by Nick Miroff, The Washington Post
25 October 2006, p. B1
“Few candidates can resist walking in a high school homecoming parade, but Friday afternoon in Dale City, Corey A. Stewart was struggling to keep up with one. Wearing a heavy blue peacoat and a ‘Corey Stewart for Chairman’ sticker on his chest, he jogged at a brisk clip along Lindendale Road, weaving among the rifle-twirling marchers of the Hylton High School color guard to shake the hand of every possible eligible voter along the parade route.
” ‘Wow, that’s never happened to me before,’ Stewart said, having edged a little too close to the color guard rifles. ‘I just got hit.’
“It was just a glancing blow, and Stewart never broke stride, trotting after the red convertible that carried his Swedish-born wife, Maria, and their two sons, Isaac, 6, and Luke, 5, who were tossing candy from the back seat. Since he set his eyes on the chairmanship of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors last year, Stewart has been running at the same fervent pace, propelled by his single-minded fixation to curb residential development.
” ‘Smart growth is a loaded term,’ he said, explaining his slogan, ‘Controlled Growth for a Change,’ above the din of the marching band. ‘That’s why I went with “Controlled Growth.” ‘
“Stewart, 38, the Republican candidate for chairman, wants the Nov. 7 special election to be a referendum on development. More specifically, he wants to capitalize on voter frustration with it: the long commutes, the constant churn of construction, the crowded schools.
“Stewart has a folksy, down-home manner that makes him seem like a local, but as his critics like to point out, he is not. He has lived in Prince William for five years and has served on its board as the Occoquan district supervisor for three.
“But like most crusading candidates, Stewart is banking on a backlash. In fast-growing, traffic-crazed Prince William, he presents himself as a regular guy who reached his boiling point and decided to do something about it.
” ‘I was frustrated with the long commute to Washington, D.C.,’ said Stewart, an international trade lawyer for the K Street firm Foley & Lardner. ‘It would take an hour or an hour-and-a-half every day to get into Washington and back. And at the same time, I looked around and saw all this development and said, “This is ridiculous.” ‘
“Prince William’s development, of course, has been driven largely by the demand for new homes from commuting professionals like Stewart. But he insists he’s not seeking to shut the door on others.
” ‘I’m not trying to keep anybody out,’ Stewart said, adding that his plan to demand more money from developers for each house they build would slow construction. ‘I’m trying to manage and regulate growth so roads and schools can catch up.’
“What Stewart is fighting to preserve in Prince William, he said, are the quiet, leafy, all-American communities like the one where he grew up: Duluth, Minn.
“An avowed ‘conservative Republican,’ Stewart was raised in a Democratic household. His father was a longshoreman on the docks of Lake Superior — a union man — and Stewart said the two began to disagree about politics when he was a teenager, about the time Ronald Reagan inspired him to be a Republican. Study-abroad programs and a trip to communist-era Poland cemented Stewart’s views.
“In the race for the top position in Virginia’s second-largest county, Stewart’s anti-development absolutism is attracting the support of Democrats who say they’re looking for a bulwark against the bulldozers.
” ‘Corey is conservative, and I am not,’ said Liz Cronauer, a member of one of the local conservation groups that are backing Stewart over Democrat Sharon E. Pandak, a former county attorney. ‘But I believe Sharon Pandak will represent business as usual, and she will be a continuation of the things Sean Connaughton did.’
“Connaughton (R) resigned last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration, and the special election winner will serve the final 13 months of his term. He and Stewart clashed frequently.
” ‘At times you have to go to battle, and it’s going to get a little bloody,’ Stewart said. ‘I think it’s fair to say I’m a little stubborn and headstrong, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.’
“Some of Stewart’s colleagues disagree and question Stewart’s ability to reach a consensus. ‘He’s burned some bridges with others on the board, so he’s going to have to make some significant concessions to those people to get them back on his side,’ said Neabsco Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D), who backs Pandak.
“Stewart has been criticized for being overly ambitious and accused of wanting to use the chairmanship as a launch to higher office, a charge he doesn’t entirely reject. ‘I can’t say I’m never going to run for governor,’ he said. ‘It’s not even something I’m thinking about right now.’
“Stewart’s anti-development stance has also drawn the ire of many in the building industry. Roy Beckner, director of business development at S.W. Rodgers Co. Inc., circulated an e-mail last week telling others in the industry that he was ‘doing anything’ to get Pandak elected and claimed that Stewart had ‘attacked’ the industry by trying to raise the amount of money builders would pay for each home they construct.
” ‘He LIED to us & at every turn he has Criticized, Condemned & Complained publicly that our industry doesn’t pay its way,’ Beckner wrote.
” ‘Corey Stewart is a Revengeful, Untrustworthy, & an Unbelievably Contradictory person.’
“Stewart is unfazed by such charges. ‘I’m trying to control growth for quality-of-life purposes,’ he said. ‘If developers do not pay for the costs of development, residents do.’ “