The Washington Post

County Board candidate says opponents and their voters likely headed to hell

Stephen Holbrook, a candidate for Arlington County Board strongly opposed to using public land for affordable housing, said Monday that his three opponents, and those who vote for them, are likely to go to hell.

Holbrook, running as an independent, said in an interview that anyone who votes to take money or property not willingly given is a thief, and “those who gave their votes for them are just as guilty.”

Holbrook, a former accountant for the FBI, complained about a candidates’ forum held last week by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, a faith-based group that wants the county to build up to 1,500 apartments on public lands in the next three years for low-income residents.

The forum, held at St. John’s Baptist Church, was strictly run in order to force candidates to stick to the subject of VOICE’s proposal. Holbrook, upset that neither he nor other candidates had a chance to give a three-minute stump speech, fired off a letter over the weekend to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, noting that Catholic priests were among the clergy there.

“GOD’S house is a place to talk to your GOD and not a place to gather people to form a plan to lay out how you will steal from other people,” he wrote. “I am a Catholic and that meeting in that church was the first time I ever went into a church and came out feeling dirty and that there was evil in that church. I thought that GOD was going to send down a lighting [sic] bolt unto those church leaders and their people and I didn’t want to be around them. . . . It took me two days and several baths to get the smell of greed and sin off of me but the other people there will go to hell for what they do and their church leaders are to blame.”

He also wrote that the teachers union, which has endorsed Democrat Alan Howze, “has already bitten the forbidden apple . . . and they will burn in Hell for their sinful deeds.”

The Rev. Dr. Linda Peebles, one of the leaders of VOICE, said candidates were fully informed of the forum’s format, and noted that Holbrook was invited to come early and stay late to talk to individuals in the audience, which he did.

“I’m very sorry Mr. Holbrook feels in some way that we’re in trouble with God,” she said, praising St. John’s Baptist Church for opening its church, raising questions and allowing its choir to sing before and after the event. “One of the things that keep us feeling we’re grounded is faith — Jews, Muslims, Christians, Catholics and lately Quakers have been coming” to VOICE’s events, she said.

Holbrook, 67, who has no money for his campaign, has said he may be “driven out [of the county] because it’s not affordable” for him. But he doesn’t believe government should try to ameliorate the cost of housing, warning that this would lead Arlington into a Detroit-style bankruptcy.

“Our government was not formed as a charitable organization,” he said. “The IRS tax code allows charities to do that work.”

Holbrook was the only one among the four candidates — Howze, independent John Vihstadt and Independent Green Janet Murphy — who did not support VOICE’s agenda at the Thursday night forum, which drew more than 100 people.

The special election, to fill a board seat left vacant when Chris Zimmerman resigned in February, is April 8.

Patricia Sullivan covers government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria. She worked in Illinois, Florida, Montana and California before joining the Post in November 2001.



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