I can’t help but wonder if some pro-business Leesburg residents who voted for Republican Ken Reid last November are now experiencing buyer’s remorse, since Reid has emerged as an opponent of the extension of Dulles Metrorail into Loudoun County.
I’m not surprised that Reid is against the project. He made his name in Loudoun County as a populist advocate for cars and drivers. He has favored new and improved roads and bus rapid transit. Rail was never among his priorities.
Reid’s opponent, Democratic incumbent Kelly Burk, on the other hand, was a strong supporter of the Metrorail project, which may be the most important economic development project to come to Loudoun County since Dulles Airport opened 50 years ago.
The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce has strongly supported the project for many reasons, including the business it would generate and the jobs that would be created.
But it appears that Reid found a very clever strategy to dodge the Metrorail issue during his campaign for the Leesburg District seat on the Board of Supervisors last year.
On his campaign website, he said that, “the extension of Metro to Dulles Airport and Loudoun seems to be a certainty.” He went on to express concern about the cost to toll payers and taxpayers, as well as the project labor agreements that have been criticized by anti-union Republicans.
Although he expressed reservations about the project, there was no mention of the possibility that he might vote to kill the project because, as he said, the project seemed to be a done deal.
Now, with only four of the nine Republican supervisors signaling that they support the project, Reid’s vote – which would have been Burk’s, had she been elected – could prove to be decisive.
Reid now says, in a statement on his website, “It appeared to me last fall, while running for the Board, that Metro was a done deal, but the costs to taxpayers were a big problem. I have never liked the Dulles Rail project…” He goes on to say that, from 2002-2006, he “was engaged as a part-time consultant to propose bus rapid transit and carpooling as a cheaper alternative.”
So what appeared to be a done deal last year is now coming perilously close to coming undone.
But did it really seem to be a certainty last year?
On June 6, 2011 – five months before the election – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said on WMAL that he wanted the rail project to die.
“I hope they don’t do Phase Two,” he said bluntly.
He also predicted that the rail project would be a central issue in the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors elections that fall, adding, “I hope [the voters] elect an entire board who’s committed to pulling out of Phase Two to kill it.”
Cuccinelli’s words were widely reported in the media at the time. In fact, Leesburg Today reported that his comments were mentioned just a few days later at a forum sponsored by the Potomac Station HOA.
When an audience member asked Reid to state his position on the rail project, in light of Cuccinelli’s remarks, Reid reportedly responded by saying that he supported the board’s initiative to keep the Metro station at Dulles Airport above-ground.
Leesburg Today then quoted Reid as saying that the rail project “is going to happen. I just hope the cost over-runs will not be so severe.”
I remember my surprise at reading those words back in June. In my July 14, Inside Out column, I listed ten reasons why I believed Loudoun County would ultimately get Metrorail.
When I was compiling my list, I considered another one that didn’t quite make my Top Ten: “Because Ken Reid says it will happen.”
Reid’s opinion was important, I thought, because he seemed to be signaling that he would not oppose the project. Coming from a self-styled transportation expert who would not have been expected to support the project, his words carried some weight. But my skepticism at the time kept me from adding his comment to my list.
So, while Reid now says that the project appeared to be a certainty last summer, Cuccinelli’s comments had clearly opened up the possibility that the soon-to-be-elected Loudoun supervisors would be in a position to kill it.
Reid defeated Burk in the November by just 190 votes, with a winning margin of three percent. If 100 Reid voters had instead voted for Burk, she would have won.
Again, I can’t help but wonder if there are 100 pro-business Reid voters who would be chagrined to see their candidate cast the deciding vote to kill the project. Buyer’s remorse, indeed!