Counting Down to May 6 Vote
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Two years after an election dominated by bitter divisions over the impact of illegal immigration, the races for Herndon mayor and Town Council are focused on other issues.
The future of downtown development and a budget shortfall driven by a poor housing market are near the top of the agenda in the May 6 contests. Voters in several other Northern Virginia cities and towns also will go to the polls that day to select mayors, town councils and school boards. Tuesday was the filing deadline for races in the area of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. Unless otherwise noted, the seats are nonpartisan.
Stephen J. DeBenedittis unseated Michael L. O'Reilly as mayor of Herndon in 2006 in what was widely viewed as voter backlash against a government-subsidized day-laborer center the town opened in 2005. The center was designed to give immigrant workers a place to gather and seek employment. But after much debate, it was closed last year.
DeBenedittis faces opposition from council member J. Harlon Reece, who said he has grown troubled by the divisions over the immigration issue. Also in contention is businessman Jasbinder Singh.
Ten candidates are vying for six council seats. They include four members elected in 2006: Connie Haines Hutchinson, David A. Kirby, William B. Tirrell Sr. and Charlie D. Waddell. Dennis D. Husch also is seeking reelection. The challengers are Richard F. Downer, Penny Halpern, Arthur Nachman, Sheila Olem and James A. Vickery.
Downer, who served on the council from 1971 to 1974 and 1990 to 2000, said that although illegal immigration remains an issue in Herndon -- day laborers seeking work have returned to the streets -- other issues, such as downtown development and the town's finances, need attention. "We can't afford for it to be the dominant issue anymore," he said.
In Fairfax City, 11 candidates will compete for six City Council seats. They include incumbents Joan W. Cross, Jeffrey C. Greenfield, Gary J. Rasmussen and Patrice M. Winter. The challengers are Daniel F. Drummond, William G. Foster, Kim Luckabaugh, David L. Meyer, W. Randy Myers, Gerald T. O'Dell and Steven C. Stombres. Mayor Robert F. Lederer is seeking reelection. He faces Cristina Lee Gaines and Rosemary F. McDowell.
In Vienna and Clifton, incumbents face no opposition.
Some of the most heated contests in the Loudoun area are in Purcellville, where Mayor Robert W. Lazaro Jr. is being challenged by former Town Council member Karl R. Phillips. Lazaro defeated Phillips in 2006.
Phillips leads a slate of three Town Council candidates who have pledged to drop a lawsuit against the county over its plans to build a high school at Fields Farm. Six candidates, including two incumbents, are running for three council seats.
Lazaro has opposed the school, saying it would violate a 1995 land-use agreement that requires town approval of the school's construction. He called Phillips a "one-issue candidate" and said that although a new school is needed to relieve crowding, allowing the county to violate its agreement with the town would set a bad precedent.
"A contract is a contract," said Lazaro, who wants the county to pay for road and utility improvements to offset the impact of a new school. "The campaign is not about the high school. It's about leadership and judgment."