Due to an editing error in Wednesday's Extra, Supervisor Maureen S.Caddigan was incorrectly identified as a Democrat when she was on the School Board. Caddigan was appointed to the board by a Democratic supervisor, but had no party affiliation at the time. Caddigan, a Republican, now represents the Dumfries District on the Board of County Supervisors. (Published 12/04/1999)
A lot has changed for Prince William Republicans since 10 years ago, when the party held just one seat on the Board of County Supervisors, just two in the House of Delegates and not one county-wide office.
The fast-growing county, once a Democratic stronghold, has shifted to the GOP, mirroring a statewide trend. Five of the county's six state legislators are Republicans. So is the clerk of the court. And with his trouncing last month of veteran Democrat Kathleen K. Seefeldt, Sean Connaughton will take office in January as the second Republican to capture a county-wide office and the first to be elected board chairman. The party will enjoy its greatest majority on the board--6 to 2.
All of that might help explain why some GOP loyalists are in a snit over what they see as a defection by Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries), who openly supported Seefeldt's failed bid for a seventh term.
Caddigan, who ran unopposed Nov. 2, has been intensely loyal to Seefeldt over the past eight years. Caddigan and Connaughton, a former county Republican committee chairman, have bad blood going back eight years, when Connaughton supported a rival Republican candidate in the primary for Dumfries supervisor. Caddigan, who had been a Democrat before that election, won the primary and the seat.
During the fall campaign, Caddigan, a former School Board chairman, openly endorsed Seefeldt with a mailing to voters in the Montclair development where Caddigan lives. The flier pictured both women fighting for a new high school scheduled to open in the district next fall.
The move rankled the county Republican committee, which was set to censure Caddigan at its meeting Monday night--but backed down at the last minute at Connaughton's urging.
"A certain number of people felt they were working hard for Sean and the Republicans in general, but they didn't feel too good that Maureen was working for someone else," committee Chairman Bill Becker said. "Everybody expects elected officials to work with the party."
Clerk of the Court David C. Mabie (R) said, "There's a perception that united we stand and divided we fall, and this was perceived as a blatant violation of the loyality of the party."
But Caddigan was unbowed. "This committee is just a little group of people that get together once a month and chew and spit people out because they don't like what they did," she said yesterday.
A censure, had the committee's executive board agreed to it, would have amounted only to an embarrassing slap on the wrist rather than ejection from the local party, because as an elected GOP official, Caddigan's seat on the county committee is assured.
But the rift underscores the clout local Republicans are seeking as their elected officials grow in number.
"I'm disappointed with her actions," Connaughton said of Caddigan. "But I'm not going to hold her responsible for taking an action that maybe reflected the way things were when the county was dominated by the Democratic Party. We have to approach things differently now."
Caddigan called the flap "much ado about nothing," and noted that cross-party endorsements were common among many of the county's elected officials. All supervisors supported the incumbent Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen III, a Democrat, and Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) openly endorsed the reelection bid of Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III (R-Gainesville), who beat a strong Democratic challenger, Gary Friedman.
Caddigan touted her "track record" of campaigns on behalf of Republicans, including former governor George Allen, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and Del. John A. "Jack" Rollison III (R-District 52).
Caddigan said that her detractors might consider her "too moderate." She said she always "votes my conscience" and votes "for the person," who last month was her ally, Seefeldt.
To be sure, supervisors rarely vote along party lines, and the chips in the county's biggest political debate--growth--have fallen on both sides. Supervisors Ruth T. Griggs (R-Occoquan) and Wilbourn hail from the same party but could not be further apart when it comes to land-use issues. She was elected on a slow-growth platform, and he is a former builder.
Connaughton said he hopes the board's GOP members will bring a renewed focus to "core Republican issues," such as lowering the county's high tax rate and paring down its bureaucracy.
The Caddigan flap notwithstanding, Prince William Republicans hope their victories last month will boost the party's presence in the county, enlarging its fund-raising machine and eventually expanding its role in Northern Virginia politics.
"If the local party maintains its unity, we can expect to have a lot more victories locally in the next four years," Mabie said.