Correction to This Article
A June 5 article about Gary H. Baise, a possible candidate for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman, incorrectly said Baise had been on the board of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Longtime Lawyer May Fight Connolly for Top Board Seat

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 5, 2006

Fairfax County Republicans are recruiting a lawyer long active in party politics to challenge incumbent Democrat Gerald E. Connolly for Board of Supervisors chairman next year.

Gary H. Baise, who lives in the Falls Church area, said he is considering whether to make a first run at local office after a 30-year career in the Nixon administration and in private practice in the District, where he specializes in environmental law.

"People are saying, 'Why don't you do this?' " Baise, 65, said Friday. "I'm thinking about it. Certainly the party cannot be in the position of not having someone run against" Connolly. Baise said he would decide within a month after talking to U.S. Reps. Thomas M. Davis III and Frank R. Wolf and other Northern Virginia Republicans.

The election isn't until November next year, but Republicans say they are determined to find -- well in advance -- a competitive standard-bearer conversant in the arcana of local government. They want someone who can match a prodigious fundraising machine that to date has netted Connolly about $400,000.

The board chairmanship is the biggest prize in Fairfax politics. Whoever holds it helps set the direction of the county of 1 million people, which has the Washington area's and Virginia's largest local government. Democrats have held the chairman's office since 1995.

Baise (pronounced bayz) said "real priorities are not being set" by the Democratic-dominated leadership. The Board of Supervisors has failed to adequately address the financial burden on homeowners of rising property taxes by cutting spending, he said. And he questioned whether Connolly is doing enough to tackle the traffic that paralyzes most of the county's major roads every day.

"There's lots of talk about the transportation issue, but not nearly enough has been done," Baise said. Concerns over development also are likely to figure heavily in the campaign, GOP leaders say.

They're the same issues the party tried and failed to use against Connolly in 2003, when he handily defeated a school board member he had easily outshined in debates and on the campaign trail. Connolly had served two terms as supervisor from the Providence district.

Baise's professional résumé, connections in local and state politics and long civic record are big selling points. He also is a wealthy man who owns a profitable corn and soybean farm in his native southern Illinois and would throw large sums of his own money into a campaign.

"I'm not going to do what Jon Corzine did," Baise said, referring to the New Jersey multimillionaire who used his personal fortune to help win that state's governor's office last year and a U.S. Senate seat before that. "But certainly I'm financially stable enough that I could" help finance a campaign. Baise described himself as a "conservative, center-right kind of person" who is a fervent supporter of President Bush.

Connolly, 56, said he does not know Baise, a former chairman of the Dranesville GOP committee and a member of the party's countywide executive board. He called talk of the campaign premature and said it is "way too early" for him or any potential opponent to be focusing on 2007.

"We've got a high quality of life and have made progress on a lot of fronts," Connolly said of his administration, which has made priorities of affordable housing, fighting gangs, extending Metrorail to Dulles International Airport and lowering the property tax rate.

The county's influential business community will be crucial to the campaign. Connolly said that as a "pro-business" Democrat he has locked up the financial support of a range of companies that donate to local campaigns. But GOP leaders said Baise would build on a large network of his own connections.

"Gerry owns the development money in the county," Davis said, previewing a possible theme of a Baise campaign -- or that of any Republican. "But there are other people in good government besides developers. Gary has a network of friends in the Washington area and around the country who are wealthy and willing to contribute." Davis has criticized Connolly for relying heavily on contributions from developers and builders with business before the Board of Supervisors.

Baise and his wife and children moved to McLean in 1969, when he took a job in the Nixon administration. They recently moved to a house in Falls Church so he could walk to the Metro, which he takes to his office at the law firm Kilpatrick Stockton LLP.

He has served on numerous state and regional boards, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. In the early 1970s, he became chief of staff to the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and served in high-ranking positions in the Justice Department and the FBI.

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