Since Del. Paul Krizek won the Democratic primary to become his party’s nominee for the open seat in 44th District of the House of Delegates in June 2015, he hasn’t faced an electoral challenge. He’s easily retained the support of local Democrats, and no Republicans ran against him in the 2015 or 2017 general elections.
But that’s about to change. Riverside Gardens resident Richard Hayden, a first-time candidate for political office, is set to become the first GOP candidate to run in the 44th since 2011.
Hayden, a lawyer with a background in real estate and business law, disagrees with Krizek on a variety of issues, particularly abortion. Those disagreements, together with his frustration that no Republicans have been on his ballot in the 44th in years, pushed him to throw his own hat into the ring.
“I’ve never had an aspiration to run for political office,” Hayden said. “But no [conservatives have] had an opportunity to vote for somebody with opposing beliefs.”
Hayden has lived with his wife and two children in Mount Vernon District for more than 20 years. He’s been active as volunteer in Little League and Boy Scouts, and is a parishioner at Good Shepherd Catholic Church. He is also a member of the Mount Vernon Council of the Knights of Columbus, where he helps oversee that group’s charity bingo, which he said is aiming to raise $300,000 this year.
A social conservative, Hayden pointed to Krizek’s support for HB 2491, a bill that sought to remove certain restrictions on women seeking third-trimester abortions in the state. In January a video clip of HB 2491’s chief sponsor, Del. Kathy Tran (D-42), answering questions about the bill set off a brief political firestorm. The arguments leveled against Tran included claims she supported infanticide, and threats ultimately forced Tran to cancel a Lorton town hall meeting in early February.
In his campaign announcement, Hayden struck a more measured tone in expressing his dissatisfaction with HB 2491, saying the bill was a bridge too far but calling the motivation behind it well-intentioned.
“[W]hile there are good intentions on each side of this argument, I don’t believe our values and morals as Virginians are in line with destroying a child up to 40 weeks,” Hayden said.
Beyond abortion, Hayden says that county and state taxes are too high. He specifically cites the cost of Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project — official estimates currently list the project as $544,800,000, and it’s likely to rise — as a project that does not maximize taxpayer dollars.
Hayden said that while the corridor does need transportation improvements, particularly for pedestrians, the nearly $1 billion pricetag for the BRT project and VDOT’s Richmond Highway widening project is much too high.
“It’s a very unsafe pedestrian corridor. And that’s been a problem for years. So something has to be done,” Hayden said. “But I don’t know if we have to throw a billion dollars at it.”
Fine with underdog role
Despite being a political newcomer in an area that voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in the last statewide election in 2017, Hayden believes if he can get the right turnout, things could go his way. He’s already heartened by the support he’s received while canvassing for signatures to get on the ballot, and found that many people share similar concerns.
“I’ve been out there pounding the pavement, trying to get a feel for what people are worried about,” Hayden said, noting that nobody he’s talked to supported Tran’s abortion bill. “There’s a significant level of concern from the parents and the families I’ve met with, as well as the younger people.”
Nevertheless, Hayden faces an uphill battle in a district that has elected Democratic delegates every election cycle since at least 1999. Hayden said he’s not going to let that phase him, and believes Krizek’s views on abortion, coupled frustration over taxes and other issues, could boost him over the top.
“There’s a real excitement about the fact that there is going to be a differt viewpoint out there,” Hayden said. “I really believe there’s a possibility if I can motivate my church base and [people with similar views in] other faiths … and give a conservative alternative to Paul Krizek.”