Revelations about the criminal record of a Republican candidate for supervisor in Stafford County have created a controversy within the party, with some leaders and activists saying he should step down while others say his rehabilitation shows character.
Paul Milde, 37, was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute -- a felony -- in Prince William County in 1986, when he was 18, according to court records. He was sentenced to six years in prison, with five years suspended.
Milde also pleaded guilty in 1995 to attempted burglary as an accessory after the fact in Fairfax County, a misdemeanor for which he was sentenced to 360 days, with 340 days suspended. Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. and the county sheriff's department were not able to immediately access details of the decade-old case. Milde said he had refused to tell police what he knew about a burglary suspect, someone he was sponsoring in his Narcotics Anonymous group.
Milde, a father of two who runs a construction firm and has developed an apartment complex in Stafford, defeated two other candidates this spring for the party's nomination in the Aquia District. He said he will not drop out of the race against incumbent Kandy A. Hilliard, a Democrat. Four of the board's seven members are being challenged in the Nov. 8 election.
"I have no intention of stepping aside," Milde said. The deadline for the party to replace him passed Sept. 9. Milde said that his 1986 conviction was a "lifesaver" because he had a drug problem and that none of this "negatively affects my ability to lead."
Some party activists said that they had heard rumors about something drug- or alcohol-related in Milde's past but that they did not know the specifics of his 1986 conviction. None professed to know of the 1995 case before last week, when they were informed by a Washington Post reporter.
"It's a lot harder for the party to support him because now he has to answer two questions: One, what happened? And two, why did you wait until it was revealed?" said John Van Hoy, a former party chairman in Stafford who consults Republican candidates. "His handling of this is an indication of what kind of elected official he would be." Had Milde been more forthcoming before the primary, Van Hoy said, his past would have been "a nonissue."
Milde said he told party leaders about his past and still has their support.
He said he had the backing of such leaders as state House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Robert Hunt, who represents Aquia on the school board.
In an interview this week, Hunt declined to offer his support to Milde. "I should say as little as possible because what I was told wasn't detailed," he said. "What he told me was that he had a youthful indiscretion."
Other GOP activists said that they had been told something similar and assumed that it was something drug- or alcohol-related.
Stafford GOP Chairman Steven Apicella declined to say when Milde told him about the cases.
Milde said "the message" he has been getting from other Republicans is that Apicella wanted him to step down. In a statement, Apicella said that although he was "disappointed" in Milde for withholding information, the decision rests with voters, who "have a right to know information that is relevant to what a candidate brings to office."
Howell said he knew about both cases and fully supports Milde.
"I wish we had more people who could point back to a point 20 years earlier and how it turned their life around. He is a successful business guy involved in local politics. I don't see a problem," Howell said.