Voters mix politics and brunch in Fairfax


The off-year Virginia governor’s race wrapping up this week has been notable for the number of voters expressing disappointment in both major party candidates, Republican Ken Cuccinelli II and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. But on Sunday at Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, it was clear that not everyone will be holding their nose when they go to vote.

“Cuccinelli is the better of the two candidates,” said congregant Ian Meyeroff of Arlington. “I like him as a person. I used to live in Maryland, and I’m afraid we’re going to turn into Maryland” if the liberal McAuliffe is elected.”

“McAuliffe is an energetic candidate. He’s got a lot of good ideas,” said Patrick Lapensee of Mantua. “I’m hoping we finally bring Virginia to a progressive mode.”

As they ate bagels and sipped coffee, 70 members of the Conservative congregation warmed up for a men’s club discussion with the candidates’ surrogates by talking politics with each other. It’s a congregational tradition, they explained. Although the Jewish community is overwhelmingly Democratic, Olam Tikvah has a strong Republican presence, which leads to lively discussions.
The synagogue’s political diversity reflects Virginia’s, said Jordan Baker of Burke, who described himself as an “independent that more often votes Democratic.”

“I like that Virginia is competitive and that we can have these discussions — even when the politicians are not in the building.”

Baker said he will vote for McAuliffe, “but I’m not going to enjoy it. Cuccinelli talks in terms of right and wrong. I’m worried about any candidate who talks in platitudes about right and wrong.”

Sitting at Baker’s elbow, Mike Sultan of Springfield described McAuliffe as “a party hack from the Clinton era. Cuccinelli is the one I’m stuck with.”

Asked if he would consider voting for the Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, Sultan said, “I would. I tend to live that way. But I want to try to make sure McAuliffe loses.”

A self-described conservative Republican, Howard Fienberg said he is unhappy with Cuccinelli’s candidacy.

“He waffled on the largest tax increase in the state’s history,” the Vienna resident said, referring to the transportation bill that was passed in the last legislative session. Cuccinelli “was for it before he was against it,” Fienberg said, and criticized the candidate for not promising to seek its repeal if elected.

“But McAuliffe would be a nightmare,” he said.

Linda Recht said she was out of the country when the parties chose their candidates. “I wasn’t thrilled with the choices, but I’m definitely voting for McAuliffe,” she said.

Speaking for McAuliffe was State Del. Vivian Watts (D-39). Michael Ginsberg, Republican chairman for the 8th congressional district, spoke for Cuccinelli. In addition to the men’s club, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington co-sponsored the event.

[email protected]   Twitter: @davidholzel

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