Virginia Coalition of Police
and Deputy Sheriffs




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2 new faces, 1 veteran best team for Beach

The Virginian-Pilot
© October 28, 2007

AMID THE lamentations about the state of politics, Joe Bouchard is the kind of candidate we say we want — thoughtful, thorough, nonpartisan and no-nonsense.

Unfortunately for the body politic, he finds himself in a campaign against somebody with the same qualities.

Chris Stolle, an accomplished physician and brother to Sen. Ken Stolle, is also running to replace retiring Leo Wardrup as the delegate from the 83rd House District.

Either man would be an improvement on the incumbent. Neither is particularly prone to partisan distractions, and both seem dedicated to finding solutions no matter where they are sourced. Bouchard is a Democrat, but not an ideological one; Stolle is a Republican, but not an ideological one.


Both were Navy officers; both have a ridiculous number of academic degrees. Despite the distortions of their political handlers, the candidates share many of the same positions on issues of the day.

The choice in the 83rd ultimately comes down to judgment and facility, and in our view, Bouchard has an undeniable edge.

For years now, Bouchard has been a persuasive but quiet voice guiding deliberations on the biggest regional issues — the port, the future of Oceana Naval Air Station, the BRAC process, transportation.

Behind the scenes, decision-makers have sought him out for his analyses, predictions and suggestions.

Just one small and recent example: His prescription to fix the current transportation plan is both detailed and shows an intricate understanding of the interlocking dangers of sprawl and inadequate roads. The depth of his argument includes the placement of exits for an Interstate 460. He argues that abuser fees are generally a good idea, though not to pay for highways. His paper, all 7,000 words of it, provides precisely the kind of nuance and deep understanding absent from most deliberations in Richmond.

Beyond his own expertise in health care, which is considerable, Stolle has stumbled on issues where he should have known better. His decision to back an expensive state prison for illegal immigrants was an embrace of the corrosive political mood when other leaders — including his brother — came to reject it as unwise.

Abandoning good financial sense, Stolle and other Virginia Republicans advocated wasting millions in the service of a wedge issue, despite the inescapable fact that such a prison is clearly Washington’s responsibility to build. Worse, nobody could find any evidence that the feds wanted the prison or would commit to using it — leaving Virginia with an expensive and empty monument to political expediency.

The prison was neither good policy nor good politics. An effective delegate needs to be a believer and advocate for both. Bouchard is.

THERE ARE SIGNALS galore, if you look hard for them and squint a little, that Del. John Welch is a new man. He and others will argue that he has been transformed from a stalwart GOP soldier into something else — an independent voice in the General Assembly.

Given where he started, and how far he had to go to enter the mainstream, voters in Virginia Beach might want to withhold judgment on Welch’s recent journey.

Supporters point to Welch’s bankruptcy in 2005, or to a less obvious epiphany, but they say that something has happened to change the man. He reversed himself to support red-light cameras, where he had once been one of their biggest detractors. The chiropractor has also become a veritable champion of quixotic causes, including a statewide gas tax to fund transportation, or a French idea to free overtime earnings from taxes.

Welch wants, in his terms, to become a legislator of ideas, a man who thinks beyond the parochial solutions that define the boundaries of modern politics. The question, not to put too fine a point on it, is whether the voters of the 21st House District can believe in this transformation.

For now, they have good reasons to remain skeptical.

On the other side of the ballot lies Democrat Bobby Mathieson, a longtime Virginia Beach cop, a former high appointee at the Department of Criminal Justice Services, where he crafted programs and policies to make the commonwealth’s streets safer.

He is Officer Friendly in a suit — a hard-working, solid guy, thoughtful, especially on law-enforcement issues, willing to listen. He already has the ear of the governor, and knows his way around Richmond.

There is little in him of the party firebrand that marred Welch’s first years in office. Or of the personal tangles that have regularly dogged the incumbent.

Welch has taken some inexcusably cheap shots in an election cycle marked by them, charging Mathieson with setting cop killers free, among other nonsense. The campaign has been an uncomfortable reminder of Welch’s past penchant for grubby political warfare, and puts the lie to his new image.

It would be nice if voters knew what was genuinely in the hearts of the people asking for their votes, if a new epiphany was as genuine as old political battles.

Failing that, Mathieson is the far better choice for the 21st. There are no doubts that he will do right by the people who send him to

Richmond, and that he will not embarrass them. Given the tenure of Welch until recently, that is no small concern.

THERE ARE NO SUCH worries in the 82nd House District, a veritable haven of civility in a needlessly ugly election year. Del. Bob Purkey, the 21-year veteran of the General Assembly, faces Bob MacIver, a retired management consultant.

MacIver is a nice fellow, but no match for Purkey, chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee.

The incumbent has used his leadership for good, introducing legislation to support photo-red cameras, to give Virginia’s governors a second consecutive term, to bar candidates from converting campaign war chests into personal kitties.

Purkey has been a champion of good government and generally avoids the divisive distractions that have so dominated other delegates’ days. He can and should do more if he wins re-election.

That’s the best kind of governance, the kind we endorse. We hope voters will, as well.