Filler-Corn apparently wins Virginia House race in Fairfax

Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn gets support from Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, center, and Sen. James Webb. She defeated Kerry D. Bolognese by only 42 votes in the race for the 41st District seat.
Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn gets support from Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, center, and Sen. James Webb. She defeated Kerry D. Bolognese by only 42 votes in the race for the 41st District seat. (Dayna Smith For The Washington Post)
By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn, a Northern Virginia lobbyist who tried unsuccessfully a decade ago to win a spot in the House of Delegates, narrowly defeated Republican lobbyist Kerry D. Bolognese in a special election Tuesday to represent central Fairfax County.

Filler-Corn won by 37 votes, of more than 11,000 cast, and Bolognese said late Tuesday that he might request a recount.

Filler-Corn said she did not expect a recount to change her narrow margin of victory but acknowledged that the closeness of the race was "nerve-wracking."

"I'm just very excited. I knocked on a lot of doors and heard that the number one issue was cuts to the public school system," said Filler-Corn, 45, as she celebrated with supporters at the Austin Grill in Springfield.

The Democrat, who lost a 1999 bid to represent the 41st House District, this time far outpaced her Republican opponent in fundraising and campaigned heavily on education issues.

The mother of two children in Fairfax County public schools and an active PTA member, Filler-Corn focused on voter concerns over decreased state and county funding for public schools and resulting program cuts and potentially larger class sizes.

Filler-Corn received 5,758 votes to Bolognese's 5,721, a difference of less than half a percentage point. Virginia law permits a losing candidate to request a recount if the difference is less than 1 percent.

Bolognese said he had not conceded as of late Tuesday night. The routine post-election canvass wrapped up about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, elections officials said.

A full recount, which by law has to be requested within 10 days of an election, was not expected to begin until at least Wednesday morning.

Republican Party officials, however, said they weren't optimistic about the chances that a recount would garner enough votes to give him the victory. "We were competitive, but the fact that we didn't get some of our base out, in places like Springfield, is disappointing," said Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee. "We did well, but we didn't do enough."

Filler-Corn's victory keeps the 41st House seat, representing an affluent swing district that includes portions of Burke, Fairfax, Fairfax Station and Springfield, in the Democratic win column. Once certified, she will succeed Sen. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax), who won a special election in mid-January against a heavily favored Republican former School Board member.

Turnout was unusually high for a local special election, with almost 25 percent of the district's nearly 50,000 registered voters showing up at polls, officials said. Marsden' s state Senate race brought out about 18 percent of voters. Both campaigns attributed the large turnout to last-minute phone calls and e-mails to registered voters, some of whom stood in lines for more than an hour after polls closed at 7 p.m.

Also Tuesday, voters cast their ballots in a special election for a Fairfax County School Board seat. Candidate Sandra Evans, a former Washington Post reporter-turned-community activist, defeated Samantha V. Rucker, a Virginia assistant attorney general, 56 to 44 percent.

Evans, 58, and Rucker, 39, competed for a seat in the Mason District, in eastern Fairfax, made vacant by the election of Democrat Kaye Kory to the state House in November.

Tuesday's elections for the 41st House District and the Mason District seat were the fourth and fifth such elections in this Northern Virginia suburb in the past 13 months.

After Marsden's come-from-behind win in January over former Fairfax County School Board member Stephen M. Hunt, area Republicans had hoped to rebound with a victory in a district that was represented for more than two decades by former delegate James H. Dillard II, a moderate Republican and former school teacher.

Bolognese, 56, who worked as a staffer on Capitol Hill for more than a decade before becoming vice president of international programs for the nonprofit Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, had come within 209 votes of defeating the incumbent Marsden in November, running a shoe-leather campaign with little outside funding or state GOP support.

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