May, Sherwood foes kick off campaigns
WINCHESTER — Government took a beating Wednesday night from two conservative candidates aiming to join it.
Dr. Mark Berg and Dave LaRock began their campaigns Wednesday night to push aside two longtime local Republican representatives they deem too moderate.
Standing behind a podium draped with a flag reading “Don’t Tread on Me,” they made their anti-tax, liberty-loving cases to tea party members at the Best Western Lee-Jackson on Millwood Avenue.
Berg is challenging Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick County, while LaRock will take on Del. Joe May, R-Loudoun County, in June 11 primaries. Election day is Nov. 5.
LaRock primarily took aim at May’s support for the transportation package that will raise an estimated $3.5 billion by increasing the state sales tax, vehicle titling tax and other fees while lowering the gas tax. It is still awaiting the signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Berg did not mention Sherwood and instead railed against the United Nations, bank bailouts in Cyprus and perceived threats from federal, state and local governments.
“Keep your ears to the ground,” he instructed the 28 people in attendance. “Figure out what [goverrnment] is trying to do, connect the dots.”
He thinks the 29th District — which is made up of Winchester and most of Frederick County and has been represented by Sherwood for the past 20 years — is ready for a more conservative voice.
LaRock, a resident of western Loudoun County, believes the same is true of the 33rd District — which is composed of northeastern Frederick County, the northern half of Clarke County and western Loudoun County.
May has represented the 33rd District since he was first elected in 1993.
No Democrats, Independents or members of any other party have announced plans to run in the general election in either district.
Berg and LaRock argued vehemently against tax increases, especially the transportation plan.
“Republicans we trusted, who we thought were true to Republican positions, just helped pass the largest tax increase in Virginia history,” LaRock said of the plan. (Other tax increases, when adjusted for inflation, have been larger.)
Both May and Sherwood have defended their vote for the transportation funding overhaul, claiming that the bill — which is still awaiting the signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell — was necessary, albeit not perfect.
Since 2002, the state has transferred more than $3 billion in transportation construction funds to cover a shortfall in its maintenance budget.
LaRock and Berg said eliminating waste would have been preferable to raising taxes. In a recent interview, May said waste has been squeezed out of the transportation budget but it isn’t enough to meet the state’s needs.
The money shortage has been taking a toll. A recent Senate Finance Committee analysis concluded that congestion costs the state $3.7 billion annually in lost economic activity.
The American Society of Civil Engineers released a report Tuesday giving Virginia a D-plus for its transportation infrastructure. The report found 47 percent of Virginia’s roads to be of poor or mediocre quality, 1,250 of bridges structurally deficient, 2,421 bridges functionally obsolete and found that driving on roads in need of repair costs Virginia motorists $1.344 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs.
In CNBC’s 2012 ranking of top states for business, Virginia tumbled from 10th to 33rd in the infrastructure and transportation category — which caused its overall ranking to slip from first to third.
Reaction to the transportation proposal has been positive. Moody’s rated the plan “credit positive” for the state.
LaRock, however, said that Republicans who voted for the transportation plan should be voted out of office.
“They try to convince us that Democrats made them raise taxes,” he said. “They think we’re gullible. They’re the ones who are disconnected from reality.”
— Contact Conor Gallagher at email@example.com