Virginia candidates trade jabs over endorsements from school board members

Two weeks before an unusual mid-August special election, Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan on Tuesday tried to refute the main credential offered by Republican David M. Foster to argue that he — rather than Sullivan — should go to Richmond to represent Arlington and McLean as a state delegate in the general assembly.

Eight hours after meeting at their first debate, before the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Sullivan announced that he was being endorsed by every member of the Arlington and Fairfax County school boards who represent any portion of the 48th legislative district.

Sullivan also noted that he has been endorsed by four of the six board members who served with Foster during his 1999-2007 tenure on the Arlington School Board.

“This community rightly looks to our state leaders to make education funding a priority,” Sullivan said. “Instead of seeing an increase in pre-K-12 education funding in recent years, basic aid for schools has decreased by 20 percent since 2009. If we want small class sizes, STEM programs, language training, and the arts in our schools, we need to send someone to Richmond who will not be silent, but who will fight to restore the funding we’ve seen slashed in recent years.”

Foster, who has touted his school board experience as indicative of his ability to find common ground with Democrats, pooh-poohed the endorsements Tuesday afternoon, noting that most of the endorsers are Democrats.

“I think what’s more telling is those folks elected me chairman twice,” he said. The chairmanship of the nonpartisan school board normally rotates among its members, but the Democrats on the board dragged their feet with regard to Foster and skipped giving him a turn. After a 2003 Washington Post editorial scolded them over the snub, the other board members elected Foster to the chairmanship.

Besides, Foster said, he has his own Democratic endorsers willing to go public, including three former School Board members (Conchita Mitchell, Diane Smith and Margaret Lampe), former Arlington Planning Commission chairman Michael Foster and Robert Green, the former legislative counsel to the late congressman from Virginia’s 10th district, Joseph L. Fisher.

Foster also noted that he was unanimously elected chairman of the Virginia Board of Education, which had appointees from both a Republican and Democratic governor.

Del. Rob Krupicka (D), who served with Foster on the Virginia Board of Education, said although he likes Foster, he’s endorsing Sullivan.

“The dynamic of a policy board where you have nonpartisan chance to find [compromise] is different from the legislature,” Krupicka said. “The moderates of the majority party are essentially drowned out. Adding another Republican to the House of Delegates does nothing to bring moderation to the General Assembly.”

Krupicka also said Foster failed to challenge his party leaders over a dispute on the school takeover bill or the A to F grading system. “Dave didn’t say anything, and he was in a great position to say something,” Krupicka said. “I think that’s an issue. We need someone willing to stand up for Northern Virginia.”

The endorsements Sullivan said he had received from former and current school board members are: James Lander, Emma Violand-Sanchez, Abby Raphael and Sally Baird, who are currently members of the Arlington School Board; Jane Strauss, Ted Velkoff, Ryan McElveen and Ilryong Moon, current members of the Fairfax School Board; and former school board members Sally Baird, Mary Hynes, Ed Fendley, Elaine Furlow and Noah Simon.

Patricia Sullivan covers government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria. She worked in Illinois, Florida, Montana and California before joining the Post in November 2001.

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