Delegate-elect Robert L. Thoburn has been found guilty of violating the Fairfax county Fair Campaign Practices Code, but the ruling has no effect and carries no penalty.
The bipartisan Fairfax County Fair Campaign Practices Commission ruled that a Thoburn bochure issued during his campaign for one of five seats from southern Fairfax was "misleading."
Thoburn however, dismissed the charge as "nit-picking." . . . "I don't think they would have mentioned it if I had lost."
Thoburn, the owner of the Fairfax Christian School and a conservative Republican, defeated three-team incumbent Del. Thomas Jefferson Rothrock by 98 votes in the Nov. 8 election.
The commission's ruling came on a 4-to-1 vote, with two Independents and two Democrats joining and one Republican in dissent. The group found that a brochure listing the differences between Thoburn and Democrat Vernon L. (Lee) Strang Jr. violated the commission's code of campaign ethnics.
In the brochure, which was mailed to 65,000 households in the weekend before the Nov. 8 election, Thoburn told voters that he and Strang would appear opposite each other on the voting machines and then proceded to compare their records. "The Difference is Obvious . . . The Choice Is Yours," the Thoburn fliers said.
Leslie Bryne, chairman of the seven-member commission, said the bro-church was "misleading because it implied that a choice was required between the two candidates."
In fact, voters could elect Thoburn or Strang, both of them or neither. There were 11 candidates seeking five seats in the state House of Delegates from the 19th District.
Thoburn defended the brochure yesterday. "I wasn't trying to give people the impression that just Mr. Strang and me were the only two running."
He said the brochure was accompanied by a letter, that mentioned that voters could select five candidates in the race. However, critics of the mailing said voters are apt to read only the brochure.
Of the commission's decision, Thoburn said. "I disagree with it completely. I thought the whole thing was nit-picking [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] why they waited until [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] it up."
Emilie Miller, chairwoman of the county Democratic Committee who filed a formal complaint against Thoburn four days after the Nov. 8 election said she would have filed the complaint even if Thoburn has lost.
"I would have brought it up earlier (before the election), but there wasn't enough time," to gather evidence, consult the candidates and have a hearing before the commission, Miller said.
She said that immediately following the election, she was busy with an official election canvass for Rothrock, whom Thoburn defeated.
Thoburn, who read a statement at the commission hearing, refused to sign the commission's campaign ethics code during the election. However, Byrne said that did not preclude the commission from monitoring his campaign. "Obviously he (Thoburn) took us seriously by his presence [WORD ILLEGIBLE] commission hearing)," Bryne said.
County Republican Committee Chairman Joseph Ragan announced last month that members of his party would no longer participate in the commission.
Ragan charged that the commission, which consists of two Democrats, two Republicans and three independents, "is a Democratic tool to be used against the Republicans." He consistently has questioned the commission's authority and makeup.