Seal of the U.S. House of Representatives

In the race to represent Virginia’s 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, incumbent Frank Wolf (R) is challenged by Kristin Cabral (D) and Kevin Chisholm (I). The 10th District, which has been somewhat reconfigured for 2012, encompasses Clarke County, Frederick County, Loudoun County, Manassas, Winchester, and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties. Wolf has represented the district since 1981 and is seeking his seventeenth term.

All seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election every two years. There are 435 seats in the House, representing each of the fifty states proportional to their population in the last national census. There are an additional six non-voting seats representing various territories and the District of Columbia.

The Republican Party currently holds a strong 240-190 majority over the Democratic Party in the House, and five seats are currently vacant. Virginia currently has eleven seats in the House, with eight held by Republicans and three held by Democrats.

The Incumbent: Frank Wolf

Frank Wolf, the incumbent Republican, has been in Congress a long, long time . . . indeed, he has represented the 10th District longer than I have been alive. Since I moved to the 10th District and began following his record more closely, I have noticed worrying signs of political complacency. When I endorsed William Redpath (L) for this seat in 2010, I pointed out that Wolf hadn’t even updated his web site, which still proudly said it was paid for by “Friends of Frank Wolf, © 2008.” Of course that’s no reason to vote for or against him, but it was indicative of a candidate who no longer felt the need to keep the public up-to-date on what he planned to do with another term.

He was probably right . . . after all, we know what to expect from Wolf. He is a reliable machine Republican who rarely deviates from the party line on any major issue or vote. When President George W. Bush (R) was running up the federal deficit and agitating for a 700 billion dollar socialist bailout of Wall Street bankers, Wolf was right there with him. Now that a Democrat is in the White House advocating broadly-similar fiscal policies, Wolf has shifted—along with his party—back toward fiscal conservatism. For the last four years, Wolf has been a consistent vote against the mad, burgeoning deficit spending of the Obama administration . . . but it is obvious that he is voting the party line, not any kind of principle. Of course, his party appears to have realigned itself with economic reality in the last four years, but I have no illusions about Wolf’s reliability as a fiscal conservative. If the party bosses again embrace Bush-style economic interventionism, it’s safe to say that Wolf will too.

Wolf does deserve credit for his consistently strong positions on human rights, and his willingness to buck the party line on human rights issues when necessary. He has been a strong advocate for the suffering peoples in Darfur and Sudan, the persecuted Baha’i people in Iran, and victims of human trafficking worldwide. He has strongly criticized China for its poor human rights record, going as far as to insert a clause in the 2011 federal budget prohibiting NASA cooperation with China. “Frankly,” he said, “it boils down to a moral issue. . . . Would you have a bilateral program with Stalin?” His support for human rights extends to domestic policies too, and Wolf has been a consistent supporter of First Amendment religious liberties, the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and the most fundamental of all liberties, the right to life.

I’m happy to report that Wolf has updated his web site this year, perhaps indicating that he is becoming a bit less complacent. As we saw in 2010, the national mood has become very anti-incumbent, and American voters have become increasingly frustrated with machine-style party politics. We don’t want politicians who think they are automatically deserving of reelection. So Wolf is trying very hard to highlight his success in regional transportation advocacy, parochial anti-crime efforts, and his aforementioned human rights record.

He also highlights many votes meant to improve the American economy and reduce unemployment, although he is curiously quiet about his support for eight years of Bush deficit spending and the TARP bailouts in 2008. He is also curiously quiet about what he intends to do about the ‘ObamaCare’ health care reform debacle, or reining-in the deficit, or restoring the appropriate balance of power between the federal and state governments, or addressing the stunning assaults on American civil liberties we’ve seen in recent years. Many of the most important issues that will face the next Congress go un-addressed by Wolf. I assume he will just continue his tradition of straight party-line voting.

The Challenger: Kristin Cabral

Kristin Cabral, the Democratic Party challenger running for the 10th District seat, is an attorney who attended law school with President Barack Obama (D) and is seeking her first elected office. Explaining her run, she says that, “It’s time we had someone in Congress who will put politics aside to get things done and isn’t afraid to take on their own party leadership if that’s what it takes to deliver for families.”

Like her Harvard classmate did in 2008, Cabral is running as an independent outsider who can rise above petty, party-line politics. This is a particularly strong line of argument against incumbent Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA 10th), who is the consummate machine Republican. Cabral makes good use of her personal story, starting as a preschooler in the Head Start program, paying her own way through college and law school, and eventually becoming a federal prosecutor and legal writing professor at George Washington University.

Having achieved the American dream, Cabral speaks of working hard, playing by the rules, and taking responsibility for your actions. But as to how these ideals would be reflected in her policies, she only says, “I will work to grow economic opportunities for Virginians. I will work with those in Congress who wish to do what is best for middle class families, not their party or special interests.”

