On November 4, 2008, Democrat Gerry Connolly, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, was elected to the United States House of Representatives, defeating his Republican opponent Keith Fimian 55% to 43%.
Davis' Connolly's predecessor in the House, retired Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis, also previously served as Board Chairman. With Connolly now in the House, the race to succeed him as Board Chairman appears to be one of the first pitched battles of an increasingly competitive Virginia Governor's race.
The Washington Post's Tim Craig writes that all of the gubernatorial candidates from both parties - Terry McAuliffe, Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran for the Democrats, Robert McDonnell for the Republicans - are seeing the race for Chairman as an early chance to make their mark in 2009, and win both headlines and Northern Virginia support as they head toward November.
Emboldened by the near victory of a GOP House candidate in heavily Democratic Alexandria earlier this month, Virginia Republicans are hoping Fairfax Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) can defeat his Democratic opponent, Supervisor Sharon S. Bulova (Braddock), in the chairman's race.
In effort to lay the groundwork for his own campaign this fall, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) has dispatched paid canvassers and volunteers to help Herrity. By the end of the weekend, McDonnell's staff estimates they will have knocked on more than 15,000 doors. McDonnell plans to campaign with Herrity on Monday.
Not to be outdone, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is turning his McLean headquarters into a daily phone banking center in support of Bulova. While much of the work will be done by volunteers, McAuliffe plans to man the phones on Saturday.
McAuliffe's rivals for the nomination, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath) and former delegate Brian Moran, are also dispatching resources to Fairfax in support of Bulova.
Deeds has recorded a robocall, as did Moran's wife, and Moran has mobilized staff and volunteers on Bulova's behalf.
Getting involved in a race like this makes sense for all four players.
As Swing State Project's Crisitunity notes, it is because of a Republican near-victory in Moran's old State House seat that Republicans are emboldened in Fairfax County in the first place.
In a way, it may be Moran who has the most to prove. The Alexandria race Craig refers to in the second graf was actually a special election to fill Moran's own seat in the House of Delegates (he resigned to campaign full time). As Craig explained in an earlier post, the Dems' 16-vote narrow escape was a real embarrassment given that the district had voted 75% for Obama.
That wasn't Moran's fault, per se, but a solid win for Bulova would certainly help the image of the Northern Virginia-based candidate as someone influential enough to be an effective Governor.
McAuliffe also can benefit considerably from being involved in a Bulova win. Though he has lived in Northern Virginia for decades, the New York-born McAuliffe is certain to face accusations of being a "carpetbagger" and a DC political insider. The "carpetbagger" label shouldn't stick too much - Moran himself is from the Boston area, and Mark Warner is originally from Illinois - but nevertheless, McAuliffe could gain a great deal of positive press and local support by proving his dedication to aiding local Democratic candidates in this race.
Deeds, meanwhile, could use every Northern Virginia vote he can get with both McAuliffe and Moran hailing from the region. He has little to lose, and a fair amount to gain, by helping out Bulova.
Finally, McDonnell, the Republican, has the most to gain from a Republican victory here, however unlikely. A victory for Herrity, in a county which went 60-39 for Obama, would be seen as an indicator of a coming Republican tide in November - and of McDonnell's influence. It would probably give him tremendous positive media coverage, and perhaps lead to his being anointed the frontrunner. Finally, McDonnell himself hails from Northern Virginia, and his ability to carve into Democratic margins in NoVa could determine the outcome of the race in November.
So Fairfax County becomes the first battleground of the Virginia Governor's race; we'll see who claims victory on Wednesday morning.