Rep. Frank Wolf (R)
Virginia 10th District
When George Washington decided to place the new nation’s capital on the Potomac just upriver from his estate at Mount Vernon, where the falls blocked navigation above the port of Georgetown, the area was buzzing with new settlers. The land above the fall line on the Virginia side of the river consisted of rolling green Piedmont and the fertile mountain-bound Shenandoah Valley. The settlers came up the great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and traveled the Potomac and the runs (a Virginia word for small rivers) that feed the valley. During the Civil War, this was some of the most heavily contested land on the continent. The Piedmont, historian C. Vann Woodward wrote, “soaked up more of the blood, sweat and tears of American history than any other part of the country. It has bred more founding fathers, inspired more soaring hopes and ideals and witnessed more triumphs, failures, victories and lost causes than any other place in the country.” After the Civil War, the region was quiet. The frontier was very far to the west, and on these lands farmers quietly raised hay and grazed cattle and kept horses and hounds for fox hunting. During World War II and immediately afterward, this was still open country. Gen. George Marshall, driving from his office in the Pentagon to the old house he bought in Leesburg 30 miles away, would pass a few gas stations and crossroads villages and hundreds of acres of farm fields.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
If Marshall made the trip today, he would see something very different. Metropolitan Washington has consumed the countryside. There are still some horse farms in the Piedmont, long the first or second home of some of the richest people in America, but they are increasingly flanked by subdivisions that sprout up seemingly overnight. Fairfax County, by some measures the highest-income county in the nation, had 99,000 people in 1950 and passed the 1 million mark in 2002. The explosive growth for the last decade or so has been in Loudoun County, just past Dulles Airport, the fifth fastest-growing county in the United States from 2000 to 2008, increasing 71% from 170,000 people to 290,000 people. The Washington metro area now extends past Fairfax and Loudoun and over the Blue Ridge into the Shenandoah Valley.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington were bedroom communities where most commuters headed into the District of Columbia for work and where one-third of them were employed by the federal government. But in the 1980s and 1990s, Northern Virginia became an employment center and focus of innovation on its own. The Dulles Access Road, which ran through rural-looking territory 20 years ago, is now lined with office buildings holding high-tech firms and entrepreneurial startups, defense contractors and “Beltway bandit” lobbying firms. There have been growing pains: traffic is mightily congested and Loudoun County voters have swung pro-growth proposals to anti-growth regulation. Loudoun is family country—41% of households have children under 18. Unemployment has been far lower than the national average in Northern Virginia, and Fairfax and Loudoun have alternated as the county with the highest median household incomes ($105,000 in 2007) among counties with populations of more than 250,000. Recent trends have caused some unease: AOL moved its headquarters from Dulles, Va., to New York and in the first half of 2008, and Loudoun County had as many foreclosures as new housing permits that year. Immigrants have flocked in to work on construction sites. Gang graffiti and an uptick in more crime prompted Loudoun voters to pass an ordinance denying services to illegal immigrants.
The 10th Congressional District covers much of Northern Virginia. It starts inside the Capital Beltway and includes most of McLean, home of Washington’s political and lawyer-lobbyist elite, from Democratic Sen. Bobby Kennedy’s widow Ethel Kennedy to former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney. It goes beyond the Beltway to include woodsy Great Falls, Herndon and the Route 28 corridor around Dulles Airport. It includes all of Loudoun County, heavily built-up in the east with some still-rural areas west of Leesburg, and the northern half of Fauquier County, which has limited development and is still mostly horse farms. It includes three counties in the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, the country around Front Royal and Winchester. In 2008, 32% of the district’s votes were cast in Fairfax County, 36% in Loudoun County, 10% in Prince William and Manassas, and 17% in the Shenandoah Valley. The district was once reliably Republican; it voted for George W. Bush for president twice, by 56% in 2000 and by 55% in 2004. With the influx of immigrants and as a reaction against religious conservatives who have pursued bans on books and other controversial positions, Northern Virginia is becoming friendlier to the Democrats. The 10th district voted for Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005 and Sen. Jim Webb in 2006. And it voted 53%-46% for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in 2008.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R)
Elected: 1980, 15th term.
Born: Jan. 30, 1939, Philadelphia, PA .
Education: PA St. U., B.A. 1961, Georgetown U., LL.B. 1965.
Family: Married (Carolyn); 5 children.
Military career: Army, 1962–63, Army Reserves 1963–67.
Professional Career: Legis. asst., U.S. Rep. Edward Biester, 1968–71; Asst., U.S. Interior Secy. Rogers Morton, 1971–74; Dep. asst. secy., U.S. Dept. of Interior, 1974–75; Practicing atty., 1975–80.
