Elections for the eight seats on the Prince William Board of Supervisors are still more than a year away, but the contests are already crowded with newcomers, five of whom filed paperwork to run in recent weeks.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, is on this year’s Nov. 6 ballot for U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D). But if he loses that race, two women have lined up (so far) for the Democratic nomination to challenge him: Ann Wheeler, of Haymarket, and Deshundra Jefferson, of Montclair.
Wheeler formally announced her candidacy Monday. Jefferson has yet to make a public statement, but says she’ll do so after the Nov. 6 election.
In the supervisors’ races, Democrats Kenny Boddye, Margaret Angela Franklin and L.T. Pridgen have announced their plans to run for the Occoquan, Woodbridge and Coles district seats, respectively.
Franklin’s bid effectively amounts to a primary challenge against Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge. But Franklin, a resident of Woodbridge’s Port Potomac area, insists it’s not a hostile move.
Franklin notes that Principi has yet to announce his plans for 2019 (he’s expected to consider a run for chair) and she said she felt it important to get in the race early to build name recognition and start raising support, a sentiment she shares with her fellow Democratic candidates.
Boddye, Franklin and Pridgen join Democrats Andrea Bailey, of Dumfries, and Maggie Hansford, of Bristow, who have already announced their bids for the Potomac and Brentsville district seats, respectively. That leaves only the Gainesville District seat, currently held by Supervisor Pete Candland (R) without a Democratic challenger.
But that will likely change, says Principi, who says he’s excited to see so many Democratic newcomers vie for slots on the county board. Principi said he helped recruit candidates to build a local Democratic bench and is glad to see his efforts pay off even if it means he’ll face a primary challenge next spring.
“I’m happy to be a part of it,” Principi said. “We’ll have Democrats contesting every seat [on the board of supervisors] next year. That’s for sure.”
Issues: schools, transportation and unseating Corey Stewart
All of the candidates mentioned transportation, education and economic development among the top issues they’ll pursue if elected to the board.
All also said they are running in part to make the county board more reflective of the county’s minority-majority population and its values.
In her announcement, Wheeler, a longtime community volunteer with a degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA from the University of Chicago, said Prince William County has “suffered” under Stewart’s leadership.
“Prince William County’s reputation has declined and suffered throughout Virginia and the country with the divisive and embarrassing rhetoric under Corey Stewart’s 12-year tenure,” Wheeler said in a statement issued Monday. “Mr. Stewart’s limited vision and short-sightedness has left our county with some of the most overcrowded schools and worst traffic in the region. The election in 2019 must see a change in the direction we have been heading.”
That sentiment was echoed by Wheeler’s fellow Democratic candidates. Boddye, 31, said Prince William County “is not the community of Corey Stewart,” who has become known, in recent years, for his defense of Confederate monuments and his past associations with white supremacists.
Franklin, 32, a legislative director to a Florida Congressman Al Lawson, said she “takes issue” with Stewart’s policies and rhetoric.
“I don’t think he’s been good for the county; I don’t think he’s good for the commonwealth; and I don’t think he’s good for his party,” Franklin said. “He is someone I think needs to go, and he will be an important part of the conversation for 2019 If he decides to run for re-election.”
If Stewart’s name is on the ballot again, Franklin says she expects his candidacy to motivate Democrats and other voters turned off by his divisive rhetoric.
“I think that will bring people out to say enough is enough,” she said.
Despite being Virginia’s largest minority-majority county, Prince William voters have never elected an African-American supervisor. But the board lacks diversity in other ways too, all the candidates said, including in age and lifestyle.
Boddye, who regularly travels outside the county for his job as business development manager for an insurance firm, notes that none of the current supervisors are commuters.
“So, we don’t just want diversity for the sake of diversity. We want diversity because that is going to reflect how people make their choices,” Boddye said.
The candidates are also talking a lot about the county’s overcrowded and, they say, “underfunded” schools and the need to pay teachers and school staff members more to keep them from taking jobs in nearby counties.
“I will ensure our school system is adequately funded. The number of schools has not kept up with development. We have the largest class sizes in the state and the lowest paid teachers in the region,” Wheeler said. “The board of county supervisors controls the funding for our schools, and they have woefully underfunded them. When elected to the board, I will make it one of my primary missions to make sure we build the schools we need as well as pay our teachers what they deserve.”
