Pr. William GOP Candidate Faces Residency Challenge

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 4, 2005

The Manassas businessman challenging longtime state Del. Harry J. Parrish in the June Republican primary said he expects to be charged today with lying about where he lives, his campaign announced yesterday.

Candidate Steve H. Chapman will hold a news conference at the county courthouse this afternoon after he is formally charged with election fraud, said Thomas Kopko, communications director for his campaign.

"Steve has some politically motivated charges leveled against him. They have to do with challenging his residency within the district where he is running," Kopko said. "This is a sad commentary on his desperate opponents."

Chapman is one of several conservatives running statewide against a group of moderates who broke with the Republican Party in last year's heated budget battle. Parrish, chairman of the Finance Committee, has been in the House since 1982, after serving as mayor of Manassas for 18 years. He voted for tax increases that helped break an unprecedented budget stalemate in Richmond.

Chapman lashed out at Parrish, saying he used his influence to get the charges filed. "My opponent would rather dig stuff up on me. He's entrenched," said Chapman, 27. "He's been in office for 34 years. He has a lot of friends. I'm probably saying more than I should."

Parrish, for his part, announced that he also would hold a news conference today to counter Chapman's allegations. He said he has had nothing to do with the charges. "Everybody has the right to run for office as long as they abide by the law," he said.

"I do have a lot of friends. I would like to think after the number of years I've been office that I do."

Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert, whose office is presenting the charges to a state grand jury, declined to comment.

Chapman is a political neophyte who made a name for himself in the business world with a pressure-washing business he started when he was 16. National Home Improvement of Virginia Corp., which also operates under Elite Pressure Cleaning, holds the contract to clean the tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. He is aligned with a local group of conservative Republicans that campaigns on an anti-tax and family values platform. The Prince William County Republican Committee named Chapman "Republican of the Year 2004" at its annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner on April 24.

In an interview, Chapman said, "I am 100 percent innocent" and challenged anyone to visit his home on Richmond Avenue in Manassas. State election law requires candidates to reside in the district they are running to represent by the deadline for filing to run for office. In this case, Chapman would have had to be residing in the 50th District -- which includes parts of Prince William and Manassas and Manassas Park -- by April 15. Election fraud is a felony that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence and makes the offender ineligible to run for office.

Chapman said he has lived at three residences in the past six months -- a home he has owned in Woodbridge for eight years; a house he rented from the son of former county supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III in Manassas Park; and, most recently, the Manassas condominium he said he bought two months ago. The Woodbridge home is not in the 50th District.

He said none of his moves was illegal.

At the Manassas condominium on Richmond Avenue, Chapman said, "Welcome to 'Pimp My Ride,' " as he opened the door -- referring to an MTV show where skilled mechanics transform dilapidated vehicles into luxury cars.

The cluttered, one-story condominium was filled with dirty furniture. The walls were not painted. The kitchen had no refrigerator and a broken stove. The bathroom, he said, was "under renovation."

In a bedroom, two old mattresses were stacked on top of each other and had no sheets. "It's luxurious," Chapman said sarcastically. "I have an ergonomic pillow so I get a good night's sleep."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company