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GOP Wins Fairfax Supervisor Seat

Tim Craig

Republican John Cook narrowly defeated Democrat Ilryong Moon in the race to fill an open seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, according to unofficial returns counted today.

Moon has not conceded the race. Cook's 89-vote victory, from among more than 12,000 votes cast, falls outside the margin that would require the state to pay for a recount, elections officials said.

Cook's victory in Democratic-leaning Fairfax could be an important symbolic boost to Virginia Republicans heading into the 2009 races for governor and House of Delegates.

"I am honored to have been selected by my Braddock District neighbors to serve as their next supervisor," Cook said. "I look forward to bringing new and innovative ideas to the problems we face and bring fiscal responsibility to our county government."

The outcome comes after a day of drama as elections officials tried to extract vote totals from a touch-screen voting machine that malfunctioned. The outcome is a sign that Republicans have not completely lost potency in Northern Virginia, despite demographic changes that have worked to the advantage of a series of Democratic candidates.

Cook's victory in the special election to fill the Braddock District seat comes despite significant hurdles. His main opponent, Moon, raised more money and spent 10 years as an elected official in the area. Moon also was endorsed by Sharon Bulova (D), who held the central Fairfax County seat for 21 years before being elected chairman of the board last month.

Cook, 45, mustered support from neighbors familiar with his work as president of the Kings Park Civic Association. He was credited with increasing membership in the association of 1,100 households, and launching a community revitalization program that helped clean up blighted and unkempt properties. He also helped persuade the county to purchase an abandoned pool and annex the land to an adjacent park.

Yesterday, some voters said they were swayed by his commitment to neighborhood issues.

"I think he's going to be better at constituent services," said Marilyn Jackson, 56, a county librarian who voted at Robinson High School.

Moon, 51, is an at-large member of School Board. He had energized education advocates, as well as fellow Korean Americans and other immigrants eager to see him become the first Asian American on the county board. About one in four Fairfax County residents is foreign-born, and about 16 percent of the county is Asian, yet no immigrants or Asian Americans serve on the board.

Among Moon's volunteers were Korean Americans who conducted bilingual phone-banking and assisted Korean-speaking voters at the polls. Over the course of the month-long campaign, he said, he received dozens of phone calls from Korean Americans eager to vote for him but unsure whether they lived in his district. He also received a $100,000 contribution from a Korean American supporter who hoped Moon would use his local success to launch a national political career.

But it was not enough to defeat Cook. During campaign appearances, Cook criticized Moon for failing to offer specific ideas to balance the county's budget, which has been pummeled by declining home values and a persistent national recession. Cook had said he will fight to keep property taxes low and criticized the county's efforts to buy apartment complexes to preserve affordable housing.

Elections officials in Fairfax County had to hand-count hundreds of votes after the touch-screen machine broke down late last night. The machine is one of two that were in use at the Fairview precinct in Fairfax Station.

The machine malfunction "doesn't taint it at all," Cook said. "The votes have been counted, a lot of people worked very hard to count the votes today, and as far as I'm concerned I'm the winner and I'm very pleased."

Democrats, though, expressed frustration over the malfunctioning device, a WINVote touch-screen voting machine manufactured by Advanced Voting Solutions. It is the most widely used touch-screen voting machine in Virginia.

"I'm extremely worried," said Scott Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax Count Democratic Committee. "We raised concerns about the accuracy of this machine in [2007]. The response we got is that it is accurate, reliable, don't worry about it."

Before elections officials posted the unofficial results, Surovell's GOP counterpart said he has faith that the process would yield an accurate result.

"I think they are doing the best they can under the circumstances," Anthony Bedell said. "We are confident [Cook] will be certified the winner when all is said and done."

Fairfax County elections officials are not yet sure what caused the device to malfunction.

By Tim Craig  |  March 11, 2009; 4:21 PM ET
Categories:  Sandhya Somashekhar  
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Please stop suggesting this is any kind of boost to the GOP. It was a special election. It's not a sign of anything if it doesn't happen in November. Cook needs to be re-elected for it to be a boost to the GOP.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | March 12, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

That's dead on Arlington.

9.1% of the voters in that district voted for Cook, 9.0% voted for Moon and 80% stayed home.

Posted by: FederalGraphics | March 12, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

All three Dem candidates for governor showed up for Moon, and worked the phones to get voter turnout, and could not generate interest or turnout for Moon to win in what is supposed to be an easy area for Dems. Doesn't say much for the influence of those three individuals.

Posted by: DaveCheney | March 12, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Arlington Gay - we'll take it just the same. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Posted by: center2 | March 12, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

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