Updated Version - July 21, 2011 (see Editor’s Note below)
The chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Scott K. York, an Independent, told the Times-Mirror Sept. 14 he plans to run for re-election as chairman in November 2011.
“It has been a great privilege to serve the citizens of Loudoun County,” York said. “I will make my case. Hopefully, I will garner their support for another four years.”
When asked if he was certain to run again as an Independent candidate unaffiliated with either major party, York said, “At this point, I’m keeping all options open. I intend to continue to have a broad range of support from individuals who are Republicans, Democrats and Independents.”
York added that he will wait until the conclusion of this year’s national midterm elections to make a formal announcement. That is likely to come by year’s end or early next year, he said.
With the retirement announcements last week from Supervisors Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run) and Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin), one overarching political question came even more into focus in recent days: Would York run again?
Worst kept secret?
Even before York confirmed his plans to the Times-Mirror this week, there were emerging signs of a nascent political re-election campaign in the making.
In late July, a website called leadership2011.org went live. Unknown to many, it was the online version of a soft launch for York’s campaign, allowing his effort to have a home somewhere online or offline. York’s message on the website’s homepage states, “I look forward to your support in my 2011 re-election campaign.”
More tellingly, York recently held a fundraiser at a corporate office in Lansdowne on Aug. 19, where funds were raised in increments of as much as $500 and $1,000.
The event was organized by Tom Julia, president of the American Composite Panel Association. County Treasurer and longtime officeholder Roger Zurn Jr. attended the event, and said, “It was quite clear from Scott’s speech that he would be running again.” About 60 people attended the York event.
Another source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the event was attended by a “number of chamber of commerce leaders, and members of the CEO Cabinet and Economic Development Commission.”
Julia, the event’s host, called the event “low-key,” and said it was a chance for York to “reconnect with supporters and the business community.” He added that the event was an “effort to set the marker down” for a re-election campaign. Neither he nor York would confirm the amount raised at the event.
The money chase
Other fundraisers will take place after November, said Julia, which he said would be York’s ongoing “opportunity to connect with his base in the community.”
Julia has held informal positions with all of York’s county campaigns, and expects to have a “senior advisor” role in the 2011 election, he said.
Recent campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections show that York’s re-election committee “Friends of Scott York” is quickly raking in dollars.
The documents indicate that York has raised approximately $12,000 since July this year, but that’s just the total raised from large donations of $500, $1000 or more. Many more funds could have already been raised to date in smaller checks, but won’t be reported until January 2011.
York expressed confidence in his fundraising position, but declined to provide a total amount raised to date for his re-election.
According to those same campaign reports, recent high-profile contributors to York’s early 2011 efforts include: Sterling developer Bahman Batmanghelidj ($1,000); Fortessa CEO Scott Hamberger ($500); Belfort Furniture CEO Michael Huber ($1,000); Mark Koblos, CEO of KTA Group Inc. of Herndon ($2,500); Fardis Ettehat, owner of Tessa Construction, in Ashburn ($1,000); and Kitty Saylor, CEO of Rehau Inc. ($500). Dulles Motorcars Inc., of Leesburg also donated $1,000 to the York campaign, and Moore Cadillac and Hummer of Chantilly gave $500.
York’s third decade of service
Known for his booming voice and cool demeanor while presiding over board business meetings, York has become an iconic figure in the body politic of Loudoun County.
His public service began almost two decades ago, when he was appointed by Zurn, then a supervisor representing the Sterling District, as the Sterling representative on the Planning Commission from 1992-1995.
After Zurn left to run for county treasurer, York was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1995 as a Republican from Sterling. He then successfully ran for the at-large chairman’s seat in 1999 as a Republican, taking out the incumbent GOP board chair, Dale Polen Myers, in a divisive primary battle.
Shortly after being re-elected chairman in 2003, York dropped his GOP affiliation and occupied the chairmanship as an Independent, the result of internecine GOP warfare as well as a testy power struggle with other GOP supervisors. York ran for re-election in 2007 and won, again as an Independent, besting Republican nominee Mike Feretti. No Democrat opposed York.
Earlier in his current term, there was palpable buzz in political circles that York might consider retiring after his long service to pursue other interests. In the past few months, according to sources, this line of thinking quickly changed.
It is unclear at this time who would oppose York for board chairman next year. No Republican or Democrat has declared an intention to oppose him at this time.
York remains a relatively popular and steady political figure in the county, and has drawn support across the political spectrum.
Despite a busy and, at times controversial policy agenda in the past two and a half years, York has managed to chart a steady course for an often fractious and mercurial governing body, one that is represented by divergent personalities and three partisan factions. This task was exacerbated by a declining economy that hit house assessments hard in the past few years, resulting in bruising and thankless budget battles.
“He has been politically astute,” said one longtime Loudoun political observer. “Scott’s been playing his politics pretty well here.”
Rise of the Indies
Since his realignment as an unaffiliated Independent in 2004, York has been a public supporter of both Republicans and Democrats at the county level.
Most notably, York supported the 2008 GOP presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain and then-Alaska Gov. and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. York gave a hearty speech in support of the Republican ticket at a boisterous rally at JR Festival Lakes in Leesburg in October that year.
All indications at this time point to York retaining his Independent status as he gears up for 2011, but that could change. Sources told the Times-Mirror that York’s August fundraiser was notable for the number of both Democrats and Republicans who attended.
Julia, York’s advisor, was vague about York’s political affiliation for 2011. Let’s see how things align,” he said. “That call has not been made yet. Scott is very comfortable as an Independent. He has certain allegiances with Republicans, and also with Democrats. But he doesn’t want to be captured by a party platform.”
Furthermore, according to Julia, York will be working to “identify candidates who would run with him next year, and run in support of positions he has taken and will be taking.”
Asked if this meant York would be compiling a slate of Independents to run for supervisor seats, Julia responded that “there is no effort at this point to develop a slate of Independent candidates.” Instead, he pointed out, York could choose to support any combination of Democrats, Republicans or unaffiliated candidates.
Primarily, Julia said, York would be “interested in a working majority on the board, five or six supervisors who think along his lines.”
Burton plans 2011 run
There is only one other Independent on the Board of Supervisors, Jim Burton of Blue Ridge.
On Sept. 14, Burton made his plans known to the Times-Mirror: “I’m planning to run again,” he said. “I have always said as long as I am enjoying this I will run. And I am enjoying it.”
When asked if he planned to retain his unaffiliated status as an Independent for his 2011 re-election campaign, Burton shot back “Oh, absolutely.”
As an at-large member of the Board of Supervisors, York would not be politically impacted by the upcoming redistricting battle that will likely change the boundaries of the other eight seats on the board to some degree.
Redistricting continues to be a wild card for many incumbents and challengers when it comes to declaring their political intentions for 2011. Burton, for example, clearly has the issue on his mind.
“It will be interesting to see what the new districts look like,” he said. “I expect a majority of [the] Blue Ridge [District] to remain as is.”
However, York, as an at-large member, faces no waiting game in making his intentions known, allowing him a head start on campaign planning and fundraising.
York, his wife, JoAnne, and their four children have been residents of Sterling for 23 years.
**** EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated on July 21, 2011 to correct erroneous information contained in the original version, which included the following statement: “But York also supported former Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, over former GOP Gov. Jim Gilmore in their 2008 race for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by veteran lawmaker John Warner.” York states unequivocally that he did not publicly or financially support Mr. Warner, or endorse him, in 2008. A further review of financial reports filed with the state elections bureau does not show any York contributions to Mr. Warner in 2008. The Times-Mirror regrets the error.
Reporter Crystal Owens contributed to this story.
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