On the Ballot in Fairfax

Saturday, October 20, 2007

FAIRFAX COUNTY, long one of the nation's wealthiest and best-educated jurisdictions, is now also among the most diverse. A quarter of its residents are foreign-born, mainly immigrants from Asia and Latin America; they have contributed to the county's stunning economic vitality, enriched its culture and transformed its schools. With a population approaching 1.1 million, a budget well over $3 billion, thousands of public employees, and complex challenges involving transportation, affordable housing, growth and illegal immigration, the county needs -- and for the most part has enjoyed -- competent, committed leadership.

In elections Nov. 6, voters will decide whether to retain or reshape that leadership. The Post's endorsements in contested Board of Supervisors races appear in bold:

County Board Chairmanship: Gerald E. Connolly, the Democratic incumbent, has more constituents than any other locally elected leader. Elected at large, Mr. Connolly has put his hyperkinetic, assertive and at times bullying political

talents to work in pushing for a rail link to Dulles, enhanced public services, affordable housing and forward-looking environmental policies. Mr. Connolly's opponents -- Republican Gary H. Baise, an affable, silver-tongued environmental lawyer, and the Independent Green Party's Gail Parker, a one-issue candidate pushing rail transit -- have only a passing acquaintance with the local issues and communities that Mr. Connolly knows intimately. While Mr. Connolly may jump ship next year if he runs and is elected to Congress, he is easily the best candidate in this race.

Braddock District: Democrat Sharon S. Bulova, elected to the board a decade ago from this central Fairfax district, has distinguished herself as one of its most effective, conscientious and constituent-oriented members, a leader on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and on issues involving rail transit in particular. Even her opponent, Independent Green candidate Carey C. Campbell, an accountant and civic activist, acknowledges her outstanding service.

Dranesville District: The Republican incumbent, Joan M. DuBois, has a condescending, confrontational streak that does not sit well with some constituents in a northern Fairfax district that includes some of the richest Zip codes in America. Still, she knows her stuff and has taken intelligent, moderate stands in favor of rail to Dulles, funding a center for day laborers in Herndon and affordable housing. She deserves a second term. Her opponent, John W. Foust (D), is an experienced civic activist who narrowly lost to Mrs. DuBois four years ago. He has positioned himself as a proponent of slower growth while insisting on a tunnel through Tysons Corner for the rail line to Dulles, which at this point would jeopardize the project.

Hunter Mill District: Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D), after eight years in office, has established herself as a constructive voice on affordable housing and social services, particularly mental health. She faces token opposition from three independent candidates -- Mike J. "Spike" Williams, a customer service representative; retired diplomat Marie T. Huhtala; and environmentalist Geraldine A. Butkus -- all of whom have limited backgrounds in county affairs.

Lee District: The retirement of the immensely effective T. Dana Kauffman (D) leaves an open seat that his top aide for the past decade, Jeff C. McKay, is perfectly qualified to fill. Mr. McKay, who is also a reserve deputy sheriff, is hard-working, effective and politically canny; if anyone can make the jump to the board look easy, he can. His opponent, Republican Douglas R. Boulter, is a personable retired Army officer running on a slow-growth platform. But the real contrast in this race is in experience; Mr. McKay has it in spades.

Mason District: Penelope A. "Penny" Gross, Democratic incumbent, is respected for her knowledge of environmental and personnel issues. In a heavily Democratic district, she is a shoo-in for reelection against Republican Vellie S. Dietrich Hall, a management consultant who, in a county with one of the lowest murder rates in the nation, has quixotically tried to make an issue of it.

Mount Vernon District: Incumbent Gerald W. "Gerry" Hyland (D) has logged five terms of high-energy constituent service and has extensive regional experience. His Independent Green Party opponent, Bruce H. Ryan, doesn't pretend to match that; he has no community service record and says his views are similar to Mr. Hyland's and he merely wants to give voters a choice.

Springfield District: In this open-seat race, Republican Pat S. Herrity has the advantage of his name; his father, Jack, was chairman of the county board in the 1980s and a fixture of Fairfax politics. But the younger Mr. Herrity has had scant civic involvement beyond the limited role he has played as a business lobbyist, and his inexperience shows in his shaky grasp of issues beyond business interests. His opponent, Democrat P. Mike McClanahan, a small-business owner, is not much better-versed in county affairs but has a broader background. He has been a volunteer with the county's juvenile court and started a nonprofit group to counsel teenagers on safe driving. Mr. McClanahan would clearly make the better supervisor.

Sully District: Independent Green Party candidate David William Gillis Jr., a first-time candidate challenging incumbent Republican Michael R. Frey, comes up short in discussing almost any issue. In contrast, Mr. Frey's grasp of balanced transportation strategies and their importance to development policies makes him a valuable, independent-thinking member of the board.


Other ballot issues:

Commonwealth's Attorney: Democrat Raymond F. Morrogh, a 24-year veteran of the Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney's office and a longtime deputy to Robert F. Horan Jr., has earned the right to succeed his boss by dint of experience and his sensible and fair-minded approach to the job. Mr. Morrogh's worthy Republican opponent, Patrick A. McDade, has worked as a prosecutor, in Arlington, for only two years, yet offers some intriguing ideas that Mr. Morrogh would be wise to consider about how to increase funding for the perennially short-staffed office.

Bond referendum: Voters should say yes to the county borrowing $110 million for badly needed road and transit improvements.

Other editorial endorsements can be found athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/endorsements.

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