Development interests are spending heavily on some local and state races in Northern Virginia's fastest-growing counties, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.
Home builders, real estate companies and other development interests have long been among Virginia's most prolific political givers. But in both Loudoun and Prince William counties, the donations have become issues in primary election campaigns as debates over controlling growth heat up.
Del. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) has dubbed his Republican opponent, county Supervisor David G. McWatters (Broad Run), "the Golden Boy" of developers even though both candidates received donations from the industry. In Prince William, two challengers to Gainesville Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III (R) are refusing to take money from developers.
Dale Polen Myers, chairman of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, got strong financial backing from real estate and development interests in her unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination.
Myers (At Large), who had argued for bringing more businesses to the county, lost the May 22 primary to Supervisor Scott K. York (Sterling), who ran on a slow-growth platform. York refused to take money from development interests.
Myers's contributions included $1,000 from a Sterling developer, $1,000 from a Bethesda surveying firm and $500 from a Sterling construction firm, among others.
Black, who is running in the primaries to be held Tuesday, raised $15,376 during April and May. McWatters raised $20,195 during the same reporting period.
Development industry companies gave to both campaigns, but Black attacked McWatters for accepting $5,000 from Reliance Development of New York, a company with projects in Loudoun.
"The election is on the verge of being bought in my opinion," Black said. "This guy is consistently on the side of developers."
McWatters said the contribution would not affect any of his votes in the General Assembly session in Richmond. He said Black also had accepted money from development interests.
"Mr. Black is simply trying to steer the conversation away -- he did absolutely nothing in Richmond to help us curb the sprawl here," McWatters said.
In Prince William, where furor over rapid growth prompted passage of a controlled-growth plan last year, the development industry has made significant contributions to two incumbents.
Wilbourn, who is involved in a fierce three-way primary contest, collected more than $13,000 in itemized cash donations during the reporting period, most of it from construction firms and other development interests. He had almost $23,000 in the bank.
Kevin P. Childers, a Manassas lawyer, collected $7,200 in cash contributions and had a little more than $4,000 on hand. Martha T. Hendley, a community activist also opposing Wilbourn, reported having less than $2,000 in the bank.
Both Childers and Hendley have vowed not to accept contributions from development interests, and both have said that Wilbourn's support from that industry -- and his career of building homes and offices -- has undermined his ability to act in the public interest.
"I don't have the money he's got, so it's difficult to get my message out," Childers said. "But I think people can see through that."
Wilbourn dismissed his opponents' complaints as "sour grapes" from candidates who are falling behind in fund-raising.
In the only other contested Prince William board race, half of the $12,000 in itemized contributions to Chairman Kathleen K. Seefeldt (D) came from the development industry. The supervisor has amassed a campaign chest of almost $70,000 to defend her seat from GOP challenger Sean Connaughton, a lawyer who has attacked Seefeldt for her role in setting county development policy. He reported $8,600 in new donations and more than $33,000 on hand, most of that coming from a $25,000 loan that he gave himself.
In other races:
In a GOP primary bid to challenge longtime state Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), G.E. Buck Waters reported expenditures of more than $40,000 in cash and donated services in April and May. Waters collected nearly $24,000 in new contributions. His opponent, Robert FitzSimmonds, had nearly $9,000 on hand.
In a Democratic primary to challenge Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), Denise Oppenhagen had nearly $6,300 in new contributions and spent more than $7,800. The other candidate, Billy G. Tatum, had about $6,300 in contributions.
Staff writers Michael D. Shear and Craig Timberg contributed to this report.