Two incumbents with long careers in public service were upended Tuesday by relative newcomers in the low-turnout elections for Fauquier County School Board.
In the Cedar Run District race, defense firm computer engineer Gary A. Maloche defeated one-term School Board member Alice Jane Childs, who had previously won six terms as Fauquier County commissioner of revenue. According to unofficial returns, Maloche beat Childs 56 percent to 44 percent.
In the Scott District, construction consultant William G. Downey IV defeated School Board Chairman Mary Charles Ashby, a former teacher who had served 11 years on the board. Downey beat Ashby with 64 percent of the votes to 36 percent.
Combined with the victory of B.H. "Broni" Lambelet (Marshall), who ran unopposed, that means there will be three new faces on the School Board. They will join incumbents Ernest L. Gray Jr. (Lee) and John E. Williams (Center), both of whom also ran unopposed. Lambelet, Downey and Maloche have never held elective office, though they all served together in recent years on the teacher compensation task force.
Among the major issues the new School Board will face are a potential school bond referendum aimed at relieving crowding in several Fauquier schools where students are taught in trailers; a documented flight of teachers to neighboring districts where pay is greater; and efforts to improve Fauquier students' scores on the Virginia Standards of Learning tests.
Maloche said he interpreted his victory as a sign that "people were ready for a change. There was a lot of discontent with the way the School Board and the Board of Supervisors were getting along."
Childs would say only that "the voters made their choice on this one. . . . Gary's got a big job to do."
Downey could not be reached for comment Tuesday but has said in interviews that his priority for the new School Board was getting a new budget process in place to better track capital expenses. Both Maloche and Downey have advocated long-range budgets.
Ashby and Childs both appeared to be victims of testy relations with the Board of Supervisors. The board's ongoing budget squabbles were cited by two major interest groups in the county--the political wing of the Fauquier Education Association (FEA) and the Fauquier County Republican Party--that endorsed their opponents.
Childs alluded to those factors as she discussed her loss, saying, "They had the backing of the FEA; they had the backing of the Republican Party; they had the endorsement of the local newspapers. With all those things, I think you would have to win."
Ashby said, "I have no shame about my record." She voiced support of the administration of School Superintendent Dallas M. Johnson, who has played a part in the disagreements with the supervisors, saying, "I hope the [new School Board] maintains the quality of instructional leadership we have right now."
In the only contested race for a constitutional office, Gail H. Barb (R) won the right to succeed her current boss at the clerk of court office by defeating retired state administrator Conway Porter (D), about 77 percent to 23 percent.
"I think we had a lot of momentum built up from the primary," said Barb, who has made integration of new technology one of her priorities. Porter, the first African American to run for countywide office, said that he would remain active in local civic organizations and did not rule out a future campaign.
In the race for the District 31 seat to the Virginia House of Delegates, Republican incumbent Jay K. Katzen handily defeated Democrat Meredith L. Gorfein by 71 percent to 29 percent. In the waning days of the campaign, Katzen's campaign sent out a mailing that a bipartisan voter education group, Project Vote Smart, called "an unethical and intentionally misleading attack" on Gorfein.
Interviewed on Tuesday evening, Katzen denied that he misrepresented Gorfein's positions. Local political leaders said Tuesday that Katzen has told them he is going to run for lieutenant governor in 2001. Katzen, a favorite of Christian conservatives, will say publicly only that he is "looking very hard" at that possibility. With tens of thousands of dollars remaining in his campaign war chest, he appears positioned to make a harder fight than he did in 1997, when he cut short his run for that office.