Keep Loyal Republicans

On Party Committee

Why do supporters of Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R) want to kick me (and others) out of the Prince William County Republican Committee?

I've been a member of the county committee since its founding. I've served twice as operations committee chairman and currently serve as parliamentarian. I'm a member of the Republican State Central Committee representing the 11th Congressional District, which also makes me a member of the 11th District Republican Executive Committee and the Prince William County Republican Executive Committee.

Growing up in Tennessee, I was state co-chairman of the Teen Age Republicans and state vice chairman of the College Republicans. I've been a member of the county Republican committee wherever I've lived, pretty much nonstop, since I turned 18.

Professionally, I've worked for 24 years as a direct-mail fundraising consultant for conservative and Republican causes and candidates. I was the direct-mail consultant for Pete du Pont when he ran for president in 1988. I currently write fundraising letters for many Republican candidates for Congress and for three Republican state parties, as well as for conservative nonprofit groups.

So, again, I ask, why do Sean Connaughton's supporters want to kick me out of the Republican County Committee?

It seems that my unforgivable sin is that I'm also active in conservative, but non-Republican, organizations -- specifically the Prince William Taxpayers Alliance, of which I'm chairman.

The "problem" is that the Taxpayers Alliance endorses candidates who pledge not to raise taxes, without regard to political party (horrors!). Sometimes when a Republican refuses to pledge not to raise taxes and a Democrat or independent candidate takes the pledge, the alliance endorses that non-Republican.

But the fact that the alliance as an organization endorses a candidate doesn't mean individual members -- even the chairman -- necessarily endorse that candidate. As a member of the Republican County Committee, I've pledged to support all Republican nominees. And I've done that. I've never personally endorsed a non-Republican running against a Republican nominee.

But that's not good enough for Sean Connaughton's supporters. They've introduced a bylaw change that would deny membership on the county committee to anyone involved in the governance of an organization that endorses non-Republican candidates.

I know Sean Connaughton and his folks have it in for Republicans who are members of the Taxpayers Alliance. It's inconvenient for his campaign for lieutenant governor to have Prince William County Republicans let the cat out of the bag that his vaunted "tax rate cut" is really a 50 percent tax increase. So they would just as soon kick us out of the party.

But this rule doesn't just affect the Taxpayers Alliance. This would also forbid county committee members (other bylaw changes would forbid executive committee members) from taking a leadership role with the Realtors, Farm Bureau, teachers union, NRA, National Right to Life -- any group that endorses non-Republican candidates. Shouldn't we encourage active Republicans to get involved in these groups?

I hope Sean Connaughton's supporters will decide that it's better to grow the party than it is to kick active members out.

Rick Hendrix


An Appeal to Revisit

Gainesville Sector Plan

During the 2003 local board races in Prince William County, the dominant theme was slowing the rate of development and managing growth in smarter ways. Perhaps the most illustrative example of poor planning and special-interest overreach in recent county history is the Gainesville Sector Plan. The plan was controversial from the start and became notorious for its reported conflicts of interest. Nevertheless, the plan muscled its way through the Planning Commission and the Board of County Supervisors. Citizen outcry waned. Newspaper reporters moved on to other stories.

Flaws in the Gainesville Sector Plan are too numerous to cover in this letter, but three of the major ones are excessive densities in the wrong places (including a lack of sensible transition areas), a shameful lack of public space and public facilities, and, of course, the likelihood of dramatically worsening what is already one of the most problematic intersections in the region. Board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R), who voted against the plan, is reported to have suggested that funding for some of the more glaring deficiencies might be addressed with a special taxing district. There is also indication that at least one of the major developers involved wants the sector plan amended. Had I prevailed in my 2003 bid for the Gainesville supervisor seat, revisiting the Gainesville Sector Plan would have been one of my top priorities.

During the campaign, I received strong indications of support from numerous candidates who agreed that the plan was badly flawed and needed major revamping. I am disappointed that neither Wally Covington III (R) of Brentsville nor John T. Stirrup Jr. (R) of Gainesville has taken the initiative on this issue. There are few concerns in their districts more pressing and more important to the future well-being of west-end residents than fixing the Gainesville Sector Plan.

I invite these supervisors to demonstrate their commitment to serving the interests of their constituents by promptly securing board approval to revisit the Gainesville Sector Plan and, without delay, to authorize and appoint a citizens advisory council, hopefully one not dominated by developers and vested interests. It is crucial to address this issue while there is still time to inject some common sense into development planning in Gainesville. Failure to act now will unnecessarily burden the daily lives, and diminish the quality of life, for Prince William County residents for decades to come.

Gary C. Friedman


(Gary C. Friedman was the Democratic candidate for Gainesville supervisor in the 2003 Prince William County elections.)