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Moon Wins Firehouse Primary in Fairfax County

Amy Gardner

Fairfax County School Board member Ilryong Moon defeated community activist Janyce N. Hedetniemi and the Rev. Ronald F. Christian in a "firehouse" primary yesterday and today for the Democratic nomination for the county's Braddock District supervisor seat.

Moon now faces Republican John Cook, 45, a lawyer and community activist, and Carey C. Campbell, an independent who ran unsuccessfully in the chairman's race, in a special election scheduled for March 10. The three are vying to replace Democrat Sharon S. Bulova, who narrowly defeated Supervisor Pat S. Herrity (R-Springfield) to become chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Bulova replaced Democrat Gerald E. Connolly, now in Congress.

Scott A. Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, reported that Moon earned 1,528 votes, Hedetniemi earned 1,073 votes and Christian earned 92 votes in the firehouse primary. The fate of an additional eight uncounted votes was uncertain, but they won't change the outcome, Surovell said.

Officially called an unassembled caucus, the firehouse primary is a party-sponsored event at which Democrats may voice their support for a candidate over multiple days, rather than all at once as is customary in a caucus.

Moon, 51, a lawyer who has spent 10 years on the School Board and four years on the Planning Commission, was perhaps the best known of the three Democratic candidates. All three vowed to continue championing the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport and the urban redevelopment of Tysons Corner. All pledged to be as responsive about potholes as they are to the needs of the 169,000-student school district.

Surovell said he was heartened by the turnout at the caucus, which he said put to rest concerns after Bulova's narrow victory last week that county Democrats had grown complacent after a string of electoral victories.

"Who says Democrats aren't energized?" he said. "We're plenty energized."

By Amy Gardner  |  February 10, 2009; 11:16 PM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner  
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I am amazed that the election was so close given Moon's name recognition. There were armies of Koreans planting signs on every piece of green space along roadways since last weekend and my phone was ringing almost nonstop with pleas to vote for Moon.

Posted by: skipper7 | February 10, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

I waited in line 45 minutes to vote and was surprised that we had to sign a paper saying we are democrats and intended to voted for the democratic candidate in the March 10 election. Someone said it was because this was a firehouse primary. What specifically is a firehouse primary (seemed more like a library primary to me)?

Posted by: janedoe5 | February 11, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm not surprised it was that close. I was there last night. There were many many Moon supporters. That was obvious. But I think just like me, many people see the School Board as the worst of the worst of Fairfax County. Their greed and unchecked spending has cost the taxpayers of Fairfax far too much. And the BOS relationship with them has been far too accomidating at the expense of others. The last thing I would do is elect a School Board member to the BOS. You can kiss all you tax money goodbye then. But don't worry, the School Board will have their own Taj Mahal HQ and all those poor underpaid ($75-100k) teachers will get their raises. While others are loosing their jobs en-masse. Good priorities.

Posted by: tommc1 | February 11, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Wait, did that form say that I would vote for the Democratic Candidite in March? They said it was just a registration form so I just filled it out. If it did say that, it's moot as any such agreement is illegal. You can vote for whomever you like whenever you like and are not bound by any contract to vote for anybody. I do not know that I can vote for Mr Moon right now. I would need some convincing that he isn't going to turn the keys to the vault over to the School Board. Otherwise, he would be no better than a Republican.

Posted by: tommc1 | February 11, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

tommc1: I agree with your comments regarding the ineptitude of the SB as a reason for not voting for Moon, but your suggestion that most teachers are making close to six figures is way off base. If you look at the distribution of teacher tenure over the past few years it is actually dropping as many older, long-term (30+ years) teachers have retired. Teachers with a PhD and 20 years may earn around $90K, but the top end for most teachers is probably closer to $80K with most teachers earning $50-60K. Is that too much? I don't know, but no one is getting rich being a teacher.

Posted by: skipper7 | February 11, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I do not live in Braddock, so this was not my special election to worry about, but I'm glad Mr. Moon won the nomination.

As I understand it, he is actually a graduate of the Fairfax County ESOL program (before going on to postsecondary study). If I am remembering that right, what an amazing credit both to him and to our good school system. That is a long way to come and Fairfax County public schools did their part. If he were to win, would he be the first Asian-American Supervisor in Fairfax County? A milestone, if so.

Of course, if he wins... that also means another special election to fill HIS seat! Pretty soon everyone in Fairfax County will have been a candidate in a special election.


To answer the earlier question -- Yes, since people in Virginia don't register by party (they do in other states), everybody can legally vote in either primary, but the parties sometimes require nonbinding pledges that you basically consider yourself a Democrat (if it's a Democratic primary) or Republican (if the reverse), to make it more likely that the members of a particular party are choosing their party's nominee. Of course this is unenforceable and you can actually vote how you want in the special election.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | February 11, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes, so lets vote for Mr. Moon just so we can make history. Really? Haven't we beaten that pathetic horse to death already. Symbolism is a bad motiviation for choosing the leaders of your community. It was a bad reason to vote for Obama and it's a bad reason to vote for Moon.

As for Teachers, if your assesment is correct, the teachers are still making far far more than most County employees, where the average salary is more like $40k. And that includes unimportant positions like building inspectors, police and firemen. I have seen the County Salary list. If you recall, it was posted in the newspaper a few years ago. So, I know who makes what. Far more teachers make between $60K and $90K than between $50k and $60k. Which is twice as much as your average county employee. Also, the rationale that teachers salaries have decreased because many have retired is silly and misleading at best. This is only temporary as other teachers will be promoted/tenured to fill the retirees slots.
The fact of the matter is that the School Board is a special intrest group in Fairfax County that acts and takes with little regard to anything but the benifit to themselves. And the schools and school employees have done well because of it. We do not need a person with such a singular intrest serving on the BOS when times are tight the way they are now. People will suffer needlessly if we do. Or, oh wait, did we all forget again that the 19,000 people that work for Fairfax County are also people with families, many of which are also tax paying citizens of this county too? And many of which don't work for the School Board. Guess we did.

Posted by: tommc1 | February 12, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

The Fairfax County teachers salary scale is posted online at the School system's website. Teachers start at $44,789 and after five years on the job teachers can make $50,223. I am not sure what other county employees make, but surely we can agree these are not exorbitant salaries for a county where the average household income is over $90k and more than a third of households earn more than $150k.

My two high schoolers have been in the school system since Kindergarten. Through the years I have seen incredible dedication from nearly all my kids' teachers; through well planned lessons, organized classrooms, sensible classroom management, effective email communication, after school enrichment and simply a general sense that Fairfax county schools deserve the label of "world class". The school board may not be perfect, but the quality of teaching is about the best around and the teachers deserve every penny and more.

Posted by: krushlow | February 14, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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