Campaign controversy erupted late Saturday evening after Rod Koozmin, who is running for one of four open seats on the Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors, found prohibited campaign literature on the ballot table.
Koozmin, who biked to the Hunters Woods facility that afternoon, noticed campaign leaflets that endorsed a slate of candidates near a polling box.
According to voting regulations, campaign materials are prohibited inside any polling place. The campaign brochure, which endorsed the Alliance for a Better Community slate, included the four remaining candidates: Bill Bouie, Carol Ann Bradley, Colin Mills and William Penniman.
“The way it was on the table, it was on each side, like somebody had put it there,” said Koozmin, who took his complaint to the front desk. “I informed them I was removing it and that it was improper for it to be there.”
Koozmin then sent an email to the center’s executive director, Bonnie Freeman, announcing the violation. “By not enforcing this rule you are handicapping my candidacy,” Koozmin said in the email.
MINUTES LATER, Koozmin received a reply from Roger Lowen, the RCC board chair. The subject line read “Erroneous Charge.” In the email, Lowen said that there had been no violation and that Koozmin had “mistakenly jumped to conclusions.”
Koozmin fired back in series of emails. He described in detail the ABC literature, which, he pointed out, includes an endorsement of the slate made by Lowen. “There has indeed been a violation of the preference poll,” Koozmin said in an email. He asked Lowen if he thought he “could act fairly in this matter?”
Lowen, who defended his right within the rules to endorse candidates, said in an interview Monday that the whole issue has been blown out of proportion. “Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill,” said Lowen. “As near as I can tell, some voter left [the campaign leaflets] there.”
One of the other candidates, Colin Mills, sympathized with Koozmin. “I can understand why he wouldn’t want [the brochures] there,” said Mills. “They really need to make sure to keep that area clean.” But Mills also said that too much was being made out of the incident.
Lowen said that the staff has been reminded “to police the area carefully.”
Lowen dismissed claims that the few campaign leaflets could taint the election. “By the time someone has arrived at the polling box, they’ve pretty much made up their mind,” said Lowen in an interview.
BUT IN A FINAL email, Lowen said Koozmin has distracted voters from the real issues, such as programming and facility maintenance concerns. “However, it now appears that Mr. Koozmin wishes to inject campaign issues as a diversion. I had not intended to make an issue of Mr. Koozmin's personal actions in this campaign but now feel obliged to do just that,” said Lowen in the email.
Lowen continued to write that he has seen Koozmin affix campaign signs on traffic posts and medians, which he said “constitutes a hazard” and “is a violation of state law.”
In an interview Monday, Koozmin responded by saying that every politician that has ever run for office has done the same thing.
While Koozmin feels Lowen’s response has been less than fair, his biggest worry is the reliability of the election.
“I think the integrity of the election is compromised by this kind of thing,” said Koozmin. “In general, it takes building a bonfire under these people to get them to do anything.” Since Oct. 2, residents of Small Tax District 5 have been able to vote in the preference poll. The final day to vote is on Oct. 21, when the community center holds Community Polling Day. Ballots will be available at the five village centers in Reston and at the Harris Teeter at the Spectrum.