On Election Day, the choices on the Stafford County ballot will be Alvin Y. Bandy and Peter J. Fields, but the race for the George Washington seat on the Board of Supervisors has become as much about Supervisor David R. Beiler as either candidate.
Beiler, an independent representing the Falmouth District, has been working closely with Fields, helping him devise a strategy to oust Bandy. A magazine editor, Beiler has helped Fields write campaign literature, advised him on how to spend the money he has raised and helped him hone his message.
"David is an election professional," said Fields, a Democrat. "He's an extremely important source of information for anyone trying to run."
Bandy, aware of Beiler's assistance and his expertise at campaigns, has taken to publicly blasting his fellow board member, while rarely mentioning his opponent.
"Mr. Beiler is writing most of his stuff for him," Bandy said. "And Mr. Beiler is being a spin doctor for him. It's almost amusing."
Further, Bandy has tried to portray Fields as a political tool of Beiler's, a charge the candidate strongly denies.
"David and I are friends," said Fields, a musician who composed the music for Beiler's 1997 campaign commercials. "We've been friends before I decided to run. He didn't recruit me, and he's not manipulating my campaign."
Although Beiler acknowledged that he has consulted with Fields from the outset, Beiler said that he has recently lent a much larger helping hand because of Bandy's attacks.
"I've started working pretty hard for Pete," Beiler said. "Mr. Bandy is telling everybody I am, so I might as well do it. If he's going to run against me, I might as well run against him."
Beiler and Bandy sit next to each another at board meetings but stand far apart on most issues. Bandy tends to be pro-development and favors widening roads and adding other infrastructure to handle the county's rapid growth. Beiler is adamantly anti-growth and thinks developers should pay for the infrastructure that their projects require.
Recently, the two have sparred over measures guiding the Celebrate Virginia development. Bandy is wholly behind the project, which Beiler has exhibited many reservations about.
In his two years on the board, Beiler has earned a reputation as an independent thinker who often strays from the will of the majority. Beiler, the only non-Republican on the board, blames Stafford's fragile financial situation on mismanagement by leaders for allowing such precipitous development in the last few years.
Other board members, Bandy among them, take such criticism personally and view Beiler as representative of the recent wave of "come-heres" who don't appreciate the progress Stafford has made over the last 25 years. Originally from Tennessee, Beiler moved to Stafford in 1994 after living in various parts of the Washington area since 1983.
"He hasn't had a great lot of experience in the county nor does he know the county very well," Bandy said. "A lot of people just move in, believe what they read and think we need to put a sidewalk through the woods here somewhere because they had it back in New Jersey or where they came from."
Beiler, meanwhile, has made it clear that he is frustrated with the direction of the current board and would welcome a few new faces. "A new board would be closer to my way of thinking than the current one," he said.
Whether Bandy's strategy of attacking Beiler or Fields's tact of teaming up with him is effective remains to be seen. Regardless, Beiler has become a central figure in the campaign.
"For some unfathomable reason [Bandy] is campaigning against me," Beiler said. "I wouldn't think I would be so unpopular that he would make his election a referendum on me."
In other races, W.A. "Bill" Gray (I) is running against incumbent Robert C. Gibbons (R) in the Rock Hill District, and Jack R. Cavalier (I) is opposing Supervisor Lindbergh A. Fritter (R) in the Griffis-Widewater District.