Republican candidates for the 37th State Senate seat faced off at a debate Monday evening at the Braddock Hall in the Kings Park Library.
Nominees Steve Hunt and Jason Flanary fielded a bevy of questions at the hour-and-a half long debate with standing room only. Braddock District Supervisor John Cook moderated the event.
“For Republicans, we are just a couple of seats away from a majority in the State Senate, so it is critical that we have strong candidates this year,” Cook said.
Democrats currently hold a 22-18 majority.
Flanary and Hunt are competing for the seat currently held by Democratic Del. David Marsden. The district covers portions of Fairfax Station, Annandale, Burke, and Centreville.
“I’m interested in politics, so I want to hear what they have to say,” said Ken Seroka, of Burke, who was undecided when he took his seat in the audience. “I know that their platforms are similar, so I want to sort them out for the primary.”
Hunt, who lives in Fairfax Station, previously served on the school board from 2004 to 2007. He is a retired Naval Officer currently works as a defense contractor.
Flanary, who lives in Fairfax, previously worked on several local campaigns, including that of Delegate Tim Hugo (R-40). He is the chief operating officer of a Centreville marketing firm.
Both made their opening remarks before moving onto questions from the audience, most of which centered on transportation. One question prompted the candidates on what, specifically, they would do to curb traffic congestion.
Flanary said that “we need to come up with more creative ideas that would reduce congestion.” He suggested opening up HOV lanes during off hours and re-synchronizing the major lights on intersections.
Hunt, meanwhile, emphasized developing the capability for more employees to telecommute closer to their homes.
“I think that we need to look intelligently at our transportation. We need to do a modeling of our transportation network so that we can make our moves in advance of the growth,” Hunt said.
Though both candidates agreed on several key issues, as the debate wore on, their differences became more evident.
Hunt, 55, emphasized his experience and name recognition as a quality which he said separated him from his 32-year-old opponent.
“I have a track record that goes back to before there was a Jason,” Hunt said, adding that he has volunteered with his church, homeowners association, and civic organizations. “This is the kind of service needed to build the name recognition to battle Steve Marsden.”
Though Flanary did say that he thought that Hunt was a “great guy,” he said that Hunt’s failure to win a reelection bid on the school board is not a good sign.
“At the end of the day, you either win or loose,” Flanary said. “I am going to work harder then he does and knock on more support then he does.”
He also said that he was nearly the same as Ken Cuccinelli was when he ran for the same office in a 2002 special election. Cuccinelli was 33 at the time and Flanary is now 32 years old. Cuccinelli’s 37th district seat was vacated when he won an election as the state’s attorney general.
The crowd after the debate seemed to be torn on their support.
Terry Reid and Pamela Reid, both of Springfield, said that they were undecided at the start of the debate, but swayed toward Flanary by the end.
“[Flanary] was so quick on his feet,” Pamela Reid said. “He seemed very professional.”
Roopali Chandia, however, has volunteered for Hunt previously and is knocking on doors for him again.
“He has conservative values and he has always worked hard for his country,” Chandia said.
The Republican primaries will be held on August 23. The registration deadline is August 1 if you have moved since the last election. For more information and to obtain a sample ballot, see the Fairfax County Office of Election’s website.