Lobbyists running in Tuesday's election for Va. House seat

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010

Two lobbyists who have tried -- and failed -- to win a Fairfax County seat in the Virginia House of Delegates will face off Tuesday to fill the General Assembly's last open spot before it recesses its annual session later this month.

Sen. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax), a former state juvenile court administrator, held the 41st House seat for four years before defeating Republican Stephen M. "Steve" Hunt by 324 votes in a special election for a Senate seat in January.

Competing in the four-week campaign to succeed him are Eileen Filler-Corn, a Democratic lobbyist who served as an adviser to two former governors, and Kerry D. Bolognese, a Republican lobbyist who works for a national nonprofit association of public universities.

The 41st House District is in the central part of the county and includes portions of Burke, Fairfax, Fairfax Station and Springfield. With about 50,000 registered voters, it is much like the rest of Fairfax -- prosperous, heavily focused on schools and transportation, and politically moderate.

Filler-Corn, 45, of Springfield, ran for the seat in 1999, losing to then-incumbent Republican Del. James H. "Jim" Dillard II, one of the state's longest-serving legislators at the time.

Filler-Corn is director of government relations for Albers and Co., an Arlington County-based lobbying firm. A lawyer, she served as a senior adviser for state and federal relations under Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) from 2006 to 2007 and as deputy director for the Virginia Liaison Office during Gov. Mark Warner's four-year term, ending in 2005.

Bolognese, who will turn 56 on Election Day, ran unsuccessfully against Marsden in November, losing by about 200 votes. The vice president for international programs at the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, Bolognese lives in the same West Springfield neighborhood as Filler-Corn and worked as a staffer on Capitol Hill for more than a decade.

As in most local special elections, the candidate who can best attract the party faithful will likely be the victor. But moderates might also be key in a district that has split between the two parties in the last two governor's races.

Filler-Corn said she might have the advantage, with the endorsement of her onetime rival -- Dillard, a moderate Republican and former teacher who served as the chairman of the House Education Committee for seven years. Bolognese is relying on voter concern over the economy.

Filler-Corn, the mother of two students in Fairfax County Public Schools and an active PTA member, said school funding, including the restoration of $61 million worth of state school aid frozen by Kaine, would be her top legislative priority. Her television campaign ads have aired with the slogan: "Save Our Schools, Vote Eileen Filler-Corn."

Bolognese, whose three children graduated from Fairfax high schools, has also campaigned on a platform of increased school funding but has focused much of his message on government spending and taxes, labeling Filler-Corn as a "tax-and-spend liberal" and pledging to rein in "government waste."

Filler-Corn has far outpaced Bolognese in the short race. As of last week, Filler-Corn had received nearly $136,000 in cash contributions, along with nearly $122,000 of in-kind donations. Bolognese had received more than $59,000 of in-kind donations, all from the state Republican Party, and nearly $25,000 in cash.

Both candidates have the backing of their parties' top politicians. Former gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe hosted a fundraiser for Filler-Corn at his McLean home Friday with Warner. Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) also helped host a rally for her last weekend, while Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) did the same for Bolognese.

Whoever wins will have an abbreviated first term; the annual Virginia General Assembly session is set to recess March 13.

The district's 14 precincts will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. A separate special election to fill a Fairfax County School Board seat in the Mason District is also being held.

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