Arthur Purves and Janet Howell have a few things in common. Among them: Each is running for elected office for the eighth time.
But, as Purves noted with a sense of self-deprecation, Democrat Howell has won all of her campaigns, while he has yet to notch a victory.
But that is not necessarily the point for the Republican nominee in the 34th state Senate district.
“It’s important to keep the debate going,” Purves said at a Sept. 3 candidate forum sponsored by the Arlington County Civic Federation. Arlington marks the easternmost point of the 32nd District, which meanders through Purves’s community of Vienna and Howell’s stronghold of Reston. It was a district largely of Howell’s creation nearly a decade ago, and its demographics make her position within it largely impregnable.
The last two months have been difficult for both candidates: Howell crushed an ankle during a hiking trip in the Adirondacks and then was found to have suffered an undiagnosed heart attack that required bypass surgery, while Purves’s wife of 46 years died of a heart disease days later.
Howell – who is all but guaranteed victory in the heavily Democratic district – is likely to be able to campaign only lightly if at all in coming weeks, and was not able to attend the Sept. 3 forum. Purves, who had flown back from his wife’s interment earlier that day, used the forum to express his views, ranging from the need to get back to basics in education to restricting abortion.
“I have a lot of disagreements with Sen. Howell,” Purves said, but “we really have to give [elected officials] credit for their public service. I really admire that.”
The retired computer programmer took the incumbent to task for not addressing educational disparities. She “ignored that issue for 28 years,” Purves said.
“It can be fixed; I want to be a voice to fix it,” he said.
Purves also was unapologetic about his pro-life stance (“how did we get to the point where candidates thought they could get votes by snuffing out children?”) and his opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment (“an unguided missile . . . a gift to the trial lawyers.”)
The views may not have played well with the majority of the room, yet Purves – head of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance but largely unknown to the Arlington crowd – did win some grudging respect. Mike Cantwell of the Yorktown Civic Association praised his “courage for throwing your hat into the ring.”