After knocking on thousands of doors through the course of five political campaigns, the longtime Fairfax County School Board member and aspiring county supervisor has her pitch down pat: “Hi, I’m Kathy Smith. I’m running for the Board of Supervisors in November.”
But before she could give the woman doing yardwork on Misty Creek Lane the rest of her spiel Saturday afternoon, Smith said, the woman attacked her.
“She came after me,” Smith said. “She tore the clipboard out of my hands and started shoving me. And then she grabbed the sunglasses off my face.”
The reason for the woman’s alleged outburst?
Smith said the woman was upset over a school boundary vote the board member cast — in 2008.
The controversial change that was designed to ease crowding swapped the neighborhood’s assigned high school from Chantilly to Oakton. Clearly, Smith said, the move left some parents more irate than others.
“She ended up with a kid in each of the high schools, and she didn’t like that,” Smith said.
Smith, who has served on the School Board since 2002, is running for the seat of Michael R. Frey (R), who is retiring as supervisor in the Sully District in western Fairfax. Smith, the Democratic nominee, will face off in November against Republican John Guevara.
Fairfax County police confirmed that officers were called to the 12600 block of Misty Creek Lane shortly after 1 p.m., and in an e-mail to county leaders, police said criminal warrants had been issued charging a suspect with assault and interfering with a 911 call. Officer Brendan Murphy, a police spokesman, said later that Pamela Ichord, 58, was arrested Saturday night on a charge of simple assault. He said she turned herself in and was released on her signature.
Smith said she had been knocking on doors in the Century Oaks neighborhood for about an hour and a half.
The episode happened quickly, she said. Walking up the driveway, she began introducing herself from afar when, she said, the woman realized who Smith was and ran toward her, screaming.
Campaign cards flew out of Smith’s hands and fluttered down. She said she tried to grab a tree for balance. At one point, Smith said, as she tried to use her cellphone to call police, it was taken from her and flung away.
“I was yelling for help for what felt like an eternity,” Smith said.
Then, someone driving by interrupted, Smith said, and she said she was able to break away to her car and call police.
In the police e-mail, Capt. Ed O’Carroll, director of the department’s public information office, also described the incident. “For an unknown reason, the homeowner became angry and blamed the candidate for various neighborhood issues,” O’Carroll wrote. “As the candidate turned to leave, she was pushed from behind which caused her to fall to the ground. As the candidate attempted to call 911, the clipboard she was holding was knocked from her hand and her phone grabbed and thrown into the yard. The candidate retrieved her cell phone, fled and called 911. The candidate was treated by rescue for non life-threatening injuries at the scene.”
In all of her years campaigning, Smith said, canvassing has always been a painless process. She might worry about an angry dog now and then. Or an irate voter will call her out over policy disagreements.
“They usually say, ‘I know who you are. I’m not voting for you,’ ” Smith said. “But I’ve never been assaulted.”
After Smith named her, Ichord was called for comment, but the calls were not returned. Smith said she asked police to press charges.
Smith said police called an ambulance after the incident, which left her shaken up with tightness in her chest. Her shoulders are a little sore, but overall, she said, she is fine and unscathed.
Despite the incident, Smith is undeterred. She said she will keep canvassing and plans to head back to the same street Sunday to finish meeting residents in the neighborhood.
“My tendency is to have faith in people,” she said. But “I will think about taking someone to finish this neighborhood. That might be a good idea.”
Clarence Williams contributed to this report.