Fairfax Democrats Hold Money Edge

By Kristen Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 20, 2007

Democratic candidates for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have outraised Republicans nearly 2 to 1 in campaign contributions this fall, according to a report to be released tomorrow that highlights the Democrats' financial advantage in their effort to keep control of the 10-member board.

In Loudoun and Prince William counties, however, Republican supervisor candidates have raised more money than Democrats, according to figures that will be released by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. The figures come from an analysis of campaign finance reports filed by candidates this week disclosing fundraising through Sept. 30.

In the race for Fairfax board chairman, which pits incumbent Gerald E. Connolly (D) against Gary H. Baise (R), there is a noticeable difference between this year and the 2003 election, according to the report. Call it the Davis factor.

Four years ago, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) was front and center in raising campaign cash for his party as it attempted to return Virginia's largest local government to the GOP after nearly a decade of Democratic control.

Davis, a former board chairman, was the largest individual contributor to 2003 candidate Mychelle Brickner, giving more than $75,000 to her campaign against Connolly. Brickner's next biggest donor was Analex, a Fairfax federal defense and aerospace contractor that does not usually engage in local politics. Analex's connection was Davis.

This year, Analex and Davis are largely sitting out the chairman's race. Davis is focusing on the reelection bid of his wife, state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax).

Davis's relative lack of involvement is part of the reason Democrats have the edge over Republicans throughout Fairfax, according to the analysis of campaign finance reports. The Virginia Public Access Project is a nonprofit research group in Richmond.

Fairfax Democrats have raised $2.1 million to $951,000 for the GOP. Connolly, a prolific fundraiser, accounts for half of his party's total.

In Loudoun, where no Democrat is running for board chairman, Republicans have outraised Democrats $1 million to $270,000. In Prince William, however, Democrats have a narrower gap, raising $498,000 to the Republicans' $504,000.

Looking back at the 2003 chairman's race in Fairfax is instructive.

At this point four years ago, Brickner had raised $542,000. This year, Baise has raised $155,000 in his race against Connolly.

Many of Brickner's contributors are sitting on the sidelines this time, among them several defense contractors, including Innovative Defense Strategies and Robbins-Gioia. In 2003, nearly 20 contributors hedged their bets, giving to both Brickner and Connolly. Now most of those donors are giving more freely to Connolly. And an additional dozen donors who gave to Brickner but not Connolly in the last race have switched sides.

Heading into the final two weeks of the campaign, Connolly has $811,000 in the bank, compared with Baise's $59,000. Some Democrats attribute the margin to Connolly's popularity and Davis's diminished role in the race.

Baise and Davis were not available for comment yesterday.

"Conventional wisdom is [Tom] Davis has played a lesser role than he normally would because he wants to keep the vote down," said George Burke, communications director for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, who added that a lower turnout could help Davis's wife in her close contest against Democrat J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen. "I suspect he has a healthy respect for Connolly's political operation and would rather not create a situation where Democratic turnout is increased."

Jim Hyland, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Party, said Davis is "100 percent behind Gary Baise."

"He's got his wife's election, though. He's had to spend his time elsewhere," Hyland said.

Another difference between 2003 and this year, Hyland said, was that the chairman's race then was for an open seat.

"People don't mind jumping into an open race. A lot of the followers of Tom Davis were willing to donate," Hyland said of 2003. "A lot choose to sit it out when they see a well-financed incumbent. Gary is calling the same people. I think they are just reluctant to give to the opponent."

In the race for an open seat in the Lee District of Fairfax, Democrat Jeff McKay has $88,000 cash on hand, compared with $8,100 for Republican Doug Boulter. In the other open seat, in the Springfield District, Republican Pat Herrity has outraised Democrat Mike McClanahan, but they both have about $10,000 left to spend.

In the race for Loudoun board chairman, Michael Firetti, the challenger to independent incumbent Scott York, has a debt of more than $85,000, largely attributed to loans he made to himself and others from Fineline Marketing and Communications, which is owned by his campaign manager.

In the Prince William board chairman race, Democratic challenger Sharon Pandak outraised Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R) in September. She took in $47,000; Stewart raised $41,000 but has more in the bank than Pandak has.

The analysis showed that developer contributions are down this year from 2003 in Fairfax and Loudoun, where there have been efforts to restrict growth. Developer contributions in Prince William have gone up by less than 1 percent.

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