- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The gloves will come off in the fight for the top political spot in Fairfax County, which promises to be as fierce as the Republican primary was tame.

The Republican nominee, Mychele B. Brickner, is a two-term Fairfax County School Board member who took 56 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s primary to defeat former Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. “Jack” Herrity.

She now faces Democrat Gerald Connolly, the two-term Providence District supervisor, in the November general election.

During the primaries, Mrs. Brickner, 52, and Mr. Herrity, 71, chose not to assail each other and instead focused their criticism at the perceived lack of leadership in the county.

One day after the election, Mrs. Brickner, a former stay-at-home mother, took aim at her new opponent, who returned fire.

Mr. Connolly said Mrs. Brickner lacks political experience and trumpets a “muddled message” that could bring “disastrous” results. Mrs. Brickner repeated her claims that Mr. Connolly helped create the county’s notorious gridlock and the 53 percent increase in taxes over the last four years.

“The message is not going to change,” she said. “These are the issues: taxes, traffic and Mr. Connolly’s failure to address them.”

Even before the primaries, Mr. Connolly questioned Mrs. Brickner’s voting record on the School Board and called her a “divisive figure” because of her stands against school budgets and surveys that asked high-schoolers about sex, and because she wanted to put restrictions on school library books with questionable material.

He also warned Mrs. Brickner that questioning his positions on taxes and the traffic problem was a “disastrous road to go down.”

“Our top priorities need to be education and public safety,” Mr. Connolly said. “To introduce other priorities that are only going to complicate our efforts to accomplish our main goals borders on the reckless.”

Mr. Connolly said the county would lose leverage in state politics by spending tax dollars on road projects that are supposed to be funded by the state, especially at a time when the county must already fight for money in the General Assembly.

He also said Mrs. Brickner voted against the transportation tax-increase referendum last year, which would have brought an estimated $5 billion in revenue to the state over the next 20 years.

Mr. Connolly said yesterday he already has union endorsements from firefighters and county teachers and thinks the county’s chamber of commerce also will endorse him.

Mrs. Brickner acknowledged that Mr. Connolly’s fund-raising capabilities are impressive. She estimates needing $500,000 to $750,000 for her campaign. She raised about $100,000 for the primary.

The support of Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, has boosted Mrs. Brickner’s campaign. Mr. Davis was the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during the early 1990s and is a powerful party leader in Northern Virginia.

Mrs. Brickner said her most important strength was integrity.

“I’m an honest, straightforward person,” she said. “I will be looking at all the issues in this race from that perspective. It all starts with the principles you come to the table with.”

Mr. Connolly was not surprised that Mrs. Brickner won the primary, but he did not expect what he considered such a close race.

He also laughed at the 32,000 Republican primary voters who turned out.

“I think that suggests a rather dispirited campaign,” he said. “A win’s a win, but if it’s an augur for the fall, I think it suggests a very fractured Republican Party and gives me enormous help to woo moderate Republicans to my side.”

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