Linda Smyth, a one-term incumbent representing the Providence District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, will be facing competition in her re-election campaign—not from a Republican challenger, but from within her own party.
Charles “Charlie” Hall, a media relations officer for the American Bar Association and former writer and editor for the Washington Post, will be listed opposite Smyth on the June 12 Democratic primary ballot in all the polling places located within the Providence District.
In a rousing pre-primary event at the James Lee Community Center last week, the two Democrats squared off in a lively debate.
Speaking to a packed auditorium, the candidates answered constituent questions ranging from the improving schools and protecting the environment to the increasingly contentious issue of development within the county.
Despite the wide array of questions, most of the audience’s concerns hinged on the issues of growth and development.
Following a year when Fairfax County saw the completion of the West Falls Church parking complex and experienced renewed calls for a viable solution to extending Metro to the Tyson’s Corner area, the issue is the largest wedge between the candidates, and the most likely to determine who will fill the Providence supervisor position for the next four years.
Hall’s chances, in particular, rest on how voters perceive his differences with Smyth on the issues of growth and development.
In her opening statement, Smyth was quick to reference her strong track record in completing projects and bringing new homes and businesses to the Providence district.
Hall countered this by lamenting the lack of planning for the projects, saying they’ve lead to traffic gridlock. He pointed to Smyth’s lack of involvement and interaction with impacted communities.
While both candidates were in concert on the issue of Metro expansion, both favoring an underground solution to the expansion of Metro through Tysons Corner, there was little more common ground.
Responding to a question on McMansions (the expansion or construction of larger houses on small lots), Smyth referenced her efforts to close loopholes in the housing code that have allowed builders to increase the size of structures to unforeseen proportions, often with negative consequence for neighboring homes and individuals.
In his response, Hall attempted to paint Smyth as a representative who has not listened to the concerns of communities about such projects, kowtowing to developers who prefer to push projects through under the radar.
Smyth won a Democratic Primary in 2003, defeating another “responsible growth” advocate before besting Republican James Hyland in the general election later that year.
To date, the largest single sector to donate to the Smyth campaign has been the “Real Estate/Construction” sector, reportedly contributing $14,543 of her $77,856 in funds. Hall has raised less than $4000, with $500 arriving from the developer camp.