NOVA to face electoral attention again

For the past week the House of Delegates has been debating and voting not to recognize the results in the 46th District special election, where newcomer Republican Joe Murray nearly lost Brian Moran’s old seat in deep blue Alexandria by just 16 votes. Although the outcome is not expected to change, it has energized activists on both sides to win in the next upcoming special election in NOVA: the fight to replace newly minted Congressman Gerry Connolly as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. From the WaPo:

Vice Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock) has promised to show fiscal restraint while also continuing the leadership of former chairman Gerald E. Connolly, who won a seat in Congress in November after years expanding county schools, housing programs and environmental protections. Supervisor Pat S. Herrity (R-Springfield) is campaigning to cut wasteful spending and keep taxes down.

Low turnout projections have prompted some to predict that this election could go either way, rendering blue Fairfax, home of one in seven Virginians, an unexpected battleground. If Republicans win, they will head toward fall elections for governor and the General Assembly with an unexpected rallying cry. If Democrats win, they retain the momentum that they have built in recent elections.

Either way, the chairman’s race is likely to be less a referendum on ideas than a reflection of who can spend more money and coax more voters to the polls.

The election also looks like it might be a major test of a new tack for the Republican brand in Northern Virginia:

Bulova, 61, is a close ally of Connolly’s and a natural heir for voters who approved of his leadership. A 21-year veteran of the board, she has been part of an 8-to-2 Democratic majority that has made its top priority the protection or expansion of some government programs. This majority has been rewarded, according to recent polls and electoral results, with deep satisfaction among county residents. Bulova’s central campaign message is to assure voters that she will continue the county on its same course.

“Fairfax is a great place to live, to raise our families, to work, to grow older comfortably,” she said at a candidate debate last week hosted by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. “I want to make sure we continue in that positive direction.”

The race is complicated for her, however, by the strength and popularity of Herrity, whose successful career as a corporate accountant is drawing him support from the county’s well-organized business community. Herrity, 48, also benefits from sharing a surname with his late father, John F. “Jack” Herrity, who was board chairman for 12 years a generation ago and is the namesake of a major highway and government building in the heart of Fairfax.

With promises to trim programs and keep taxes flat, Herrity, who just completed his first year on the board, is also assuming that the soured economy and fallen property values have prompted a change of heart among voters about county spending. His overall message, in fact, rests on a gamble that residents want change.

Time will tell if Republicans in Northern Virginia will be able to win again by maintaining strict message (not to mention governing) discipline by focusing on bread and butter fiscal policy issues without betraying conservative values. But after the drubbing in November, it’s worth a shot.

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