Here’s more information about each of the candidates:
Kenny Boddye, candidate for Occoquan supervisor:
Boddye last ran for office in 2017 when he vied for the 51st District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He lost in the primary to Del. Hala Ayala, a Democrat who won the November race, unseating former Del. Rich Anderson, whose wife, Ruth Anderson, currently holds the seat for which Boddye is running.
Boddye is originally from Los Angeles but came to the area to attend college at Georgetown University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with minors in English and Japanese. He’s lived in Prince William County since 2013.
Boddye says his top issues are education, transportation and transit and human services, especially homelessness.
Boddye said the county must boost its bus service to move more commuters to the county’s VRE stations as a strategy to ease traffic on two perpetually congested roadways: Old Bridge Road and Prince William Parkway.
On homelessness, Boddye said he’d like to see county leaders negotiate with developers to set aside affordable housing, particularly in apartment buildings.
Boddye said he cares about such issues because he understands what it’s like to live with economic uncertainty. Boddye’s mother was a nurse but also struggled with substance abuse and homelessness. He said his only brother has been in and out of prison for the last several years.
“I’ve had my fair share of struggles and I understand what happens when our local government is failing to do what it’s supposed to be doing to help people,” Boddye said. “But I also have seen what can happen when someone tries to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Margaret Angela Franklin, candidate for Woodbridge supervisor
As a commuter, Franklin understands the struggle to get from the county to Washington every day. Franklin said she usually slugs to work or takes the bus for a daily commute that ranges between 45 minutes and an hour and 15 minutes.
Franklin said she supports extending Metro to Prince William but understands it won’t happen for several years. In the interim, she said she’d like the county to have a more efficient bus system that serves all the county’s shopping and job hubs – including Potomac Mills mall and Stonebridge at Potomac Town Place.
“What I would like to see in Woodbridge is a more efficient, more consistent public transportation system that gives people transportation options rather than just staying in their cars,” she said.
Franklin said she’s also concerned that buying a home is out of reach for too many county residents and that the current board of supervisors isn’t listening to the school board and truly addressing the needs of local schools. Franklin is Principi’s appointee on the PRTC Board of Directors and served as the vice chair of the Prince William County Democratic Committee and chair of the Woodbridge Democratic Committee. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Howard University.
“I am an everyday person. I commute like regular people… I want to be able to afford a home in Woodbridge,” Franklin said. “…This campaign is about really moving Woodbridge forward.”
L.T. Pridgen, candidate for Coles supervisor
Pridgen, 44, is a native of Dallas, Texas, who took a job in Northern Virginia in 2013 and works as a project manager for CarFax. She is a first-generation college student who earned her bachelor’s degree in management accounting and an MBA from Temple University.
Pridgen is also a survivor of childhood sexual assault. She launched a nonprofit called “Stomp Out the Silence” that advocates for greater awareness of child sexual assault and how to recognize and report victims and their abusers. She and her wife live outside Manassas. They are training to become foster parents, Pridgen said.
“I have always believed that none of us are ok until all of us are ok, and so I just feel like there are too many people who are not ok, and I feel like a lot of those people don’t have a voice,” she said.
Pridgen said she would work to reduce overcrowding in schools, increase teacher pay and attract more businesses and high-paying jobs to Prince William.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I bring a piece of the puzzle,” she said.
Ann Wheeler, candidate for board chair
Wheeler has lived in Prince William County since 2001. She last ran for office in 2011, when she vied for the Gainesville seat on the board of supervisors, a race she lost to Candland.
Wheeler has served as NOVEC board member for 14 years, on the Hylton Performing Arts Center board for two years and recently completed a two-year term as president of the Prince William Committee of 100, a non-partisan civic organization that provides a forum to raise awareness of county issues. Wheeler also served as chair of the Prince William County Board of Social Services from 2010-2011.
Wheeler said education and economic development would be her focus as chair of the county board.
“I will make Prince William County attractive and welcoming to large and small prospective businesses,” Wheeler said. “Every four years we hear candidates campaign on bringing more commercial business to the county, yet our homeowners are still paying over 80 percent of the county real-estate taxes. This needs to change. The board’s goal of adding only 500 jobs a year, in a county of 458,000, is shortchanging our taxpayers.”
Reach Jill Palermo at email@example.com