District.
Make no mistake – the top 2010 election year issues are jobs, the economy, and reigning in Washington’s spending habits. As we elect a new Congress, we need representatives who are able to address those important issues and who do not run away from non-negotiable ones such as the sanctity of life and marriage.
Catholics helped put President Obama and Gerry Connolly into office. Catholic Members of Congress like Gerry Connolly are helping advance the Obama-Pelosi agenda. Faithful Catholics in Virginia’s 11th District should take the time to educate themselves about all the Catholics running for Congress this year.
Matt Smith is Vice President of Catholic Advocate