The congressman from the 10th District is Frank Wolf, a Republican first elected in 1980. Wolf grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a police officer. As a child, he developed a strong interest in American history and precociously consumed biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He majored in political science at Pennsylvania State University and went on to get a law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He worked as an aide on Capitol Hill and was an Interior Department appointee in the Nixon and Ford administrations. In 1976, he ran for Congress and lost the Republican primary. In 1978, he won the nomination to run against Joseph Fisher, a liberal who had won the district (then not extending beyond Fairfax County) in 1974, and again lost, 53%-47%. In 1980, Wolf ran again and won 51%-49%.
|Frank Wolf (R)||223,140||(59%)||($2,053,375)|
|Judy Feder (D)||147,357||(39%)||($2,206,307)|
|Neeraj Nigam (I)||8,457||(2%)||($8,815)|
|Frank Wolf (R)||16,726||(92%)|
|Vern McKinley (R)||1,506||(8%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (57%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (72%), 2000 (84%), 1998 (72%), 1996 (72%), 1994 (87%), 1992 (64%), 1990 (62%), 1988 (68%), 1986 (60%), 1984 (63%), 1982 (53%), 1980 (51%)
Wolf started off his House career, in the suburban Washington manner, concentrating on issues affecting federal employees. With Democrat Steny Hoyer, who represents a suburban D.C. district in Maryland, he sponsored a bill in 2007 to increase the government contribution to federal employees’ health insurance premiums. He has long promoted telecommuting for federal employees. With Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., he sought to repeal a 2005 law that allows high-voltage electric wire systems to be built even if states object. In June 2007, they lost on a 257-174 vote. Wolf helped set up a Northern Virginia gang task force in 2003 and has sought funding for it since. In 2008, Congress enacted his 175-mile Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Trail, which will run from Gettysburg to Charlottesville, passing six presidential houses, 13 national historic landmarks and many Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields.
For many years he used his seat on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee to work on projects in his traffic-choked district. From 1995 to 2001, he was the committee’s chairman. He opposed earmarking proposals for specific congressmen before that position became popular with budget reformers in recent years. And it put him at odds with the powerful chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the time, Republican Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania. In February 2007, the moratorium on earmarks that he and Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., sponsored failed in a floor vote, 204-196. Wolf also used the subcommittee chairmanship to push to passage a national .08% blood alcohol limit for drunk driving. He has sought funding for a Metro rail link to Dulles Airport which, astonishingly, was not foreseen by the system’s planners. In August 2008, the Federal Transportation Administration approved plans for the link, a major hurdle cleared for Wolf.
Wolf has been one of the House’s leading crusaders for human rights and is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. He traces his interest in the issue to a 1984 trip he took to Ethiopia with his best friend in Congress, liberal Ohio Rep. Tony Hall (1978-2002). The country was in the middle of a famine, and Wolf called his close-up view of the impact on the Ethiopian people “a life-changing experience.” Since then, Wolf has been to El Salvador, Chechnya, the Sudan, Sierra Leone and other global trouble spots. In 1998, Wolf sponsored the law setting up a religious freedom office in the State Department and requiring annual reports on religious freedom throughout the world. With Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, he led the annual efforts in the 1990s to withdraw normalized trade relations with China because of human right violations, citing China’s acts of jailing dissidents, persecuting Tibetan Buddhists and aiming missiles at the United States. In March 2008, he sponsored a bill to prevent officials other than the president from attending the Olympics in Beijing and urged President George W. Bush not to attend. In June 2008, he and New Jersey Republican Chris Smith said that the Chinese had hacked into their office computers searching for casework information involving Chinese dissidents. When he and Smith tried to meet with dissidents’ lawyers in China, the lawyers were arrested. In December 2008, he worked successfully to get $15 million set aside to thwart governments that erect Internet firewalls. Pelosi once called Wolf “an unmatched leader in his commitment to human rights.”
Wolf has also been influential on policy toward Iraq. After his third visit to the country in September 2005, he called for “fresh eyes” to look at American policy there and suggested a bipartisan study group. He pressed this idea with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The result was the influential Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton. When Bush ordered a troop surge to try to restore order in Iraq, rather than move toward withdrawal as the ISG recommended, Wolf sponsored a bill to implement its recommendations, but the Democratic leadership declined to bring it up. He did get the House to vote 355-69 in June 2007 to keep the ISG operating. In early 2007, Wolf pleaded with Rice to send an envoy to Syria after Syria threatened Israel. With Bob Aderholt, R-Ala., and Joe Pitts, R-Pa., Wolf then met with Syrian leaders in April 2007. Their meeting was not assailed by the administration like a similar session that House Speaker Pelosi conducted with Syrian leader Bashir Assad a short time later. In 2009, Wolf became a vocal opponent of transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp to prisons within the continental United States.
Wolf also has long been one of Congress’s leading opponents of gambling and has unsuccessfully tried to stop the proliferation of Indian casinos.
He has generally been re-elected by wide margins, but the Democratic trend in Northern Virginia has produced well-financed challenges to him in the last three elections. In 2004, he faced Democrat James Socas, who made a fortune in high-tech boom, and spent $500,000 of his own money. Wolf spent $1.6 million and won 64%-36%. In 2006 and 2008, his opponent was Judy Feder, former dean of Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute, who worked in the Clinton administration. She spent $1.5 million the first time and $2.2 million the second, attacking him for supporting the Bush administration and for GOP inaction on the health care crisis. Wolf kept pace with her spending and criticized her for backing the 1993 Clinton health care plan. He won 57%-41% in 2006. Two years later, despite Obama’s success in boosting Democratic turnout in Northern Virginia, Wolf won, 59%-39%, carrying every county.