- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Democrat Sharon S. Bulova appeared to have pulled out a narrow victory over Republican Pat S. Herrity in the high-stakes race for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Tuesday night.

Mrs. Bulova drew 51,949 votes to Mr. Herrity’s 50,732 with all of the county’s 228 precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns from the Fairfax County Office of Elections.

She declared victory in an e-mail to her supporters at about 9:40 p.m.

“I am very gratified that the people of Fairfax County have elected me to lead the Board of Supervisor* as their Chairman,” the e-mail said. “I thank each of you for your help, and pledge to each one of you that as your Chairman, I will make it my job to make sure that we in Fairfax County Government listen to you, and take your ideas and concerns seriously.”

However, Mr. Herrity had not conceded the race, saying it appeared there were roughly 3,700 absentee ballots still to be tallied.

“I’m going to wait for the canvass tomorrow until I make any kind of concession,” he said at about 10:30 p.m.

Mrs. Bulova and Mr. Herrity were the two major-party candidates vying to replace former Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat elected to the House of Representatives in November. Independent Christopher F. DeCarlo and Independent Green candidate Carey C. Campbell also were on the ballot.

The turnout in Tuesday’s race was about 16 percent, according to county returns - a low total that is typical in special elections. Voters faced cool temperatures and some light snowfall. Fairfax County Registrar Rokey W. Suleman II characterized the number of voters who had made it to the polls as “light” by late afternoon.

“I think it’s just the nature of special elections in general,” Mr. Suleman said. “I do not believe weather had an effect at all. I just believe there might be a little bit of election fatigue, people still hung over from November.”

Mrs. Bulova, 61, represents the Braddock District and has served on the Board of Supervisors for 21 years and as chairman of the board’s budget committee for 17.

Mr. Herrity, 49, began serving on the board last year as Springfield District supervisor. He is the chief financial officer of a technology company and the son of former board Chairman Jack Herrity.

The race was a chance for Democrats to build momentum after their dominance in last year’s elections, when Barack Obama won the state in the presidential race by more than 200,000 votes, Democrat Mark R. Warner won a U.S. Senate seat, and the party reversed the Republicans’ majority among the state’s House delegation.

However, the likelihood of a low turnout, and the narrowness of Democrat Charniele Herring’s 16-vote margin of victory in a special House of Delegates election in Alexandria last month, seemed to give Republicans a chance to win the coveted chairman’s slot.

“I think it would be major bragging rights for the Republicans” if Mr. Herrity won, said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of political science at George Mason University. “It would enable them to say that all this talk about Virginia turning blue was entirely premature - that if Fairfax in the current climate can go Republican, there are many possibilities for Republicans in this state still.”

The winner of the contest faces the challenge of leading the board in its attempts to close a projected $650 million shortfall in the county’s fiscal 2010 budget.

The state’s four gubernatorial candidates additionally used the contest as a way to plug their parties and test their grass-roots operations. State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Brian J. Moran and Terry McAuliffe helped Mrs. Bulova by setting up phone banks, making automated calls and donating staff.

Attorney General Bob McDonnell, the only Republican running for governor, 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.

“We’ve helped Pat a lot,” Mr. McDonnell said Tuesday. “He’s a good leader, and I’m very hopeful that with the good work he’s done building the grass roots in Fairfax County that he has an excellent chance to win.”

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