Two captions accompanying a story on the Virginia elections yesterday incorrectly identified a polling place in Loudoun County. The photographs were taken at Arcola Community Center. (Published 11/04/1999)
In two of Virginia's rapidly growing outer suburbs, voters swept into office yesterday county supervisor candidates who called for slower growth--and swept out two board chairmen, including longtime Prince William County politician Kathleen K. Seefeldt (D).
Seefeldt, who was first elected as a supervisor in 1975 and served as chairman for a dozen years, was narrowly defeated yesterday by GOP challenger Sean T. Connaughton, who said Seefeldt had failed to do enough to control growth.
In Loudoun County, the election of a well-organized slate of slow-growth candidates marked a dramatic turn in the country's third-fastest growing county, where developers have been accustomed to wielding more influence in local campaigns.
Slow-growth advocates said yesterday's results sent a message that voters are tired of crowded classrooms, clogged roads and rising taxes. "People don't like the way Prince William County has developed," said Connaughton, 38. "The leadership has not been proactive enough in dealing with growth."
The Loudoun slate was led by Scott K. York, a Republican supervisor from the Sterling district, who overwhelmingly defeated incumbent board Chairman Dale Polen Myers (At Large) and a second slow-growth candidate. At the same time, control of the board was wrested from York's party, which had held a decisive advantage during a time of explosive growth; there are now four Democrats, three Republicans and two independents.
"The county belongs to the people again. They took it back from the developers," said Joe Maio, a spokesman for Loudoun citizens group Voters to Stop Sprawl, which endorsed the winning slate and contributed to the campaigns of several successful candidates. "It's a great victory."
In a speech yesterday, York, 42, said he was thrilled "to know of the widespread support in the community for the message I have brought forth. I look forward to . . . managing the growth in Loudoun County that has brought us many fiscal challenges."
Growth was the centerpiece of all eight contested races for the Loudoun Board of Supervisors. In Prince William, growth emerged as an issue in two of the three contested board races--but in one of those races, Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III (R-Gainesville) beat back challenger Gary C. Friedman (D), who criticized him for supporting too much development.
John H. Foote, a Prince William development lawyer and Seefeldt supporter, cited Wilbourn's victory when he said the results in the chairman's race did not represent a slow-growth mandate. He said Seefeldt, who lost by about 1 percentage point, fell victim to the county's trend toward the Republican Party.
"It's simply too close to call that any kind of a mandate," Foote said. "What I think the Seefeldt race reflects more is simply the profound Republicanization of Prince William County."
In Loudoun, where the Democrats picked up seats, Myers also disputed the notion of a mandate. "I don't know if anybody knows what statements the voters were making," said Myers, who finished third behind York and a little-known slow-growth advocate, James G. Kelly, who raised less than $1,000. "We did everything we could, and I feel great about the campaign we ran."
Myers ran as an independent after being denied the GOP nomination. Rather than focus on limiting residential growth--except around the small towns in rural western Loudoun--Myers talked about recruiting more businesses to pay for it and working to ensure educational quality as the school system grows.
But York said that stemming rapid growth and associated problems "is the issue that voters care most about." He wants lawmakers in Richmond to allow the county to limit development in areas where there are inadequate roads, schools and other public facilities. He also called for developers to pay more of the cost for the facilities and services required by new residents.
Kelly cast himself as an even stronger opponent of growth, calling for a wholesale change in zoning so that landowners can build fewer houses. Kelly said his plan would not require approval from Richmond and would slow growth more effectively than York's.
At several Loudoun polling places, voters said they braved the rain to support slow-growth candidates and ballot questions on funding for new schools.
"I voted for York because Myers has had a bad track record with development in this county," said Kate Williams, 51, of Leesburg. "The development around here is just a crime. We haven't been able to keep up with schools and roads. It's too much."
Slow growth advocates in Loudoun said they were pleased with results in district supervisor races. In some of those contests, slow-growth candidates who had raised less money than their opponents emerged victorious. Those candidates benefited from mailings by Voters to Stop Sprawl, which told residents that this election marked their "last chance to save Loudoun from developers."
Among those district winners were Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz (D), who defeated Richard L. Roberts (R). Kurtz had hammered Roberts on his record on growth issues when he served as a supervisor four years ago.
Seefeldt declined to comment on her defeat. Through her campaign manger, Jim Ross, she said she "wished [Connaughton] the best leadership for Prince William County to make it a better place."
Connaughton attacked Seefeldt for approving new housing projects that he said have resulted in crowded schools and higher taxes. Seefeldt campaigned on her record, saying she has worked hard to manage growth, and citing her eventual support for limiting development in much of western Prince William. "The single biggest issue is the basic quality-of-life issues, which includes education, public safety, quality job growth and tax reduction and transportation," she said.
As in Loudoun, several Prince William voters said frustration over growth brought them out.
"There are too many empty town houses, and they've allowed developers to build them," said J.B. Polson, 62, a 26-year Woodbridge resident. He said his home, which he bought 10 years ago, has lost $10,000 in value. He said he voted for Connaughton.
In Arlington County, Board Chairman Paul F. Ferguson (D) was reelected to one of the two contested seats, stressing environmentalism and fiscal conservatism. Democratic challenger Charles Monroe won the second seat and will become the only African American on the board, beating out Mark Lane, the board's only Republican.
CAPTION: In Alcorn, Loudoun Supervisor Scott K. York (R-Sterling) greets voters, including Mae Bushrod, foreground, who came in from the rain.
CAPTION: Marcus Howard posts additional signs outside Alcorn Community Center. The Loudoun chairman's race included two slow-growth advocates.