A tabloid labeled the Springfield News recently accused Fairfax County Supervisor Marie B. Travesky of being against lower taxes, military families, and serving her constituents. In large letters, the tabloid--actually a flyer published by Travesky's conservative critics--announced: "With Friends Like Marie, Taxpayers Don't Need Enemies."
"It's not true, of course," says Travesky, a moderate Republican who represents the politically volatile Springfield district on the county board. "Obviously it's meant to give a false impression. It's the sign of a desperate candidate. But I'm not upset. I can't even say it's aggravating, because it's such a repeat of my last campaign."
Travesky, an extremely serious tiny-boned woman with short blond hair, is the only one of the nine incumbent supervisors facing opposition in the county's June 14 primaries.
Her troubles with her own party, the numerous controversies she has been embroiled in over the past four years, and the sheer size of the district, the county's largest, have led political hopefuls in both parties to label Travesky's seat as the most vulnerable, a characterization she bitterly rejects.
One Republican and two Democrats are making runs at her Springfield seat, in a race that has evolved into one of the most acrimonious, rumor-ridden in Northern Virginia this year. Accusations of dirty tricks are daily campaign fare.
"I expected it," says the 51-year-old Travesky. She charges that her GOP opponent, Elaine McConnell, is being backed by the same people who opposed her four years ago in equally bitter contests.
McConnell, 56, is the founder of the Accotink Academy, a respected school for preschool children and children with learning disabilities. Her campaign slogan is an indication of the campaign's biting style: "My office will be as open to the public as Marie Travesky's has been to the developers."
Thomas Giska, a guidance counselor at Fort Hunt High School, is trying for the Democratic nomination but, in a move some Democrats find puzzling, he has refused to ask the Springfield Democratic Committee for any help. Giska, 34, says he thinks such a move would split the party.
He says that he is running, not against Gerry Serody, his Democratic challenger, but "Marie Travesky, who is the greatest waffler since the waffle iron was invented."
Serody, 47, agrees with Giska about Travesky: ("I give her an F for effort and an F for accomplishments"). But he admits to puzzlement about Giska's strategy. "How do you campaign against a phantom?" says Serody, owner of the Landmark Professional Pharmacy in Alexandria.
Travesky is largely ignoring the Democrats, but she has swung back at McConnell, arguing that McConnell is, herself, a developer because of a medical building and some adjoining property that she owns.
The Travesky camp also points out that McConnell owes the county $6,368 in back taxes. McConnell replies that her school often falls behind in paying its taxes, when the state is delinquent in its payments to the school.
"Being a small outfit, we have to juggle funds. Most private schools like us find themselves in this situation. It's not unusual and nothing to hide," said McConnell. "She Travesky must be desperate."
Travesky has been the Springfield supervisor for almost eight years, succeeding John F. Herrity, who left the post to win the countywide board chairmanship in 1975. Since then Herrity, who appointed Travesky to the Fairfax school board in 1973, has been a thorn in her side and some Republicans say the root of many of her troubles. Herrity says he is neutral in the primary.
Some supervisors says the Springfield District is extremely difficult to represent. Its 108 square miles stretch from Accotink Creek to the borders of Loudoun and Prince William counties, and include the Victorian town of Clifton, as well as Centreville, where the Blue Ridge Mountains loom to the west. Its eastern corner extends to include numerous new residential subdivisions, including parts of Burke and developments along Old Keene Mill, Rolling and Pohick roads.
Unlike other more established areas of Northern Virginia, where longtime ties provide a sense of political stability, fewer than 32 percent of the people surveyed in 1980 were living in the same house that they did in 1975. And more than 90 percent of the homes in the district were built after 1960.
In addition to the size and the diverse, transient nature of the region, its identity has been evolving, with many of its rolling farms and woods slated for major developments, a point that Travesky's challengers have seized upon. Travesky says she is not opposed to development, as long as it is quality development. She has been a major supporter of efforts to put a massive high density commercial and residential development in the Fair Oaks Mall area, near the intersection of Rte. 50 and I-66.
McConnell says such talk "makes her sad." She says when she moved to Springfield 20 years ago, "it was all woodsy. There were just a few houses and it was beautiful. But we watched it slip away, little by little, to development," and because of poor planning the traffic has been "awful." McConnell says she wants to save the residents of Centreville and other areas in the western part of the district from that fate.
Giska, an environmentalist and critic of rapid residential development, says he "will follow in the footsteps" of the county board's sharpest development critic, Supervisor Audrey Moore, an Annandale Democrat. That's a statement some Democrats find ironic, because Giska ran against Moore in 1975 as an independent.
The three challengers also have criticized Travesky's handling of the controversial Springfield Bypass, public housing issues and transportation near the town house and single-family homes subdivision of Burke Center. In addition, each has his own pet issues. Serody, the drug store owner, believes the board needs more business people. Giska says he will fight for better pay for teachers. And McConnell, who says her school gets numerous victims of drug abuses, says she will wage a visible campaign against drugs.
Giska, a tall, thin and intensely serious man, says he plans to quit his job to serve as a full-time supervisor, as Travesky now does. McConnell and Serody do not plan to make the $21,589-a-year position their only job.
This race is the first bid at elective office for Serody and McConnell. Serody, a round-faced, talkative extrovert, says he ran because he was upset about the quality of leadership on the board, and says if elected he would fashion himself in the mold of Democrat Joseph Alexander, the county's senior supervisor. "I know some people make fun of Joe, calling him a pothole politician. There's nothing wrong with being that," he says.
McConnell says she first thought of running against Travesky after meeting her about seven years ago, when she went to ask Travesky for help. "I can't remember what it was, but I remember she was so rude," said McConnell, who flew into a rage and called the office of her friend Herrity to complain.
Travesky also remembers that meeting, but she says she remembers what it was about. "She wanted me to get the county to refer more students to her school," says Travesky. "I just told her I couldn't interfere in such matters."
To which McConnell replied: "She's a liar. I've never asked anybody for business and I never would."
McConnell thinks she will win. Travesky doesn't even think it will be close. Few other Republicans will venture a guess.