Allegiances Shift From Red to Blue In Fairfax

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2007

By most accounts, Fairfax County Democrat Mike McClanahan would have had an easier time beating activist Republican Stan L. Reid for Springfield district supervisor than GOP primary winner Pat S. Herrity in a county that seems to tilt further to the political left with each passing election.

Even the Springfield district, a traditional GOP stronghold that stretches from just west of the Springfield interchange nearly to Centreville and forms most of the county's southern border with Prince William County, is shading blue. Although Republican Elaine N. McConnell has represented the district on the board for six terms, U.S. Sen. James Webb (D) won the majority of votes in Springfield last year against incumbent Republican George Allen. And Timothy M. Kaine, also a Democrat, took the district the year before in the gubernatorial race.

McClanahan, 47, the owner of a management training company who lives with his wife, Michelle, and 13-year-old son in Burke, would have had an easier time collecting votes from the prized electoral middle if he could have portrayed his opponent as a staunch conservative who doesn't represent Fairfax's values, several said. With a platform to bring Metro along the Interstate 66 corridor to Fair Oaks and Fair Lakes, encourage transit-oriented development around Metro stations and sustain county support for public schools, McClanahan has adopted many of the positions of the current, Democrat-controlled Board of Supervisors.

"We need to be proud of our government in Fairfax County," McClanahan said. "They're fiscally responsible. The leadership has been good. They take a bipartisan approach to everything and that leads to good government."

The task of winning becomes more difficult against Herrity, 47, chief operating officer of a communications technology firm, who walloped Reid in the primary last week with 3,067 votes to Reid's 1,414. Although Herrity follows the Republican line by proclaiming Fairfax taxes too high, he acknowledges an acute awareness that the issues residents most want to hear about are growth and traffic.

"The independent voter is waiting to be impressed," said state Sen. James K. "Jay" O'Brien (R-Fairfax), who represents much of the Springfield district. "Pat can do that. Pat can do that better than any other candidate there."

Herrity has promised to wrest more money from developers in exchange for the right to build and to funnel that money into road and transit improvements. He also says that the county's contribution to the Metro system must be scrutinized and that the money would be better spent on what he views as the county's more efficient Connector bus system.

Herrity thinks Fairfax leaders' push to allow higher-density residential development around transit stations warrants greater scrutiny to be sure that the county is not squandering a chance to welcome more lucrative commercial properties into the tax base. Finally, he believes the county must enforce zoning rules more forcefully to stop illegal boarding houses from cropping up in residential neighborhoods.

"We will continue to run on the same thing we ran on in the primary," Herrity said. "Making transportation a priority, holding developers accountable, lowering homeowners taxes and controlling spending and protecting our neighborhoods."

Another challenge for McClanahan will be Herrity's name. A lifelong Springfield resident who now lives with his wife, son and daughter in Little Rocky Run, Herrity is the eldest child of John F. "Jack" Herrity, the former Fairfax board chairman (and Springfield supervisor before that) who died last year and after whom one of the three main Fairfax government buildings is named.

"I think this is a race that will be closely watched," said McConnell, who endorsed Herrity in the primary and will continue to support him through the fall. "The district is changing, but the issues that are pressing right now are going to be the thing. [Voters] are going to choose people based upon what their platform is."

To appeal both to the Springfield district's newcomers as well as its longtime residents, McClanahan is touching on a range of issues this year. In addition to the expected homages to growth, transportation and public education, McClanahan promises to protect older neighborhoods and to balance new, urban development with the desires of established communities. He also promises to devote more resources to the county police department to combat gang violence.

The Springfield supervisor race appears unlikely to shape up as a high-dollar affair. Herrity had just a little more than $14,000 in the bank at the end of May, according to the most recent state disclosure report, and McClanahan had just over $12,000.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company