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Fairfax Budget Gets Political in a Hurry

Bill Turque

The Eleventh District Congressional race, and the prospect of a fight to succeed Fairfax Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, are already resonating in the debate over the budget proposed on Monday by County Executive Anthony H. Griffin.

The Republican minority on the 10-member Board of Supervisors intends to use its grievances about the spending plan to soften up Connolly, who would be the Democratic nominee in November if he defeats former Rep. Leslie L. Byrne, Navy veteran Doug Denneny and physical therapist Lori Alexander in the June 10 primary.

At the same time, the two leading aspirants to succeed Connolly should he win the 11th District seat, Supervisors Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) and Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) are firmly positioned on opposite sides of Griffin's blueprint.

Herrity is sharply critical of the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 both for its lack of substantive cuts and use of new transportation tax dollars to support existing staff. He all but said in an interview on Tuesday that he would run in a special election that would be held to complete Connolly's four-year term should he resign to enter Congress.

"The dynamics are very interesting," Herrity said of the budget. "Typically this is not an election year but this year is, in a way, for three of the board members....Sharon and myself," in addition to Connolly.

Herrity, the son of former board chairman John F. "Jack" Herrity, added: "I haven't committed to run, but I'll be real," acknowledging that he would give the race serious consideration if Connolly departed.

Herrity said Griffin's budget is "designed to get through this year with little or no pain and without alienating any budget constituencies. We've completely abdicated our responsibility as leaders to be making difficult decisions."

Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), the board's other Republican, echoed Herrity's critique of the budget. "I guess if I were really cynical I would say it appears designed to get us through November. But I guess I'm not that cynical...It's a budget that voids any real difficult choices."

Bulova, who as the board's budget committee chairman plays a key behind-the-scenes role in forging consensus among supervisors on spending issues, has said in previous interviews that she would be interested in the chairmanship if it came open. But she said today that it was too early to talk about politics or the final shape of the budget, which the board is scheduled to adopt in late April.

"I think his comments are not fair," Bulova said. "We have only received the recommended budget this week, and we're in a listening mode. We haven't had our all-day budget workshop on March 8 where we're going to have a discussion for looking at savings or changes to programs and services....Right now all that matters to me is getting this budget done in a politically responsible manner. I'm not looking ahead politically now."

By Bill Turque  |  February 27, 2008; 1:28 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Election 2008/Congress , Fairfax County Board of Supervisors  
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