Today, Braddock also represents American suburbia in its maturity. The district is still home to some of the people who pioneered it, still full of the many charms that lured them there. But the promise of building a life around the single-family home, the automobile, good schools and malls now revolves around addressing the unintended consequences of success: traffic jams, crowded classrooms and fraying infrastructure.
With all seats up for grabs in Tuesday’s general election, many political observers will be watching Braddock’s 26 precincts closest of all next week.
Republicans badly want the GOP’s incumbent, John C. Cook, to hang on to a Board of Supervisors seat that had been in Democrats’ hands for more than 30 years, until Cook’s special-election victory in 2009. Democrats have tapped Janet S. Oleszek, a former Fairfax County School Board member, to get it back.
It is the premier matchup in a year when Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D) is expected to beat back a challenge from a little-known Republican opponent, and every other board incumbent is unopposed or favored to win.
In a series of debates, the Braddock candidates have clashed over issues that touch on the entire county of more than 1 million people and on minute affairs that affect only neighborhoods. They have differed on the solvency of the county pension system, firefighter staffing, library hours, school spending, affordable housing, transportation and, most of all, the core philosophy a county leader should have.
Cook, 48, styles himself as a moderate Republican who endorses many county services but thinks of the taxpayer first: He has called for reduced government spending rather than property tax increases. But he also plays up his handling of hyper-local concerns.
“That’s just a key part of the job,” Cook said during the candidates’ eighth debate last week. He accuses Oleszek of having a weak grasp of issues and being vague or naive about devising solutions.
Oleszek, 64, portrays herself as a champion of schools, libraries and social programs and has depicted Cook as a part-timer who is too conservative and too eager to oppose spending on important public services.
“It pains me when my opponent votes against the budget that funds this,” Oleszek said during a recent stop at the county’s David R. Pinn Community Center.
Carey C. Campbell, party chairman of Independent Greens of Virginia, is running as an independent; few think he can win. It’s not clear which of the major-party candidates might benefit more from his presence in the race.
Campbell, 55, describes himself as a fiscal conservative. He has pledged to reduce school funding — which absorbs more than half of county revenues — yet advocates building light rail on major thoroughfares such as Braddock Road and installing solar panels on all public buildings. In debates and interviews, he has leveled most of his criticism at Cook.