No fade: Van Yahres runs again

He's served in the House of Delegates since 1981, and he's 76 years old, certainly reasons enough to join the swarm of legislators calling it quits this year.

But as "bizarre" and "appalling" as Mitch Van Yahres found this year's General Assembly, he's seeking reelection to his eminently safe 57th District seat.

The Democratic Party faithful gathered on the Downtown Mall Monday, March 10, for Van Yahres' announcement about whether he'd run again. If there were any disappointed Dems who've been eyeing his seat, they managed to hide it.

Van Yahres lambasted the majority party at this year's session and drew applause when he said, "We witnessed Republicans arguing that a primary seatbelt law is an intrusion into one's personal life and then turn around and interfere with a woman's most intimate relationship with her doctor."

Immediately following his announcement that he planned to head to Richmond again for a 24th session, former mayor Kay Slaughter and Charlottesville Sheriff Cornelia Johnson burst into song with For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.

Most Dems professed no amazement at Van Yahres' decision. "It saves us a lot of worry," says Jackson Landers, who's in charge of publicity.

"I wasn't surprised," says City Councilor and former U.S. Congressional candidate Meredith Richards. "He's always had political courage, he continues to work on a tax restructure, and he's courageous with the tax bills he introduced. He's never afraid to get out there and articulate a point of view."

One person who admits being "a little bit surprised" at Van Yahres' decision is 58th District Delegate Rob Bell (R), who thought Van Yahres' introduction of the doomed cigarette tax bill was a sign of a legislator on his way out with nothing to lose.

"He's one of the leading advocates for a liberal, Democratic agenda," says Bell, who often finds himself on the opposite side of a vote from Van Yahres.

Bell marvels at what good shape the 76-year-old Van Yahres is in. "He could take me in a fight any day," notes Bell.