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Posted at 01:09 PM ET, 11/07/2011

Fairfax School Board race becomes more partisan in final days

Facing a tide of discontent with Fairfax schools leadership, local and state Democrats are taking pains to ensure that their party-endorsed candidates maintain control of the county school board.

The current board is tilted nine to three in favor of Democrats, but six members are retiring, ensuring major turnover.

Two incumbents are running uncontested; the other four, all Democrat-endorsed, face opponents. Across the county, most of the candidates running as reformers are G.O.P.-endorsed.

Virginia school board seats are nonpartisan but both parties endorse slates of candidates.

Last week, the state Democratic party mailed voters a glossy, full-color flyer featuring Democratic-endorsed candidates for school board and trumpeting the schools’ success in recent years.

“These are critically important races,” said state party spokesman Brian Coy. “This is where a lot of things that matter in people’s lives get done.”

Coy said he didn’t know whether it was unusual for the state party to devote such attention to the school board — the most local (and usually the sleepiest) of local races.

But Sharon Bulova, Democratic chair of the board of supervisors, told my colleague Robert McCartney last week that the school-board specific mailing was a first for her party — and was prompted by a concern, McCartney wrote, that the board may become too conservative.

“I am very concerned about voters being confused about who’s running for school board and what they stand for,” Bulova told McCartney.

The mailing was paid for in part by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, which has spent $150,000 spreading the word about all candidates for local office, including the school board, said chairman Rex Simmons.

That’s more than the committee has ever spent in an election cycle, he said — part of a strategic effort to exercise more influence in local races.

“The Dems are desperate,” Fairfax County Republican Committee chairman Anthony Bedell wrote in an e-mail. “That's why you’re seeing this.’

Bedell said his organization has spent about $156,000 on all local races, but has not targeted the school board contest with special mailings.

Republican Party of Virginia spokesman Garren Shipley said the G.O.P. establishment in Richmond has not focused on the Fairfax School Board races — the party has bigger ambitions, he said, like taking control of both houses of the General Assembly.

“You guys worry about the school board,” he said of the Democrats, “and we’ll take care of the state senate.”

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.Tuesday. Virginia residents can double-check their polling station location online here. A full rundown of candidates for local and state offices are available in The Post’s election guide.

Fairfax residents will have the chance to vote for four school board candidates to fill one district and three at-large seats.

Previous school board election coverage:

Snapshot of district races

Bios of each district candidate

Snapshot of at-large race

Overview of all races

Profiles of at-large candidates: Republican-backed Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, Sheree Brown-Kaplan and Lin-Dai Kendall; Democratic-backed Ilryong Moon, Ted Velkoff and Ryan McElveen; and Steve Stuban, who is running without a partisan endorsement.

By  |  01:09 PM ET, 11/07/2011

Tags:  fairfax county public schools, fairfax school board race

 
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