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The Race for George Washington

The Board of Supervisors filled the George Washington District seat with the appointment of Tom Coen.  However, the appointment is temporary until a Special Election is held to complete the current term.   The Special Election has been scheduled to coincide with the November 2018 General Election.

Candidates seeking the nomination of either of the parties had until today to file for the June 12 Primary.   For the Republicans only one candidate has filed.  Long time White Oak resident Gordon Silver has filed to run as a Republican in the heavily Republican favored district.  With no other candidates filing before today’s deadline Silver has secured his position on the ballot for the November election in the Republican column.

The appointed Supervisor Tom Coen was expected to file to run as a Republican as well, but he has announced he has filed to run fro the seat as an Independent.   There is no word on any other candidates having filed as either a Democrat or other Independents.   The race is shaping up to be Silver vs. Coen.

On the November ballot voters will also be electing the representative for the 1st Congressional District and US Senator.   Incumbent Congressman Rob Wittman is seeking re-election as is Democrat Senator Tim Kaine.   Both will face challenges from their opposition party.   The George Washington district is a Republican stalwart district.  In 2016 the district went almost 60% for President Trump and in 2012 George Allen received 52% of the vote over Tim Kaine.  Rob Wittman has always enjoyed a large victory in the precincts that make up the George Washington District.  This bodes well for Republicans lower on the ticket to capture the strong Republican voter turnout in the district.

However, the district has elected Democrat Supervisors before.  In 2007 the voters elected Harry Crisp to represent them on the Board of Supervisors and in 2003 they elected Pete Fields.   The Republican candidate in both of those elections was Tom Coen, who is now the appointed member of the Board and seeking to run as an Independent this year.  The voters having rejected Coen twice as a Republican candidate, will now see him on the ballot as an Independent.   The district demographics and boundaries have changed slightly over the last 10 years, but will it be enough for voters to reconsider Coen’s candidacy?

It will be an interesting race to watch, especially if only Silver and Coen remain as the candidates on the ballot.

Rebuild, Renovate, Build New

Schools in Stafford County are planned to be built, rebuilt and renovated through the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process.    There is much discussion right now throughout the county on what is needed in terms of new schools or rebuilding schools.

The CIP is a developed jointly by the Board of Supervisors and the School Board.  It contains not only capital projects for the school division, but it also is the capital plan for county facilities.  Projects include new county administration facilities, new and improvements to county parks, and improved or new transportation facilities.   Currently the county’s largest identified project is a new courthouse.  The courthouse currently located at the corner of Route 1 and Courthouse Road is reaching, and many would say is already beyond, capacity.   Judges have been advocating for a new, larger courthouse to house the activity.

A new courthouse has been discussed for the past couple of years and the cost to build a new courthouse have ranged from $35 million to $70 million.

The CIP projects are financed long term through the sale of government bonds.   Each year the Board of Supervisors adopts a CIP concurrent with adoption of the budget.   While the county budget doesn’t outlay dollars for CIP projects, as the debt from the sale of bonds is incurred the debt payments are contained with the budget and are commonly referred to as “debt service”.

The school division continuously examines their student enrollment and capacity at all of the schools within the county.

Over the last six months the Board of Supervisors and School Board have been working on a new process to score, prioritize and put projects on the CIP.   During the process in the Fall of 2017 an additional elementary school was identified as a need and was recommended to a joint committee of members of both boards to include Elementary School #18 on the CIP.   This, along with a new courthouse and a previously identified need for an additional high school caused other projects to be pushed back.beyond the debt capacity and 10 year outlook of the CIP.  One of the projects included in the list that was pushed back is a rebuild of Ferry Farm Elementary School.

Originally built in 1957 Ferry Farm has been on the CIP for either a renovation or rebuild over the last 10 years.  With the threat of a large development known as Sherwood Farm on Route 3 the Board of Supervisors and School Board began to prepare for the project that could bring as many as 135 already approved new homes to the Ferry Farm Elementary School attendance zone, by planning for a rebuild of the school.   The plan called for a school with a capacity of 950 students, 220 more than the current school, to be built on the property where the school currently sits.  The rebuild plan would allow for the current school to continue to be used while the new building was built adjacent to the current one.  However, the Sherwood Farm project faced a number of hurdles, was never built and does not appear to ever be built.   The need for increased elementary school capacity has greatly reduced for the Ferry Farm Elementary School.  The current student population at Ferry Farm is 660 and the school has current capacity of 729.   The school has also been discussed to be renovated, much as nearby schools Grafton Village Elementary and Falmouth Elementary were in 2011 and 2013.

