Steve Stombres is the latest in a long line of Capitol Hill staffers who, after spending years of working in and around elected officials, gives in to the political bug and runs for office.
Stombres, chief of staff in the leadership office of House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), is one of 11 candidates seeking six at-large nonpartisan seats on the Fairfax City Council. The election is May 6.
Stombres has been involved in Fairfax City politics for several years, and with two incumbents retiring from the council this year, he said it seemed like a natural time to step into elected politics.
“I just decided it was a great opportunity,” Stombres said, describing how Fairfax City, like other localities, faces a difficult time ahead in trying to balance budgets without enacting huge fee or tax increases.
He also has some high-powered local support, including the help of retiring Fairfax City Councilman Scott Silverthorne, who encouraged Stombres to run.
Among the others who are helping with his bid are Fairfax City School Board Chairwoman Janice Miller and Fairfax City Mayor Rob Lederer.
Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who rose through the ranks of local Fairfax County politics and retains a strong political network there, said Stombres’ chances of winning are good.
“He’s got a real shot,” Davis said, noting he’s written Stombres a $1,000 check for his campaign. Davis also described Stombres as “ensconced” in the city’s affairs for years.
“He’s earned his stripes,” he said.
Cantor has also been supportive of Stombres’ bid, allowing him more flexible hours while he’s been campaigning.
The city council is a part-time job — with meetings every other Tuesday — and, if elected, Stombres will be able to keep his job on the Hill.
“I think it’s a natural progression,” Cantor said of Stombres move to run for office. “He’ll be great at it.”
Before coming to work for Cantor, Stombres worked for then-Rep. Herb Bateman (R-Va.).
Stombres called the city of roughly 22,000 people a “little community in the insanity that is northern Virginia.”
A city council race generally lasts about two months, and Stombres said his campaign budget is “laughable” compared to Congressional campaigns. He has done some mailings, but his communication with voters has largely been through yard signs and old-fashioned door-knocking.
“It’s an interesting contrast to federal races; they’re so big,” Stombres said.
The Army Reservist is not the only candidate in the race with ties to Capitol Hill.
Dan Drummond, a senior vice president at Powell Tate and a former communications director for Rep. Jim Moran ( D-Va.), is also running.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.