- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fairfax County voters head to the polls Tuesday for a local election with statewide implications.

The race between Republican Pat S. Herrity and Democrat Sharon S. Bulova for Board of Supervisors chairman comes as the county and its leaders are facing a projected $650 million budget shortfall in fiscal 2010.

The contest also will be a litmus test for whether Democrats can continue the dominance displayed in last year’s congressional and presidential elections, or whether Republicans have managed to regain momentum in the ensuing months.

“I think it’s important for the party to show a Republican can win in Fairfax County,” said Mr. Herrity, 49, the Springfield District representative on the Board of Supervisors. He said Fairfax County is “critical to the state” because one in seven state residents live there.

Mr. Herrity and Mrs. Bulova, 61, vice chairman of the board, are the two major candidates vying to replace former board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat handily elected to the 11th Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives in November.

The race has drawn outside interest from inside the state: Mrs. Bulova held a campaign rally Saturday with Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat. And the three candidates for the party’s gubernatorial nomination - state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Brian J. Moran and Terry McAuliffe - have helped by setting up phone banks, making automated calls and donating staff.

Mrs. Bulova also has received a hefty $50,000 donation from the Service Employees International Union and has been endorsed by the state’s two senators, Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bob McDonnell - the sole Republican running for governor - has dedicated a full-time staffer to Mr. Herrity’s efforts, paid for door-to-door canvassers and cut the candidate a $25,000 check from his campaign account.

The results of last month’s race to replace Mr. Moran - a former state delegate from Alexandria, who resigned in December to focus full time on his gubernatorial bid - also has provided hope for Republicans and motivation for their counterparts.

Charniele Herring, a Democrat, won by just 16 votes over Republican Joe Murray in an area that typically sides strongly with Democratic candidates.

“That’s a seat that we should be able to win with our eyes closed, and it’s clear that from what happened in that race that there’s a lot of motivated Republicans out there, so we need to get out there and get our people out,” said Scott Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

Mr. Herrity and Mrs. Bulova say they would not support tax increases to close the shortfall, but acknowledge the need for an increase in the county’s property-tax rate because of declining property values. Both also say officials must make spending cuts and combine functions of the county government and school system for efficiency.

“To close a shortfall of that magnitude, we will need to make reductions in many of our county services. We’ll need to eliminate some of our programs and services,” Mrs. Bulova said. “We will be looking for ways to do things differently to bring down the costs of providing services.”

Mrs. Bulova said the county also may need to consider imposing more user fees on things such as parks, and increasing development fees to bring in additional revenue. Mr. Herrity mentioned measures that include curbing the county’s subsidization of housing for high-income residents and making the county and school system’s transportation services more efficient.

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