The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
NAACP hosts Stafford candidates
By a show of hands, most of the people who attended the biannual NAACP candidate forum Thursday knew who they were supporting in Stafford County’s upcoming elections before the candidates even started talking.
That was just as well—little of what was said Thursday was new, and candidates didn’t offer too many concrete solutions for issues facing the county.
Still, the event at Brooke Point High School offered voters, family, campaign staff and friends a chance to hear from those running for the Board of Supervisors, School Board and two House of Delegates seats. The 2nd and 88th Districts both include parts of Stafford.
Questions came from the fluctuating crowd of up to about 150 people, but few were district-specific. Eight candidates crammed around the table on the school’s auditorium stage for the first half of the program, and 10 in the second part.
Three candidates are running for the Falmouth supervisor seat—independent Robert Belman, Republican Meg Bohmke and Democrat Valerie Setzer.
Democrat Laura Sellers is taking on incumbent Ty Schieber, a Republican, for the Garrisonville District.
Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde’s challenger, political newcomer Mara Sealock, was not present. The Stafford Democratic Committee has said she is running a minimal campaign.
Hartwood Supervisor Gary Snellings is running unopposed; he was not present either.
One of the first questions focused on campaign contributions, specifically asking candidates if they had received money from developers and if they believe that presents a conflict of interests.
“My vote would never be for sale, and it doesn’t need to be,” said Milde, who has far outraised anyone else in Stafford. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, he raised $154,000 and as of Aug. 31, had $70,480 on hand. More than $17,000 comes from the real estate and construction industry.
Belman, a longtime Realtor, said he has no problem accepting money, and that any project has to stand on its own merits. He has the second highest campaign fund, with $17,300 raised and $7,400 on hand as of Aug. 31.
Bohmke said she didn’t want to be influenced or give a perception that she had been.
“I want the developer to be on the other side of the table from me where I have the ability to negotiate with them 100 percent,” said Bohmke. No contributions to her campaign are labeled as related to construction or real estate.
Schieber said he had received a few unsolicited developer donations. Setzer said she needed to do more research about whether it’s ethical to accept such donations. And Sellers said though she had not received money from developers, the more important question is about a candidate themselves.
“If a candidate lacks integrity, he lacks integrity,” she said. “They’re going to [approve a project] whether a developer gave them money or not. I don’t know if it’s something worth harping on too much.”
In response to a question about encouraging job growth in Stafford, incumbents touted accomplishments from their current terms, such as the Quantico Corporate Center and the research and technology park that is taking hold there.
Many candidates hoped to advance plans for a much talked about career and technical education center that’d be part of the school system. Schieber said education is directly linked to economic development. Many also said they’d like to increase commercial growth.
Sellers said she’d want to make sure that growth is targeted—and court the two companies that residents have overwhelmingly told her they wish they had: Cheesecake Factory and Trader Joe’s. She also wants to offer a forensic vocational school since the industry is closely tied to Stafford, and for the county to build and operate a firing range certified by the U.S. General Services Administration.
The crowd found Sellers to be one of the most dynamic candidates and cheered after many of her answers.
The first half of the forum also included Del. Mark Dudenhefer and his challenger, Michael Futrell, a Democrat.
Meanwhile Del. Mark Cole and Democratic opponent Kathleen O’Halloran participated in the second half, along with eight School Board candidates.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975