- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Voters in Northern Virginia went to the polls yesterday to select a state senator in a special election that many said was a harbinger of the fate of a sales-tax transportation referendum in November.
Democratic candidate Cathy Belter, a 57-year-old member of the Fairfax County School Board, supports the referendum, which would add a half-percent to Northern Virginia's sales tax to fund road construction and transit projects.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli, a 33-year-old patent lawyer from Centreville, opposes the referendum as being unnecessary.
They were seeking to succeed state Sen. Warren E. Barry, a Fairfax Republican who resigned in June to accept a position on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in the administration of Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat.
Mr. Barry, whose 37th District covers the southwestern portion of Fairfax County, voiced support last month for Mrs. Belter and the referendum.
"I believe in the transportation referendum. I know that we don't get enough from the state, and this will let us do with the money what we want," said Belter supporter Ruth Thorpe of Fairfax outside her voting station at Living Savior Lutheran Church.
First-time voter Susan Melanson, a teacher at Daniels Run Elementary School in Fairfax, said she voted for Mr. Cuccinelli because, as a recent college graduate, she thinks that too much of her paycheck goes for taxes and that she liked his anti-tax message.
"I see my paycheck, and all the money is gone. I really liked how he was for lowering our taxes," the Middle Ridge resident said outside her voting station at Oak View Elementary School.
Election workers said turnout was steady and a little better than expected about 12 percent to 15 percent of eligible voters.
At Rolling Valley Elementary School in Springfield, the line grew to half a dozen people just after 4 p.m. Turnout was expected to increase as people returned home from work.
Activists on both sides of the referendum issue said they were not considering the special election results as a portent for the referendum vote in November.
"I don't think it will have a lot to do with it," said Mame Reilly, campaign manager for Citizens for Better Transportation, an advocacy group that supports the referendum.
Mrs. Reilly spent part of the morning working the polls for Mrs. Belter. "I think the referendum has helped her, but this is a Republican district," she said.
James Parmalee, spokesman for the Northern Virginia Coalition to Stop the Sales Tax, said that there were other issues playing a role in the election, and that although it is considered a Republican district, Democrats have won there.
"The district is now represented by two Democrats on the School Board, which is two more than they should," he said. "The real question here is: Who had the better organization?"
While many voters mentioned transportation, issues such as abortion and education played a role.
"I really want Ken to win because he is pro-life," Chhun Phe of Burke said after voting at Fairview Elementary School.
At Sangster Elementary School, Chenty Carpenter of Springfield said: "I volunteer at the Fairfax school, and I think we need more for education. Cathy Belter is on the School Board and has done a good job, so I think she will do well in Richmond."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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