Stewart records early lead in Pr. William for board of county supervisors

November 8, 2011

Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) was on his way to easily defeating his opponents after voters cast ballots Tuesday in an election marked by sharp rhetoric on job creation, transportation improvements and development.

At midnight, almost every vote had been counted except for one precinct for each of the contested races. Stewart led with 58 percent of the vote over challengers Babur Lateef (D) and John S. Gray (I). Martin E. “Marty” Nohe (R-Coles) had claimed 69 percent of the vote over challenger Anthony D. Arnold (D).

Democratic incumbent Frank J. Principi (Woodbridge) maintained 61 percent of the vote over opponent Chris Royse (R). Incumbent Sheriff Glendell “Glen” Hill (R) had a considerable lead over independent challenger Michael Messier.

Ann Wheeler (D) and Peter Candland (R), battling for the open Gainesville seat, had been close all night, with Candland maintaining a slight edge. But with just one precinct remaining, Candland was pulling away with 56 percent of the vote.

The Board of Supervisors will look much the same — incumbents held on while Candland will be the lone newcomer. Four incumbent supervisors ran unopposed.

The countywide chairman’s race was highly contentious. Stewart repeatedly made the case that the county’s economy had remained strong despite the national recession, and the county had managed its budget effectively. Lateef and Gray have said that Stewart’s stance on illegal immigration and his campaign’s financial backing from the business and development community raised questions about his commitment to voters, among other issues.

The other races also saw intense, often negative exchanges between candidates. Candland and Wheeler, both seeking a seat vacated by Supervisor John T. Stirrup Jr. (R), featured negative fliers and a flurry of attacks on each other’s records.

For one resident, the negativity swayed his vote in the Gainesville contest — it backfired. Dale Hollins of Haymarket said he’s a small-government, fiscal conservative, characteristics touted by Candland. But Hollins began to change his mind about Candland after he saw one of the candidate’s campaign fliers with a picture of Wheeler, his Democratic opponent, next to President Obama. Hollins recalled its message: “We don’t need another Obama!”

“Are you kidding?” Hollins said. “Ann Wheeler is not another Obama. [Candland’s] presentation was pretty vitriolic.”

Wheeler sent out negative campaign fliers, as well, looking to raise doubts about Candland’s community and business experience.

Joe Dougherty, a Haymarket resident, predicted a close race. The district tends to lean Republican, but “the votes have to be earned in this area,” he said.

Dougherty said he voted for Candland and said he plans to “hold him accountable” for ensuring that the large, undeveloped area known as the Rural Crescent is preserved.

Locally, voters also went to the polls to elect new members of the school board and the soil and water conservation district. Longtime Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D) ran unopposed.

Many people said they were motivated to vote Tuesday by the fight over which party would control the state Senate, or to support Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who has fought for Republicans statewide. Others said they hoped to see change on perennial issues such as traffic, school crowding and taxes. Two-thirds of Prince William commutes out of the county and endures one of the worst commutes in the nation.

Karen Andrews said after voting at Brentsville District High School that she “always votes Democrat.” But she made one exception — for Stewart, whom she said she voted for because of the county’s strong fiscal condition and his stance on illegal immigration. After Stewart took the chairman’s office in 2007, the county passed new policies to ensure that the immigration status of those arrested by local police is checked and then referred to federal authorities if necessary.

Andrews said she wasn’t totally supportive of the policy but added that it has been effective.

“I don’t like the free rides,” she said.

Naeem Sheikh said after voting at Dumfries Town Hall that the problems in the county came down to one: “Only the traffic,” he said.

Running unopposed were Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Potomac), Michael C. May (R-Occoquan), John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) and W.S. “Wally” Covington III (R-Brentsville).

Jeremy Borden covers Prince William County, Va., for The Washington Post.
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