And it is troubling that a full paragraph of her three-paragraph statement on ‘economic growth and opportunity’ is dedicated to federal government workers. “I’ll also work to make sure federal government workers . . . are not hurt when seeking to balance the budget. My opponent, Frank Wolf, voted to take an ax to the federal budget, which will hurt many Virginia families when across-the-board cuts occur. I’ll use a scalpel to find waste, fraud, and abuse in government and root out overspending to help control the deficit.” She seems not to understand that our federal workforce needs a systemic overhaul, and it is inevitable that it will need to shrink. We have bought more government than we can afford. That is a simple, indisputable fact. She also doesn’t seem to grasp that government has very little to do with ‘economic growth and opportunity;’ those things happen, more often than not, when government gets out of the way.

Like Wolf, Cabral seems reticent to discuss any concrete policy proposals and provides little information about how she would address fixing health care reform, reining-in the deficit, restoring an appropriate balance between the federal and state governments, or ending the assaults on American civil liberties that we have seen in recent years. She claims that she will not be beholden to her own party’s leadership, and yet parrots a standard ‘progressive’ mantra of a big, active federal government, interventionist business laws, and unequal taxation.

She also makes a downright ludicrous claim that Wolf has focused on “intruding into the lives of Virginia’s women and their families,” an apparent reference to his consistently pro-life voting record. This could justify a long article all its own, but it suffices to say that the right of a human being to live is clearly worthy of government protection. Strong laws against murder are not government intrusions into the lives of murderers; no, they are a basic tenet of civilized society. It is curious that so many modern ‘progressives’ think that a mother has a solemn right to kill her children for the sake of convenience, but that I don’t have the right to decide I don’t want to buy health insurance. The cognitive dissonance is amazing.

The Independent: Kevin Chisholm

Kevin Chisholm, running for the 10th District seat as an independent, is an engineer who identifies himself as a “fiscally conservative progressive” and is seeking his first elected office. He explains his run by saying, “As a nation, we are adrift. Our Congress is caught in deadlock. We are not moving forward at a time we must. There are clear issues of our day. . . . Put me in office to tame the ‘two-ring circus’ in Washington.”

Where Cabral claimed to put politics aside, Chisholm appears to have actually done it. On transportation, energy, and social issues he sounds like a ‘progressive’ Democrat, advocating for expanded mass transit and alternative energy solutions, defining abortion as a ‘right,’ and implying that the founding fathers would have accepted “marginal infringements” on free speech and other civil liberties (whatever that means). But in other areas, particularly debt control, reductions in federal pay, the need to terminate unproductive federal workers, energy independence, and tax reform, he sounds like a solid fiscal conservative.

Unfortunately, Chisholm’s independence means he is sort-of ‘all over the place.’ Most progressives are not fiscally conservative, and most fiscal conservatives (like me) are not progressives. While I applaud his willingness to accept major cuts in federal expenditures and a simplification of the tax system—ideas that would anger most self-described progressives—his other positions are non-starters.

Most importantly, our fundamental civil rights—to life, liberty, and property; to say what we believe; to practice our faiths; to keep and bear arms; etc.—are not negotiable. Their protection must be the highest priority of a free government. In defining life down to a ‘choice’ and dismissing “marginal infringements” of the First Amendment as inconsequential, Chisholm makes it clear that he cannot be trusted on this most-important issue, no matter how sound his fiscal policies might be.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the voters of the 10th District have three seriously flawed candidates to choose from. Incumbent Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA 10th) is a party-line machine politician who cannot be trusted to maintain his new-found fiscal conservatism. Challenger Kristin Cabral (D) is a standard-issue ‘progressive’ Democrat who thinks government is the solution to our national problems and cannot be trusted to protect basic civil liberties. Kevin Chisholm (I) is also untrustworthy on civil liberty issues, although his fiscal policy positions are right-on and seem much more sincere than Wolf’s.

There are two headlining issues that the next U.S. Congress must deal with promptly and correctly. First, it is absolutely essential that we rein-in federal spending and begin rapidly reducing the national debt. Our government must begin to live within its means. Second, Congress must begin to reverse the erosion of our civil liberties, which has been going on for decades but has accelerated to a much more troubling rate under the current administration.

After carefully weighing the options, I find myself forced to endorse the reelection of Frank Wolf to Virginia’s 10th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Wolf is clearly the strongest of the three when it comes to civil liberty issues, and although his record on fiscal conservatism is poor, he is likely to continue voting correctly as long as the Republican Party bosses tell him to. As such, my endorsement is perched upon little more than cautious optimism that the Republican Party will continue supporting sound fiscal policy for the next two years, and that Wolf will follow suit.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.