When Supervisor Elaine McConnell (D-Springfield) triumphed over two conservative primary challengers June 10, she joined other Virginia Republicans in fending off attacks from the right. Her opponents, Clifton residents Linda Clary and Stan Reid, sought to portray her as a closet Democrat who had refused to hold the line on real-estate tax increases and done little to solve the region's transportation problems.
"It seems to me kind of odd that the extreme right would have attacked me on issues," said McConnell, a 20-year incumbent.
INSPIRED BY the defeat of last year's sales-tax referendum, anti-tax advocates sought to sweep out GOP politicians who had supported the sales-tax increase. McConnell, one of three Republicans on the 10-person Board, had been one of the referendum's strongest backers in Fairfax County.
Elsewhere in Virginia, Sen. John Chichester of Stafford County, Sen. Thomas Norment of James City County and Sen. Russell Potts of Winchester also survived primary challenges. Not so fortunate was Sen. John Rollison of Prince William County, another referendum backer, who lost his re-election bid to Jeffrey Frederick, a political consultant.
After the election, McConnell expressed surprise that her opponents had tried to depict her as soft on taxes, saying that she's done all she could to reduce the real-estate tax rate.
"I think it was evident that the people are very concerned about property taxes. I don't know what we're going to be able to do about that."
Eddie Page, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, said the internal divisions within the GOP this primary season "made for a lot of heartache.
"I believe that the conservative group of Republicans are trying to make a statement that they're running on specific issues," he said. "We need to meet somewhere in the middle on all this. At the end of the day, we need to pull together and work at the issues against the Democrats."
MCCONNELL RECEIVED 40.5 percent of the vote, compared with 31.1 percent for Reid and 28.4 percent for Clary. Because no Democrat filed by the June 10 deadline, she is unopposed in the general election on Nov. 4.
All along, McConnell said, she was aware that "there was a possibility that, yes, I could lose."
Clary said that having two challengers go up against the incumbent split the vote.
"If there were only two candidates, she could not have been elected with the votes that she got," Clary said. "I think that conventional wisdom held true that when you have a liberal Republican that's being opposed by two conservative opponents that they split the vote so that she could win the election by 40 percent."
Reid put it more bluntly: "Clearly, if Linda wasn't in the race, I would have won."
Clary refused to comment on whether her defeat along with those of conservative challengers statewide signaled that voters rejected their far-right approach.
"I really can't speak to those other races. I can only speak to this race."
Reid said he was "thrilled" by how encouraging the results were.
"Sixty-one percent of the voters don't want Elaine to be supervisor," he said.
He criticized both McConnell and Clary for what he called "mudslinging" in their campaign.
"I think the type of mudslinging between the two of them only adds to the apathy of the voter," he said.
The campaign was marked by allegations of negative advertising and accusations of supporters taking down each other's signs.
Both Reid and Clary said they would remain involved in local politics, and they left the possibility open for another run in the future.
Likewise, McConnell wouldn't say whether her next term would be her last. She suggested she might retire if she could find a suitable successor.
"I want someone that I can back," she said.