It's one of the many bureaucratic hoops candidates must jump through. And Fairfax County Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) says he remembers very clearly taking the leap.

But local election officials say they never got a copy of Kauffman's "Certificate of Candidate Qualification" -- a document that state law says he needed to file by 7 p.m. Tuesday in order to run for reelection in November.

The mystery of what happened to Kauffman's paperwork has caused a little stir in Fairfax.

"I remember signing it. People in my office remember notarizing it," a distressed and surprised Kauffman said yesterday. "God bless, we don't know where it went."

Maybe the dog ate it?

All Kauffman knows is that a new copy of the form -- which asks, among other things, whether the candidate has "ever been adjudicated mentally incompetent" -- will be hand-carried to the registrar this morning.

Technically, it's too late.

"Any person who fails to file all the required forms by the above deadline SHALL NOT have his name printed on the General Election ballot," read instructions to candidates.

But Kauffman's will likely be included.

The State Board of Elections routinely grants 10-day extensions.

"We're not sure the spirit of the law is well served by using a technicality to disqualify someone," said Hugh Key, the board's deputy secretary.

Kauffman's response? Whew.

County GOP Chairman Joe Underwood, who alerted reporters to the missing document, had a different reaction.

An extension? Not on your life, he said.

"I can understand if somebody's car is hit by a 747" on the way to the registrar's office, Underwood said. "I think he should be disqualified. Everyone else plays by the rules."