Two years ago, the Fairfax County Fair Campaign Practices Commission was established to monitor campaign tactics in elections in the county.
The two-member commission - a Republican and a Democrat - heard four complaints by the Democratic candidates that their Republican opponents were spreading inaccurate charges about them.
The commission ruled in favor of the Democrats in each case, publicly admonishing the Republicans.
The commission, which has been enlarged to seven members, has now become the center of controversy between the two parties in this year's elections. The Democrats like it. The Republicans don't.
As a result, the Democratic candidates in the delegates' races in the county have signed a fair campaign code prepared by the commission and the Republicans have prepared and signed their own. (Actually, only nine out of 10 of the Republican candidates have signed the code; one candidate - Robert Thoburn - refused.)
"I'm not going to let our candiates be misused by a fraudulent commission that is going to smear our campaign," said Joseph Ragan, chairman of the county's Republican Party.
Ragan charged that the commission on which two Democrats, two Republicans and three independents serve, is "a political instrument to be used against the Republican Party."
The Republican candidates were dissatisfied with the commission's rulings Republican candidates were dissatisfied with the commission's rulings against them two years ago Ragan said, and he has tried to get Robert Dively, a Republican who was on the commission two years ago, to resign. Dively has refused to do so.
He said the Republican candidates have asked the Virginia attorney general in a letter mailed yesterday to advise them as to whether the candidates for the General Assembly have to abide by the county's Fair Campaign Practices Commission.
He said he hopes to get an immediate reply to the letter, which was signed by the Republican incumbents seeking re-election - Robert Harris, Vincent F. Callahan and Warren Barry.
Emilie Miller, chairman of the county's Democratic Party, said the findings by the commission in the elections two years ago were fair. "It just shows the Republicans were always wrong," she said of the major decisions that favored the Democrats.
"I just feel that the Republicans are signaling to us (the Democrats) that they don't want to run a fair campaign," Miller said of the Republican Party's decision not to endorse the fair campaign code.
"The Republican Party believes in fair campaign practices," Ragan said. However, the fair campaign practices commission "is really a joke," he said.He is "uncomfortable with the commission make-up." He has not appointed any Republicans to the commission nor has he approved the commission's guidelines, he said.
The Republicans currently serving on the commission were appointed by Ragan's predecessor.