- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

The newly elected chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat, started his new job yesterday, despite a challenge from Republican leaders about votes cast Tuesday in nine precincts.

The roughly 200 votes — cast on new touch-screen machines that lost power for about 30 minutes — most likely will not change the outcome of countywide races.

However, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Smith ordered Republican and county election board officials to watch poll workers as they extract logs from the machines that recorded when votes were cast.

“Whether a race is affected or not is not the question,” said Christopher Craig, attorney for the Fairfax County Republican Party. “The point is ballot integrity and voter integrity.”

Republicans officials speculated about whether the contested votes could change two close contests — one for an at-large School Board seat, the other for the 35th District delegate seat in the General Assembly.

However, in the 35th District race, Democrat Stephen C. Shannon defeated Republican challenger Robert M. McDowell by more than 650 votes. Mr. Shannon received 9,151 votes, or 51.9 percent of ballots cast.

In the at-large School Board contest, Democrat Ilryong Moon defeated incumbent Republican Rita S. Thompson by more than 1,300 votes. Mr. Moon returns to the School Board after having been defeated for re-election in 1999.

Fairfax County Attorney David Bobzien said the Republican Party is concerned about whether votes still were being cast and recorded after the machines became disabled.

However, he does not expect that the logs will show votes were recorded after poll workers fixed the machines, then returned them to precinct locations.

Fairfax County Democrats downplayed the problems yesterday as “glitches” and celebrated Mr. Connolly’s win over Republican rival Mychele B. Brickner. Mr. Connolly won 97,513 votes, or 53 percent of the ballots cast.

“We were expecting a solid win, and it became clear to us a few weeks ago that the momentum had shifted,” Mr. Connolly said. He also said his performance in a series of late-campaign debates helped him.

Mr. Connolly replaces Katherine K. Hanley, who is leaving the office to challenge U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, a fellow Democrat. Mr. Connolly is vacating his Providence District seat on the Board of Supervisors, which is being filled by fellow Democrat Linda Q. Smyth.

Mr. Connolly said he expects no big changes in county government after he takes office.

“I certainly want to sit down with key agency heads and senior executives and talk about our agenda,” he said. “I don’t see any wholesale changes as far as agency heads, but some folks may be considering retiring and that will give us an opportunity to look at some fresh faces.”

Mr. Connolly said his plans for the next four years include initiatives to ease congestion, to make housing more affordable and to curb gang violence.

“I think we got a clear message from voters that they are not going to be fooled by gimmicks and slogans,” said Mr. Connolly, referring to Mrs. Brickner’s pledge to cap property-tax increases at 5 percent a year.

Fairfax Republican officials continued yesterday to defend the tax plan, despite Mrs. Brickner’s defeat.

“We think we had the right message,” said John “Eddie” Page, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Party. “It will certainly be interesting to see how Mr. Connolly handles everything.”

Mr. Page also defended the decision to question the results of the touch-screen voting machines.

“I don’t consider it a political issue,” he said. “It’s a legal issue. We are concerned about the integrity of the ballots.”

Mr. Connolly agreed that the machines should be inspected.

“I think with 1,000 new voting machines, the fact that we had glitches in eight or nine is to be expected,” he said. “My biggest concern is to make sure that all votes cast are recorded.”

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