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Bulova Favored in Tuesday Election, But Turnout is Key

Fairfax Race for Sups’ Chair May Be a Squeaker

Buoyed by a strong endorsement from the man she’s running to succeed, Fairfax County Board Chair candidate Sharon Bulova is favored to win next Tuesday’s special election, but a low voter turnout could throw the outcome into doubt.

Bulova, a Democrat and vice chair of the board for the last five years, is backed by Rep. Gerry Connolly, who resigned the job to take over the 11th District Congressional seat he won in the November election.

Her principal opponent is Pat Herrity, a Republican who is currently the supervisor from the Springfield District in the county and the son of the late Jack Herrity, former board chair.

Connolly endorsed Bulova with the following statement: “Sharon Bulova has been my partner on the Board of Supervisors, fighting for our shared priorities of improving schools, fighting gangs, protecting our environment and meeting our transportation challenges.”

But the challenge for her supporters is re-igniting the unparalleled outpouring of organization and support that was marshaled by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, spearheaded by chair Scott Surovell, in the election of Barack Obama last fall.

The margin for Obama in the county was stunning, almost matching the total statewide margin of victory for Obama, as he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Virginia since 1964.

Since Bulova threw her hat in the ring for the special election to replace Connolly last month, however, the challenge to capture some of that same energy after such a short time has been daunting for county progressives.

On the other hand, smarting from their loss in November, Republicans and other conservatives in the county are hungry for some solace that would come if they can deliver for Herrity next week.

Bulova has spent a total of 21 years on the board of supervisors, representing the Braddock District, including 17 as the board’s budget chair and five as vice-chair. This is Herrity’s first year on the board.

Other candidates on the ballot next Tuesday are Chris DeCarlo, an independent running on an anti-tax and small government agenda, and Carey Campbell, a Green.

Bulova and Herrity align on the predictable Democratic vs. Republican divide on key issues facing the county, most significantly how to deal with a projected $640 million county budget deficit that will have to be resolved by the end of April for the coming fiscal year.

While both candidates have conceded that the real estate tax rate will have to rise to cover part of the deficit, in actual terms the dollars taxpayers will pay should either go down slightly or remain even because of the continued decline in assessed values.

Bulova said she’s looking for cuts while not sacrificing core services, while Herrity has insisted there are savings to be found in some major county programs. Last year, for example, he proposed an immediate reduction in library hours.

Bulova and Herrity also disagree sharply on affordable housing. Bulova has defended the county’s current pledge to commit a full penny on the tax rate for securing affordable housing, while Herrity calls the program “a large government housing bureaucracy,” and favors working with non-profits to achieve results, instead.

They disagreed on the county acquisition of the Wedgewood apartments in Annandale, for example. While Herrity opposed it, Bulova said that is kept over 600 residents in their homes, instead of being evicted while the project was converted into a high-end condominium project.

Herrity calls the county affordable housing plan among the “misplaced priorities” that he blames for the county’s “fiscal train wreck.”

Bulova says that she’s “worked hard” in her 21 years on the board to build “great schools, good-paying jobs, and parks and recreation facilities in every part of the county, while “maintaining a AAA bond rating and being recognized as one of the best managed counties in America.”

Bulova’s endorsements include that of the Falls Church News-Press.