Correction to This Article
Metro article that profiled Gary H. Baise, then the Republican challenger for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, contained an incomplete account of the resolution of a lawsuit between Baise and a former law partner. Judge Arthur B. Vieregg dismissed Baise's case against Lane R. Gabeler for failing to meet the burden of proof. Before Vieregg ruled on the defense's countercharges, both sides settled and agreed not to appeal or renew the charges.

Challenger in Fairfax Comes Off Political Sidelines

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 1, 2007

On a recent Saturday, Gary H. Baise dropped by the U.S.-Korea National Prayer Breakfast in Tysons Corner, the perfect setting to meet voters in his quest to become the top elected official in Fairfax County. Instead, he conversed for half an hour with Korea's ambassador about soybean exports.

That afternoon, Baise swung by the McLean Volunteer Fire Department's open house to shake some hands. He spent the next three hours talking to a reporter, recalling his career as a young lawyer in President Richard Nixon's administration and the heady days helping to manage the newly created Environmental Protection Agency. He relived the Watergate-era drama of the "Saturday Night Massacre," during which Baise quit along with his boss, William D. Ruckelshaus, rather than heed an order from Nixon to fire the special prosecutor. He recounted the days when, as a boy working his father's farm in Illinois, a tractor flipped and nearly killed him.

He never heard the urgent message from his wife on his BlackBerry -- and missed the church dinner where he was to have been a featured guest.

Baise, 66, has proved an affable but unseasoned candidate, embarking on his first run for elected office at an age when many people retire. After more than three decades as a corporate litigator, the Republican candidate said he decided to challenge Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) because he thinks the Washington region's largest jurisdiction needs change.

"I see a number of things wrong, and I think I can right them. And I'm intensely competitive," Baise said. "I am lucky enough in this stage of my life to try to make a difference. It's a challenge, and I think I can just do a better job."

Until now, Baise has been involved mostly behind the scenes. He and his wife, Ann, have headed the Dranesville District Republican committee and contributed nearly $13,000 to GOP causes since March 1996, records show. He has served on county and state advisory boards.

With feisty appearances at forums and debates, however, Baise has taken advantage of his courtroom savvy, becoming an articulate challenger who is quick on his feet and not easily ruffled. In a style that is aggressive but civil, he has blamed Connolly for allowing taxes, spending and development to spiral out of control.

Midwestern Sensibilities

His political views, like his unflappable demeanor, owe a lot to the flatlands of the Midwest. But he is also fiercely driven: He walked away from Beveridge & Diamond, a prosperous Washington law firm he helped establish, because the other principals refused to make him a name partner. And he mounted a ferocious court battle with a former partner after their McLean law firm fell apart.

After leaving the federal government in the 1970s, Baise built a practice representing clients charged with environmental violations. Environmental groups have called Baise a hired gun for polluters.

But as a farmer -- he owns nearly 1,000 acres in Illinois that a friend tills according to a handshake arrangement -- Baise views himself as taking a common-sense approach to the environment that balances protecting the land with allowing people to make a living. He sees his role as defending entrepreneurs and working people against Big Government.

"I'm just an old farm boy," Baise said. Then he winked, adding: "Only, I use that to my advantage when I can."

Many people who know Baise have been surprised at his decision to run -- but, knowing the size of his ambitions, not too surprised.

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