Stewart touts biggest fundraiser of his career

October 19, 2011

The chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors said he had the biggest campaign fundraiser of his political career last week, hosting business executives from across the region at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) is running for reelection against Democratic challenger Babur Lateef, a local physician, and independent John S. Gray, an accountant. Stewart said his campaign pulled in about $234,000 last Wednesday night, giving him about $300,000 to spend heading into the Nov. 8 election. The business executives attending the dinner included some of Prince William County’s and the region’s largest real estate developers, he said.

Among Stewart’s biggest supporters are Roadside Development, which is opening a large mixed-use development called Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge, as well as the Peterson Cos., a regional developer that is opening Virginia Gateway in Gainesville, Stewart said. The Potomac Nationals baseball team has also donated heavily to Stewart’s campaign.

“The focus of my message is that I’m pro-business, that I’m bringing jobs into the county, and the beauty of it is that that’s a message donors want to hear, and it’s a message the average voter wants to hear as well,” Stewart said.

Campaign disclosure reports that became available Monday did not reflect the candidates’ most recent fundraising efforts. The report, covering the month of September, shows that Stewart brought in $34,825 and Lateef $59,370, according to information on the Virginia State Board of Elections Web site. There was no report filed for Gray, who said that he is typically raising donations of less than $100 from individual donors.

Lateef said he has a large fundraiser planned for Saturday with former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D), who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in 2012.

Lateef criticized Stewart for taking money from developers and businesses whose interests coincide with votes before the county Board of Supervisors.

“We haven’t taken money from developers or businesses [who seek approvals] in front of the Board of Supervisors,” Lateef said. Taking money is “part of the reason why we have this suburban sprawl. If you do take money from someone, you ought to recuse yourself from voting on their projects.”

Stewart said that developers were pleased with the direction the board has taken as a whole in easing permit restrictions, building roads and other key infrastructure and keeping taxes low.

He said that he has never taken donations from developers while they have a project pending before the board.

“The sprawl that he’s referring to is really sprawl that was approved in the 1990s and early 2000s,” Stewart said. He added that the county has paved the way for more office and high-end retail developments, partially offsetting declines in residential tax revenue. “I’m going to do what’s best for the interests of Prince William County, and right now, that’s promoting business. I don’t see a conflict there.”

Lateef said he is proud that his campaign is bringing in people who are not typically involved in politics. Lateef, an ophthalmologist, said his main donors are other health-care professionals.

Gray said he’s hoping to raise about $50,000 and will ramp up in these last weeks of the campaign. He said voters are “fed up” with the fliers and robocalls that campaigns spend their money on.

“I think it’s ludicrous to raise $250,000 to $300,000 to run for chairman of the Board of Supervisors,” Gray said.

The candidates have several scheduled stops together, culminating in a debate Wednesday at the Sheraton in Manassas. Peter Candland (R) and Ann Wheeler (D), supervisor candidates for the Gainesville district, are also scheduled to speak.

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