This time around, many voters can say what’s bothering them in a few words. They’re worried about the economy. They’re worried about jobs. And they’re really, really sick of sitting in traffic.
The county has seen a lot of change in recent years.
The number of jobs grew more quickly than the rest of the state this year and, by one measure at least, more quickly than almost anywhere else in the country.
Salaries increased, lifting median household income to $92,000, the ninth-highest in the country.
Builders pushed farther and farther west, turning farmland into housing development.
And the county has had explosive population growth, said Terry Rephann, a regional economist at the University of Virginia, increasing more than 40 percent over the past decade, in part because much of the housing is more affordable than some of the closer-in suburbs.
All that growth is crowding classrooms and clogging roads. Traffic is so bad that a 2009 Census report labeled the Brentsville District as the spot where residents had the worst commute in the country.
So as politicians knock on doors, urging people to vote for them next Tuesday, they keep hearing about jobs and traffic. Because about two-thirds of people in the county work elsewhere, the issues are intertwined.
“They want jobs close to home,” said Babur Lateef, who is running for chairman of the board of supervisors. “They don’t want to have to have babysitters and after-school programs and get home at seven at night and miss their children growing up” because they’re always in traffic. They need more mass-transit options, he said.
Lateef, a Democrat challenging the Republican incumbent chairman, Corey A. Stewart, says this election is important because he, the son of an immigrant, is taking on Stewart, who pushed one of the early efforts to locally enforce federal immigration law. But in the next breath, Lateef says that isn’t something voters are talking about much.
The independent candidate, John S. Gray, says voters want a chairman who is focused on local issues, not national politics and angling for higher office — a jab at Stewart. Both challengers criticize the incumbent for taking donations from developers.
Stewart points to all sorts of published statistics to make the case that the county is doing well under his leadership and weathering the recession better than most of the country. Unemployment is well below the national average, the number of jobs is increasing and the county’s bond rating has improved.
The board made deep cuts, more than $140 million, which Stewart said have strengthened the county. Lateef said the cuts went too far in some cases, as with senior centers that were closed.