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Candidates for Loudoun County chair go on the attack

The gloves came off Tuesday during a voters' forum featuring the four candidates for county chairman, with both the Republican and Democratic candidates throwing jabs at incumbent Chairman Scott York (R), who is seeking re-election as an independent.

Running to replace York, who was first elected chair in 1999, is Republican Charles King, a Leesburg attorney; Democrat Phyllis Randall, a mental health therapist; and independent Tom Bellanca, a Realtor.

Full-day kindergarten

On the first question of the night – one about implementing countywide full-day kindergarten in Loudoun – Democrat Phyllis Randall accused York of going to Richmond to lobby against the program. Full-day kindergarten is a central campaign issue this year.

“I actually have the date, the time, the bill, the committee, the patron, the co-patron … I have everything but the restaurant Mr. York took the lobbyist to when he lobbied against full-day kindergarten for Loudoun County,” Randall said.

York responded: “What Mrs. Randall did not tell you is what the testimony was when I was there. I didn't speak against full-day kindergarten. What I spoke against is the unfunded mandate that was being requested.”

“Not only did the Board of Supervisors vote opposing it,” York said. “So did the School Board. Why? Because we knew at the time from when Dr. Hatrick was in office that it would cost us about $60 million to implement it.”

All the candidates for chair have said they support the idea of full-day kindergarten, but Randall said York hasn't made it a priority during his 15-plus years as chair.

King said one of the first things he would do as chairman is write a resolution suggesting that the School Board develop a plan for universal full-day kindergarten.

Cost estimates to implement universal full-day kindergarten range up to $100 million.


The GOP's King said “ethics trumps everything.”

“Whatever your political affiliation, if the game isn't played by the rules, nobody wins. Character matters,” King said.

The Republican said York “lied” about his re-election campaign to win an award. He was referencing the fact York twice changed his mind on running for re-election. In one instance, York told Virginia News Group and Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce executives he wasn't running – a requirement to be considered for a citizenship award from the two organizations.

“If somebody associates themselves, staffs their campaigns, with people with criminal records, that's relevant,” King said. “What Loudoun County needs is a leader that is honest and understands that the character of the people they surround themselves with reflects on them.”

In that statement, King was alluded to York's campaign. The chairman has appointed two people with criminal records to serve on his campaign.

York, who has said he doesn't support an ethics pledge for supervisors, did not respond to the attacks.

County police department

The issue of implementing a county police force as a supplement to an elected county sheriff – a change that would require action from the General Assembly and a county referendum – has become a surprising campaign talking point over the past month.

“Every election cycle we have rather embarrassing allegations regarding the sheriff [candidates],” said King, who favors a county police department. “ … We're mature enough as a county, we're complex enough as a county, we're urban enough of a county that the board should have some role in the general law enforcement powers of the county.”

Under a county police department, the county administrator would likely hire a police chief. The elected sheriff would be then be responsible primarily for courthouse and jail safety.

Chairman York noted that the now-disbanded Government Reform Commission recommended the county maintain its current form of government. York said the process of converting to a police department would be too expensive.

Bellanca favors a shift in the county's form of government, and he said the issue is another example of something he's been talking about since his 2011 bid for chairman. Bellanca ran four years ago as the Democratic nominee.

With 360,000 residents, Bellanca said, Loudoun has grown to the point where a county police department is necessary.

Randall said she “leans toward” having a county police department

“When you have an elected sheriff, it politicizes the process,” Randall said.

Additional highlights:

-York, who has held public office for two decades, said his experience is the number one reason voters should provide him a fifth term as chairman.

In the last four years, York said, the current board has increased education funding by 35 percent and directed $800 million to transportation projects.

The chair also touted his record limiting residential growth.

“I was elected as chairman in 2000 because growth was out of control,” York said. "Ask the realtors in this community, ask the developers in this community how they like me after four years ... I took that issue head on."

-Bellanca stressed that many of the items he talked about in 2011 remain the key challenges facing the county today. Of those, he specifically called for better comprehensive planning and increased funding for county schools.

"In 2008, before I even ran, I was involved with the countywide transportation plan," Bellanca said. "I was also involved in getting the badly needed funds for building the high school and middle school in Dulles south, which was a crisis situation."

-Randall, who clearly rallied the most supporters to the event, noted her endorsements from the Loudoun Education Association and associations representing Loudoun police and firefighters.

“I've been appointed and have served as chairperson on two boards at the state level," Randall went on to say. "I say that because some people might have the feeling that I can't chair a county board. But having chaired two state boards, I'm pretty sure I can chair a county board also.”

-At one point during the debate, Randall took umbrage when York referred to her as Phyllis. "If Mr. King is going to be Mr. King, Mr. Bellanca is going to be Mr. Bellanca and Chairman York is going to be Chairman York, I will not be Phyllis. I will be Ms. Randall."

-The forum was hosted by the Loudoun League of Women Voters at Northern Virginia Community College's new Higher Education Center.

Related coverage:

-"Race for Loudoun chairman churns on change, leadership approach" -- Oct. 7


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