SHARON S. BULOVA, a Democrat who as chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has more constituents (1.1 million) than any other locally elected official in the Washington region, has been in her post for 21 / 2 years. It happens that her ascent to the job, in a special election in February 2009, coincided with the most dizzying plunge in municipal revenue that Fairfax, like most counties, had suffered in decades.
That coincidence is Fairfax’s good fortune. With her gracious, civil, inclusive political style, two decades of previous experience on the board and mastery of the county’s $6 billion budget, Ms. Bulova is indisputably the right person in the right job at the right time. Her bid for reelection, against an unimpressive Republican and two obscure independents, should be a slam dunk. If any elected official in Northern Virginia deserves to be returned to office Nov. 8, it’s Ms. Bulova.
Her trademark, as the board’s chair and as a district supervisor for 21 years before that, has been to stick to her guns while working collaboratively with her colleagues. Remarkably, given her long tenure and the array of issues she has handled, she has almost no enemies. Yet she has not shied away from the most volatile controversies.
A recent example was her role in pushing for nearly $1 billion in cuts from Metrorail’s expansion to Dulles and points farther west. The cuts, though sensible and politically necessary, were bitterly opposed by the airports authority board, which is overseeing construction of the $6 billion project. Despite an array of robust personalities and what appeared to be an intractable impasse, Ms. Bulova — businesslike and non-confrontational — played a critical role in nudging the board into negotiations and toward an eventual deal.
Similarly, she has helped shepherd painfully austere budgets through the county board for three years, allowing Republicans their say and managing disputes over taxes and funding for affordable housing with an emollient style. And having led the board’s budget committee for years before becoming chairman, Ms. Bulova commands respect on a subject of no small complexity.
Her Republican opponent, Michael J. “Spike” Williams, a businessman and real estate agent, is utterly unversed on the budget — a disqualifying trait in a county of Fairfax’s size and sophistication. Mr. Williams speaks airily of excising “waste, fraud and abuse” from the budget, but he cannot offer a single example. He claims the increase in Fairfax’s budget over the past decade was too rapid, without acknowledging it was barely faster than the rate of inflation plus population growth — and no faster, and in many cases slower, than in similar jurisdictions. He complains that property taxes have soared; in fact, they have been flat for most homeowners since 2007.
Why did Republicans, with their considerable Fairfax constituency, especially outside the Beltway, not put forward a heavyweight to run for the premier local elected position in Northern Virginia? The explanation, in addition to Ms. Bulova’s prowess as a fundraiser, may lie simply in her sterling record, reputation and record of accomplishment. In all, it’s an easy choice for voters.