Fairfax County Supervisor John C. Cook, as expected, has formally announced that he is seeking a second term representing the Braddock district, the county’s most closely watched battleground.
“I’m not done yet,” Cook, who is one of three Republicans on the 10-member Board of Supervisors, said late Monday.
Cook has been a member of the Republican trio that has voted against carefully crafted budgets that nonetheless imposed effective tax increases, challenged the school district to do its work more efficiently, and opposed the majority’s commitment to spending money on affordable housing. His is a swing district that had been in Democratic hands with Sharon Bulova before Bulova advanced to chair the Board of Supervisors.
Two Democrats – former School Board member Janet S. Oleszek and political newcomer Christopher J. Wade – will square off in the Aug. 23 primary to face him; a third Democrat, Marc A. Greidinger, has withdrawn.
Oleszek, 64, came within a whisker of defeating then-state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli in 2007, a conservative Republican who has since used his position as Virginia attorney general to grab the national spotlight on several issues. As a School Board candidate, Oleszek said she received the largest number of votes of any Democrat.
“I believe I am the strongest candidate to defeat John Cook, and my record proves it,” Oleszek said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “It is not a leap of faith that I have run these races and done very well.”
Wade, 38, has never run for elective office. The father of three has worked for businesses and run one of his own. He also teaches business as an adjunct professor at George Mason University. He said he has won the backing of several elected officials, including Bulova and Fairfax County supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay (D-Lee).
The race is off to an unusual start, however, with some liberal bloggers harshly challenging Wade’s Democratic Party bona fides because he has voted in two Republican Party primaries.
Wade, 38, acknowledged that he voted in Republican primaries in 2005 and 2008 (thought he declined to say whom he supported). He said it was in keeping with an independent political philosophy that makes him generally socially liberal and fiscally conservative. In Virginia, voters cannot declare a party affiliation when registering to vote.
Ben Tribbett, who writes the Not Larry Sabato blog, posted an item Thursday that loosely compared Wade to disgraced presidential candidate John Edwards and asked, “What kind of man hides behind his wife in a firefight?”
But Wade and his wife, Stacy — whose late father worked for President Jimmy Carter — dismissed the fuss.
“Chris is not hiding behind my coattails,” Stacy, 39, said, describing herself as a lifelong Democrat. “I would not support him if he was a Republican running as a Democrat.”
Her father was Charles W. “Bill” Maynes, who served as an assistant secretary of state under Carter, including a posting in the former Soviet Union, and later edited Foreign Policy magazine from 1980 to 1997.
In an interview, Wade took some Democratic-sounding shots at Cook: “He hasn’t funded our education. He hasn’t funded police and firefighters. He hasn’t funded other services our residents have come to rely on,” Wade said Monday. The Wades moved to Fairfax County about 10 years ago.
Cook, 47, who is an attorney, said in an interview Monday that he is proudest of his efforts to root out government waste, reclaim the defunct Kings West Swim Club as a parkland, manage neighborhood relations with George Mason University, and help put up sound barriers near North Springfield Elementary School.
Oleszek, who has lived in the Braddock District for 40 years, said that once again, education is an important issue propelling her into the race.
“Since it is the largest item of our county budget, I think it’s important that we have someone who’s knowledgeable about schools on the Board of Supervisors,” Oleszek said.
But education was not the only issue that motivated her to jump into politics again. She said she also believes that the district’s supervisor could do more to improve transportation and the environment. Noting that she raised $1.3 million in her campaign against Cuccinelli, Oleszek said she believes she can take the fight to the GOP incumbent in a district where Republicans continue to make inroads.
“I am a hard campaigner,” she said.
Greidinger could not be reached.
Up for grabs this year are seats on the Board of Supervisors, the School Board, the General Assembly and constitutional offices.
This post has been updated since it was first published.