Staunch Loudoun Republican Reconsiders Her Label

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 9, 2007

Lori L. Waters figures she has been a Republican since Ronald Reagan was president. She lobbied her state legislature as a teen alongside her Republican activist mother. After college, she spent four years as head of the conservative Eagle Forum.

But this weekend, the Loudoun County supervisor will contemplate what would have been unthinkable a few years ago: running for reelection as an independent.

Waters (R-Broad Run) is on the outs with some members of the local Republican Party, who will select nine candidates for the Board of Supervisors at a nominating convention today. She faces stiff competition from newcomer Jack Ryan, who has recruited hundreds of delegates who have promised to choose him over Waters today. The winners will face Democratic challengers in the Nov. 6 general election.

GOP critics say Waters has broken campaign promises on development and tax issues, putting her at odds with her colleagues on the board. But Waters and others say they believe she is being singled out for the one issue on which she is a moderate: growth and development.

"It's not something I'm embracing," said Waters, 31. "I am a Republican at my core, and anywhere else in the country I'd be a Republican. My problem is with the local committee."

For months, she has been booed at Republican committee meetings. Party insiders have promised in internal e-mails to ostracize her. During a discussion on limiting development in rural western Loudoun last year, three committee members sat in the audience wearing safari hats and peering at her through binoculars.

They said they were hunting RINOs: Republicans in Name Only.

The idea that Waters might disavow the party that defined her for so long came as a shock to many of her friends and family, who have known her as a devoted anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage and anti-tax activist since childhood.

"People can call her a moderate and a RINO and all of that, but that girl is as conservative as they come," said her mother, Elizabeth Cole of Sharpsburg, Ga., who remembers her daughter writing letters to her congressmen as early as age 8. "That's a joke. I have to laugh about that all day."

Waters was elected in 2004 as part of a slate of pro-growth Republicans promising to make Loudoun friendlier to business and approve large developments in exchange for millions of dollars for roads and schools. Since then, however, Waters said she has come to believe that too much development can lead to higher taxes because developers don't always pay their share.

She broke with her GOP colleagues last year when she voted against a compromise crafted by Supervisor Mick Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run) to allow greater housing density in the county's rural west. Waters also has voted against allowing 30,000 new homes south of Dulles International Airport and a large development south of Leesburg, proposals that were supported by most of the GOP majority.

None of that, she said, should lead anyone to question her devotion to the Republican Party's ideals of low taxes, property rights and socially conservative policy.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company