With all 100 members of Virginia’s House of Delegates facing the voters this fall and the chamber split almost evenly with 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, national political eyes are focused on the Old Dominion State.
Every seat seems to be heatedly contested, as even House Speaker Kirk Cox has found himself facing an all-out Democratic assault in his suburban Richmond district.
One contest that is increasingly becoming a race of interest for conservatives is the Northern Virginia-based 39th District. Liberal Democrat Vivian Watts, 79 and a delegate for 27 years, is facing Republican Nick Bell, 32, onetime Spanish teacher and U.S. Labor Department official and the heir to a name revered by conservative activists nationwide.
Nick is the son of Jeff Bell, adviser to Ronald Reagan on economic issues during his 1976 and ’80 races for president. In 1978, the elder Bell made headlines nationwide by unseating four-term liberal Sen. Clifford Case, R-N.J. in the Republican primary.
“Bell Gongs Case,” was a frequent headline after the primary, in which political unknown Bell ran on a platform of across-the-board tax cuts, pro-life, and smaller government and unseated the veteran incumbent.
Jeff Bell, who died last year at 74, lost to Democrat Bill Bradley in the fall of 1978 and would never hold elective office. But, like William F. Buckley, Jr. and Barry Goldwater, his losing race paved the way for winners who embraced the same agenda — notably Reagan in 1980.
“My Dad’s agenda was right then and my agenda is right for Virginia today,” Nick Bell told Newsmax. He specifically cited the tolls in Virginia, “which have become such a burden on the non-wealthy. It takes $40.00 to go a week on 495 (I-495, a Northern Virginia highway) and $409 million in transportation funding went to build the toll lane.”
Bell opposes all tolls. He also calls for banning corporate donations in Virginia.
“Right now, special interests such as big tech, big tobacco, and (the pro-abortion) EMILY’s List are big funders of my opponent and corporate donations are unlimited in Virginia,” Bell said, adding, “If we ban the donation, we end the influence special interests.”
The issue of abortion is particularly significant in this contest. Watts, a longtime abortion backer, was one of three lawmakers on a subcommittee in the House to support bringing to the floor a bill to permit late-term abortions under any circumstances.
“In other words, she supported permitting abortion at any time and in every situation,” said Bell, who is strongly pro-life.
As he visits the malls and suburban neighborhoods of Annandale to speak to voters (“sometimes in Spanish,” he said, noting the district is 20% Hispanic), Bell has found his message of opportunity and life resonates with younger voters.
It is also beginning to resonate with a number of seasoned conservatives who remember his father. Among those who have written checks to the Bell coffers are Neal Freeman, onetime editor of National Review, and tax-cut architect Arthur Laffer.
“I’m proud of who my father was,” he told us. “But I am just as proud that the message of greater freedom and opportunity resounds today.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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