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Hire by Kellam angers Beach delegate Welch
By DEIRDRE FERNANDES, The Virginian-Pilot
January 20, 2007
Last updated: 11:57 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH - A part-time hire by Commissioner of the Revenue Phil Kellam has angered a state delegate and portends a heated race in the 21st District in November.

State Del. John Welch III, a Republican incumbent from Virginia Beach, has accused Kellam of using taxpayer money to mount a political campaign against him.

Welch accused Kellam of using public money to hire Bobby Mathieson, a Democrat who is considering running against Welch for the House of Delegates in the 21st District, as a part-time investigator.

"Unfortunately, that office has become the Democratic headquarters of Hampton Roads and it's funded by the taxpayers," Welch said. "You're hiring people because you want them to run against people who don't have the same ideas as you."

Kellam, however, said that Mathieson, a former Virginia Beach police officer who was second-in-command at the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, is the best candidate for the job. "He's got a background in public service as well as criminal justice," Kellam said.

Kellam said Welch is crying politics because he is worried that he may lose the election.

Kellam noted that other political candidates have held local government jobs while campaigning, including state Del. Paula Miller, who is public information officer for Virginia Beach Sheriff Paul J. Lanteigne. In that case, Miller is a Democrat and Lanteigne is a Republican.

Mathieson, 50, recently retired from his appointed position as chief deputy of Criminal Justice Services, which paid $90,591 a year. He said he has accepted Kellam's job offer and hopes to start in February.

Mathieson said he has not committed to running, but he is "strongly considering it" and has been encouraged to do so by business and political leaders.

His voice mail at Criminal Justice Services greets callers with this message: "I have retired from state service in Richmond and I have returned home to Virginia Beach to seek an exciting new opportunity in 2007."

Mathieson said he took the new job because it would take advantage of his law enforcement experiences and it likely would require a 20-hour work week, so he could spend time campaigning if he decides to run.

As an investigator, Mathieson will check that companies are operating with licenses and that businesses are complying with new guidelines for encroachment around Oceana Naval Air Station, Kellam said.

The job became vacant in the fall, but it has existed within the department for a while, Kellam said. Three candidates interviewed for the job, which pays $13,416 to $26,166 a year, depending on experience.

Republican Party leaders said they are working earlier than usual on Welch's re-elect ion campaign to defend him against a challenger who is likely to tout his public safety experience.

"We're not going to wait until 90 days out," said Steven Frucci, a Virginia Beach lawyer who is vice chairman of the city's Republican Party. "We're starting out now to address this new threat."

Joshua Behr, an assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University, said it is still too early to say who has the edge in the 21st District.

Transportation likely will be the key issue for most House races, he said, and if the public supports the Republican package to increase fees and taxes to solve road problems, the party could hold on to its seats.

Bobby Mathieson is a former Virginia Beach Police Officer and Past Secretary Treasurer of the Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs.  Please support him in his efforts.