Sickles, Center Win in Lee District

Sickles, Center Win in Lee District

After all the sign wars and personal attacks in the 43rd District race, challenger Mark Sickles (D) defeated incumbent Tom Bolvin with 54 percent of the votes in the 22 precincts.

This was the second time Sickles challenged Bolvin, but he felt it was a double-thrusted effort.

"This was a two-year effort. It wasn't just one campaign," Sickles said to an elated Lee District crowd gathered at the Hard Times Cafe in Springfield. Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) and Lee District School Board candidate Brad Center shared a campaign office with Sickles. Kauffman attributed the victory to Sickles’ attention to development regulation. It was something Bolvin focused on to beat Gladys Keating.

"It's something that Tom ran on to beat Gladys, and then it was turned on him," Kauffman said.

Better managed growth was on Sickles’ agenda throughout the race.

Kauffman's chief of staff, Jeff McKay, was following the race as well. He looked at the changing demographics in Lee District.

"Lee District is always changing. They're not interested in seat belts and cell phones," which were two issues Bolvin passed bills on while in office, McKay said.

Early on election night, Bolvin was down by almost 1,000 votes with only three precincts left — a margin that would be impossible to make up. He then called Sickles and conceded the election. Last election, Bolvin won by only 313 votes.

"I'm so glad we have this district back where it belongs," said former Del. Gladys Keating. Sickles had worked in Keating’s office in the past.

Ed Joseph is one of Sickle’s supporters.

"He knows the issues and wants to do the right thing," Joseph said.

Springfield resident Colin Horner wanted change.

"I have concern for the direction that our political system is going. It's tending toward too much extremism," Horner said.

Afterward, Bolvin went to the American Legion post in central Springfield, where the Republicans were gathering. He dismissed the notion of development as a decisive issue.

"I think he tried to make it a big issue. Mark did a lot of door-to-door and brought out the Democratic voters. The 43rd District is getting a different kind of delegate," Bolvin said.

Sickles did a lot of "good old-fashioned hard work," Kauffman said.

In Fairfax, another Democratic seat was won in the Virginia General Assembly when Stephen Shannon defeated Republican Robert McDowell in the 35th District.

THAT METHOD of getting out to the people was the secret of Center, the new Lee District School Board representative. After Chris Braunlich left the School Board to challenge Linda "Toddy" Puller in the 36th Senate District, Center ran against Franconia resident Terri DeCales. Although DeCales had over 20 years’ experience in the schools, Center went out and met face-to-face with many voters.

"It's the personal contact. They can connect to that," he said.

Center spent much time as a substitute teacher and was instrumental in getting the Island Creek Elementary School built in Kingstowne. Center has two things to focus on when he gets on the Board. One is to get the Board to work together and to align the budget and planning.

"We're all in it for the kids," Center said.

In the Springfield school district, incumbent Cathy Belter felt the face-to-face contact with voters was to her advantage also.

"It's that one-on-one that really helped me win the election," Belter said.

Two issues on her agenda included class size and budget. A pledge by Gov. Mark Warner (D) concerning standards of quality in grades K-12 is on the top of her list.

"I will be working down in Richmond and see if I can hold the governor to his K-12 pledge," Belter said.

Belter is also keeping an eye on the public/private partnership being used to fund the South County High School. She may resort to that method of funding when it comes to building additional schools in the future.

"That's what were hoping to do with some other schools," she said.

Belter received 11,267 votes to Martin's 8,792 votes.