Candidate Cries Foul Over Mailing
Saturday, October 27, 2007
State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax) has published the home address, telephone number and family members' names of opponent J. Chapman Petersen (D) in a campaign mail piece -- and Petersen says he is furious about it.
At a news conference yesterday, Petersen, a Fairfax City lawyer and former member of the House of Delegates, said he was shocked that a public officeholder would disclose such personal information in a mailing that went to residents of the 34th District.
"Words can't describe the anger I feel," he said. "My family does not live in a gated community. We live on a public street in a subdivision which is easily accessible to strangers. In fact, we are two blocks from the county jail."
Petersen acknowledged that his family has not been overwhelmed with calls. Since the piece began hitting mailboxes Wednesday, only two angry phone calls have come to his home. His wife, Sharon, didn't answer five to 10 other calls, and the callers left no messages, he said.
Davis is in a neck-and-neck race with Petersen to represent the Democratic-leaning district. It is a race that could help determine control of the Virginia Senate.
Davis said that her opponent is making too much of the mail piece and that she did not publish the personal information intentionally. She also said that all of the information is readily available in the telephone book and on the Internet, and that much of it has been published by Petersen himself.
"He sent out a piece with his children's pictures and their names," Davis said. "Give me a break."
Davis's mailing says Petersen worked for a Washington lobbying and law firm, Bracewell & Patterson, that represented such corporate clients as Enron, and accuses him of not disclosing the relationships on conflict-of-interest statements when he was in the House of Delegates.
To illustrate the point, the mail piece features a portion of Petersen's 2004 Statement of Economic Interests. Handwritten by Petersen, the form is circled in red and has a red arrow pointing to it and includes the information about the Petersen family.
"My family is fine," Petersen said at the news conference yesterday. "We've had a stressful couple days, and my wife took the kids to her parents' house yesterday. Regardless, we are back home and everybody's fine. I want to thank the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office and the deputies for making themselves available as needed."
Petersen defended his strong reaction to the mailing as entirely appropriate. Sheriff's deputies have patrolled his neighborhood since Wednesday, but he said he did not request increased protection.
"I think any father would have reacted the same way," he said. "You see your family's name out there and your phone number and your address, and any father would react the same way."
One effect of the mail piece is that the Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs is thinking about withdrawing its endorsement of Davis, said Marshall Thielen, a member of that organization.
"They're both good candidates for law enforcement," he said. "But what she's done here is just horrible."
Others who attended the news conference to talk about the safety risk of Davis's action included Raymond F. Morrogh, acting commonwealth's attorney, and Del. Stephen C. Shannon (D-Fairfax), a former prosecutor. Both are Democrats and are on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Thielen is also the president of the Fairfax County Police Association, which has endorsed Petersen. That's one reason Davis dismissed the potential loss of the police and deputies coalition's endorsement.
"They're just looking for a reason because they're very Democratic," she said. "He knows that he's wrong on the issues, and so he is trying to create a dramatic diversion to try to vilify me so people who are voting for me will change their minds and vote for him."