Considering how most of the Democrats who represent Fairfax endorsed Jeff McKay shortly after he entered the primary for Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and many activists quickly got behind his campaign, the race wasn’t supposed to be all that exciting. What did gather a lot of attention, however, was Tim Chapman’s decision to run an extremely negative campaign almost from the outset.
For those who don’t know, Chapman is a developer who has identified as a Republican in the past and even gave tens of thousands of dollars to right wing extremists like Ken Cuccinelli before deciding to enter the Democratic primary for Chairman. Chapman then proceeded to go extremely negative during the campaign and launched attacks against McKay instead of trying to build up his own candidacy.
In a time when there’s a lot of concern about corruption of public officials and many Democrats have expressed concerns about their party’s leaders being too close with the business community, one of the biggest attacks Chapman launched was an accusation that McKay used his position as Lee District supervisor to get a good deal on a home he purchased. Ironically, Chapman was trying to draw negative attention to McKay’s relationships with developers even though Chapman himself is a developer.
Throughout the primary, Chapman frequently decided against talking about his own background and instead decided to focus in on his various attacks on McCain. This wasn’t lost on leaders inside the Democratic Party and people spoke out during the campaign and in post-primary analysis last night.
While speaking at an election night party in Springfield last night, Rep. Gerry Connolly went after Tim Chapman (without directly mentioning his name) for running a negative campaign. He accused Chapman of running “a smear campaign” and claimed the election results showed how voters want a more substantive debate from local candidates. The comments appeared to resonated with the crowd of long time Democratic activists who appreciate the need to run a civil campaign that can hopefully unite the party after a hard fought primary.
Connolly also highlighted how you can’t just combine negative campaigning with spending enormous amounts of money and expect to win a race that’s truly about building relationships with the community. In the Congressman’s opinion, this is especially the case when the enormous amount of money being spent also draws attention to how Chapman had donated enormous amounts of money to extremely conservative people like Ken Cuccinelli and now hopes to represent the Democratic Party on the ballot in November. That simply reeks of opportunism.
During his victory speech at the same event, Jeff McKay touched on many of the same points Connolly mentioned — though his comments were also part of larger remarks about what he hopes to accomplish during the campaign and once he’s Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. He specifically thanked Ryan McElveen and Alicia Plerhoples, for instance, but paused after their names in what was perhaps an attempt to make sure people realized he left off Chapman’s name (a move that received a few chuckles from the crowd). He also pointed to the election results as evidence that voters “strongly rejected” the negative campaign tactics Chapman used.
McKay was definitely correct that the results represented a sound rejection of Chapman’s campaign. He was the only candidate who failed to reach the 10,000 vote tally (he received 6,848) or reach double digits in terms of percentage of the overall vote (he received 9.8 percent). Chapman was also the only candidate who failed to win a single precinct, which truly says something because it means he couldn’t even get people in his own neighborhood to support his candidacy.
Looking at the latest campaign finance reports, it’s also painfully obvious that Chapman was trying to use his personal wealth in order to buy himself a spot on the Board of Supervisors. Over the course of the campaign, he loaned the campaign $845,094 which is $200,000 more than the $583,093 McKay raised and about five times the amount Plerphoples ($144,016) and McElveen ($113,840) raised for their campaigns.
When you break it down statistically, Chapman loaned himself $123.41 per vote that he won in the primary. This is wildly inefficient as McElveen only raised $9.94 per vote, Plerhoples raised $6.57 per vote, and McKay raised $19.64 per vote. In other words, Chapman’s totals were more than six times the amount per vote than his nearest competitor in the category — and that doesn’t even factor in how McKay has money left over for the general election. Since Chapman was trying to use his business background as part of the reasoning behind why voters should support him, his inability to spend his own money efficiently should provide a clue as to how unqualified he is for the position.
As most candidates who lost their respective primaries are already taking on a tone of trying to help their party’s nominee win in November, Chapman’s negative campaigning has left a lot of people with a sour taste in their mouth. Since Alicia Plerhoples is going to be active with Virginia Democracy Forward and Ryan McElveen will remain active in the community as well, their contributions to the political conversation might result in their name being mentioned for future political opportunities. Chapman, however, is unlikely to be at the top of any Democrat’s list for positions representing Fairfax County.