Davis in a rare fight for re-election

Individual loss, or a loss of GOP control, would impact the federal IT community

Tom Davis (R - VA)

Olivier Douliery

Tom Davis is popular in the tech community. He's well-liked by the systems integrators and government IT workers who live in Virginia's 11th congressional district, because of his tireless work on contracting and technology issues of concern to his high-tech constituents. But this year, in the face of growing disaffection with a Republican Congress, it might not be enough.

Davis is fighting hard against the anti-incumbent tide, and for the first time since being elected in 1994 is in a tight race for his seat. Polls show Davis in the lead, but even if he is re-elected, his influence could be reduced if Republicans lose control of the House. And should he not win, the technology community would lose its primary voice on the Hill, observers said.

'That's nothing we want to contemplate,' said Phil Bond, president and chief executive officer of the Information Technology Association of America, of the prospect of Davis losing his election. 'For the federal IT contracting community, Tom has been an enormous champion, perhaps too much so, because we have not developed other champions to go to.'

No one ' other than his opponent, Andrew Hurst ' may think there's an upset in the making. But if the Nov. 7 election mirrors current national polls, Davis may be relieved just to hold on to his seat.

'It's about a 10-point margin,' said James Walkinshaw, Hurst's campaign manager, of new internal polling the candidate conducted earlier this month. 'But neither [candidate] is over 50 percent. Voters are upset at George Bush and not happy about voting for a Republican, even if he's a popular Republican.'

Walkinshaw declined to provide specific polling results.

Par for the course

Larry Harris, a principal with Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., an independent polling firm in Washington, said Davis' low numbers didn't surprise him.

'In other races [around the country], other moderate Republicans are under 50 percent,' Harris said. 'People aren't voting against them, necessarily, but they just ain't going to show up.'

Despite serving six terms in the House, with the power of incumbency behind him and the influence of chairing the important Government Reform Committee, Davis has been advertising for a few weeks on prime-time television ' a very expensive proposition in the D.C. suburbs.

'Tom has never taken anything for granted, regardless of who his opponent is,' said Davis' campaign manager, Nick Mead. 'He works as hard in non-election years as election years, [and] he's no stranger to his district. Tom will certainly be re-elected.'

Mead said the Davis campaign has been conducting polling 'very recently, and the congressman is in good shape,' but he, too, declined to share specific numbers.

Davis' campaign has much more cash for television, radio and newspaper ads than Hurst's. In their latest reports to the Federal Election Commission, Davis said he has about $1.5 million in his campaign war chest through Sept. 30. Hurst had only $74,000.

If Davis wins but the Republicans lose their majority, he likely would become the ranking minority member on the Government Reform committee, and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who also is running for re-election, likely would become chairman.

'I totally believe he's going to win, maybe in a somewhat closer race than before, and he will be an important player in the majority or the minority, because he's the kind of guy that can work across the aisle,' Bond said.

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