By Don Del Rosso
Special to the Rappahannock News
Kevin P. Kelley expected someday to run for elective office.
But the 52-year-old long-time youth sports volunteer, former Prince William County Chamber of Commerce board chairman and small-business owner couldn’t be certain whether he’d pursue a local or state position.
“It’s always been kind of a spark in the back of my mind, that I might serve as an elected official,” said Kelley, a Warrenton resident and president of Falcon Promotions and Print Solutions, a Manassas-based marketing and consulting firm. “I didn’t know if it would be a board of supervisors’ slot, or something like that.”
But Del. Clifford “Clay” Athey Jr.’s announcement last month that he would not seek reelection to the 18th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates gave Kelley an opening.
Last Friday, Kelley declared for the Republican nomination to succeed Athey, a Warren County Republican who won his first two-year House term in 2001.
Athey, 50, said he decided to retire because he wants to spend more time with his wife, Stacey, and their 5-year-old twins.
Under the proposed House of Delegates redistricting plan, the 18th District, which Athey represents, would contain all of Rappahannock County and a larger part of Fauquier, including Warrenton.
Athey’s retirement and Fauquier’s position as the dominant county in the newly proposed district persuaded Kelley to run for the seat.
“It’s an opportunity,” said Kelley, a member of the Fauquier County Republican Committee. “I would never have run against Clay Athey, if the district lines didn’t change.”
Based on 2010 census data, House districts ideally should each contain 80,010 people.
As proposed under the House plan, the 18th would hold 79,450 people, with 40,915 in Fauquier. That amounts to nearly two-thirds of the county’s population. The district also would include portions of Warren County (18,267 people) and Culpeper County (12,895) and all of Rappahannock (7,373).
During the campaign, Kelley said he would stress the importance of a lean state budget, “small government,” “low taxes,” business and economic development and “traditional family values.”
“I’m going to tend to look at things from a small-businessman’s perspective that’s trying to make ends meet and trying to provide a decent living for themselves and their families,” the first-time candidate said. “I want to keep taxes low for businesses and citizens.”
In some respects, his campaign remains very much in the formative stages, said Kelley, who grew up in Prince William County and moved to Warrenton in 1988.
For example, he must prepare a campaign budget, which he said largely depends on whether other Republicans and a Democrat seek the open seat.
Fauquier County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Fisher described Kelley as “one of those guys, when you meet him, you instantly like him. He’s got a lot of friends who will support him.”
Fisher said Kelley already “is gathering early momentum” for the nomination.
Fisher said he’s heard from Republicans outside of Fauquier but within the district who believe Kelley would make a strong candidate.
“Kevin’s very excited,” Fisher said. “He’s getting organized. His engine is firing on all pistons.”
Warrenton lawyer T. Huntley Thorpe III, who serves on the county Republican committee, has known Kelley for at least 10 years.
“He’s impressed me as thoughtful, level-headed and hard-working,” Thorpe said. “He strikes me as the opposite of some politicians — glory hounds, being outrageous and grabbing headlines.”
As a business person, Kelley understands the need to make hard, practical decisions, skills that he would bring to the job of delegate, Thorpe said.
Not since 1991 has Fauquier dominated a House of Delegates district. That year, Warrenton pharmacist and Democratic Party activist Jerry Wood won the district seat.
He served one term, losing in 1993 to Republican Jay Katzen, who lived near The Plains. Katzen retired in 2001.