Would-Be Candidate Calls Fee Unfair

Adam Boltik is a junior at the College of William and Mary.
Adam Boltik is a junior at the College of William and Mary. (Courtesy Adam Boltik - Courtesy Adam Boltik)
By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007

Adam Boltik was an Eagle Scout who grew up believing in Ronald Reagan, lower taxes and getting people off welfare.

He also thought that even at age 21, he had something to offer as a candidate for the Springfield seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. On his campaign Web site, the College of William and Mary junior said Springfield "can benefit from a representative with youthful vigor, and the tenacity required to strike compromises with a Democrat-controlled Board."

But Boltik encountered an obstacle that neither Reaganite optimism nor youthful vigor could overcome: the $1,180 filing fee for a spot on the 2007 Republican primary ballot. The economics and international relations major said the steep fee puts the race beyond his means.

Virginia law requires primary candidates for local office to put up 2 percent of the position's annual salary -- along with signatures of 125 qualified voters -- to compete. Supervisors make $59,000, rising to $75,000 next year.

Maryland and the District have no such requirements. Maryland charges a $25 fee for county offices. The District asks for signatures only.

"Personally, I don't think it's fair," said Boltik, the son of a retired Air Force officer and a 2004 graduate of West Springfield High School. "It almost acts as a limit on who is able to run in the first place."

The official rationale for the fee is that it generates revenue to help defray the costs of a primary election. But the sums collected from candidates don't come close to underwriting even a primary in a single magisterial district such as Springfield, where polling places in 25 precincts would have to be opened and staffed.

As a practical matter, the fees are aimed at keeping ballots from getting too long.

About two-thirds of states charge filing fees, and Virginia's is "one of the highest in the country," according to Richard Winger, editor and publisher of Ballot Access News, a San Francisco-based publication that monitors election laws.

Fairfax politicians are sympathetic. "Adam's exuberance is to be commended," said Eric Lundberg, the county GOP chairman.

Others point out that if Boltik can't afford the filing fee, it's difficult to see how he could mount a serious campaign for a supervisor's seat.

"I bet everyone will spend $100,000 or darn close to it," said Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield), the six-term incumbent. "If people can't financially raise $1,200 for a filing fee, are they going to be able to maintain a campaign?"

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