ALTHOUGH THE NEXT election in Virginia's 8th Congressional District is more than a year away, it has already turned Fairfax County into a hotbed of political activity in this year's county campaigns. Rep. James P. Moran Jr.'s self-inflicted political troubles have finally stirred up a list of possible challengers in his own Democratic Party, with a ripple effect on this fall's local races. No one has publicly committed to taking on Mr. Moran should he choose to run again, but two potential challengers are hinting strongly and many more are testing the winds. The congressional district has a wealth of seasoned political talent not only from Fairfax -- with 52 percent of the district's voters -- but also from Arlington and Alexandria.
The first to say she might challenge Mr. Moran was state Sen. Leslie L. Byrne of Fairfax, who came out swinging characteristically with a prediction that "a primary fight with Jim Moran would be a blood bath, a bare-knuckled brawl," adding, "There has been incident after incident with Jim, and people are scratching their heads, saying, 'Is this the best representation we can get?' " Ms. Byrne has an added incentive to run: A former member of Congress who reentered the Virginia legislature in 2000, she is now losing her state Senate seat to redistricting.
Within 24 hours of Ms. Byrne's comments came word from veteran politician Katherine K. Hanley, chairman of Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors, that she was exploring a run for Congress. When Ms. Hanley decided to forgo a reelection bid this year, Republicans began focusing more intently on what promises to be a lively June 10 GOP primary contest between School Board member Mychele B. Brickner and former Board of Supervisors chairman John F. "Jack" Herrity for the right to succeed Ms. Hanley. Democrats wasted no time choosing Providence District Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly to take Ms. Hanley's place on the ballot Nov. 4.
The board will undergo significant changes this year no matter who wins. In addition to a scramble to fill the seat being vacated by Mr. Connolly, the Dranesville District will elect a new supervisor to replace Stuart Mendelsohn (R), who is stepping down. Democratic incumbents Catherine M. Hudgins (Hunter Mill) and Penelope A. Gross (Mason) are being challenged by Republican candidates, and in the Sully District, Republican incumbent Michael R. Frey is facing a Democratic challenge. In the Springfield District, Republican incumbent Elaine N. McConnell will take on one or two challengers for the GOP nomination. Still more challengers could join the county fray in other districts this week.
The lead issue in the board races this year looks to be the property tax rate. The board has said it won't raise the rate, but the question is how much the rate will be lowered in the face of soaring assessments. Many of the Republican challengers are from the almost-any-tax-is-bad wing of the party, ready to pledge that under no circumstances would they let property tax bills go up. That position, given the extraordinary budget strains of growing school enrollments, is too rigid; in any case, incumbents as well as challengers ought to be pressed for specifics on what budget cuts they would make and what services need improving.