With the moving target of rebuilding or renovating Ferry Farm it has not received a permanent spot on the county’s CIP.   With other priorities driven by school capacity and the need for additional seats for elementary and high school students in other areas of the county, Ferry Farm Elementary rebuild or renovation was not recommend in the latest round of CIP projects.   That frustrated George Washington District School Board Member Dewayne McOsker.   Over the last year McOsker has been advocating for Ferry Farm rebuild or renovation to be included on the CIP.

In 2017 the Board of Supervisors and School Board adopted a CIP that included a “wedge” that included a slew of projects including Ferry Farm rebuilt.  Those projects were examined, scored and prioritized by the Joint CIP process and Ferry Farm was prioritize below a new elementary school, new high school and new courthouse.   With those three projects the debt capacity of the county would not support renovation or rebuild of Ferry Farm Elementary School.

McOsker has continued to speak out for the need to rebuild Ferry Farm Elementary School.  On March 7 he held a town hall meeting focused on the “Ferry Farm Elementary School Rebuild.”

However, the support from the Board of Supervisors and even the School Board may not be there for a full rebuild of Ferry Farm Elementary.  The question will become how much support and how much debt capacity is available to support a thorough renovation of the school?


And then there were 3 . . .

The field vying for the 1st Congressional US House District got a little smaller yesterday.   On the Republican side incumbent Congressman Rob Wittman appears to be on the road to avoiding any primary challenges this year and securing his position on the November ballot under the Republican column.  Things are a little less clear on the Democrat side.

Smelling blood in the water from recent Democrat success in elections across the country and the low popularity polls for President Donald Trump, Democrats are hoping to find success even in deep red districts like the 1st District in Virginia (America’s 1st District).   There were as many as 5 candidates once seeking the Democrat nomination to take on Wittman, however that number has now dropped to just three.  The latest candidate to pull his hat out of the ring is controversial Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers.

Sawyers appeared to the Democrats best chance of making any sort of dent in the 1st Congressional District.  He was elected in 2015 county-wide in trending-blue Prince William County.  He was leading the field of Democrat candidates in fundraising, having out raised his nearest competitor by more than a 2-1 margin.   His fundraising reached over $111,000 as of the last reporting cycle, which closed December 31, 2017.   Other candidates have raised between $9,000 and $25,000 which is far behind incumbent Wittman’s $626,274 in fundraising.


Edwin Santana $23,282
John Suddarth $26,855
Vangie Williams $9,629
Ryan Sawyers* $111,063
Tom Hicks* $45,165
  • Withdrew from the primary

The Democrats will face off in a Primary election on June 12.  All registered voters are eligible to vote in the election, however there will also be a Republican primary on the same day for U.S. Senate and in the George Washington Supervisor District there will likely be a Republican primary in that race on the same day.   Voters can only request the ballot of one of the two parties in primary and may only vote for candidates on that ballot.


The Stafford County Democratic Committee recently held a candidate forum.  You can watch it here to learn more about the candidates seeking the Democrat nomination.

Special Election for George Washington District Supervisor

With the resignation by Bob Thomas from the Board of Supervisors a vacancy was created. The vacancy in the George Washington district has since been filled by the appointment of Tom Coen to fill the seat until the Special Election now scheduled for November 6, 2018. By state code the Board of Supervisors had 45 days to fill the vacancy by appointment, and schedule a Special Election. The Supervisors opted to hold the Special Election concurrent with the 2018 General Election.

So the question becomes who will be seeking to serve the people of the George Washington District come November? Of course it becomes even trickier because the person who wins the election in November will serve the remainder of Bob Thomas term which expires in 2019, meaning there will be another election for the George Washington Supervisor district in November of 2019. In short, over the course of about 24 months the people of the George Washington District could have four different people representing them on the Board of Supervisors.

The Stafford County Republican Committee held a meeting in February in which Tom Coen announced his plan to seek to be elected to the seat he has been appointed to. At least two other candidates expressed their interest in running in the election and the Chairman of the GOP indicated she had heard from six people who are interested in running. The nomination process for the Republicans will be completed by primary and will be concurrent with primary election for US Senate and Congress on June 12th.

In addition to Coen, Gordon Silver and Tony DeTora also expressed their intent to seek the Republican nomination. On the Democrat side no one has yet emerged as a candidate, however the party has until June to nominate their candidate and any independent candidates have until June 12th to go through the filing process and declare their candidacy for the November election.