Republican Jeanine Lawson won Tuesday’s special election for the Brentsville seat on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors by a wide margin, beating her two challengers with about 75 percent of the vote.
With all but one precinct reporting, Lawson pulled in more than 2,800 votes, about two-thirds of the 3,707 ballots cast in the three-way race.
Independent candidate Scott Jacobs, a Nokesville native and real estate agent, came in second with more than 558 votes, or 15 percent, while Democratic candidate Eric Young trailed in third place with about 346 votes.
Lawson, 45, was an early favorite in the Republican-leaning district. She had been a candidate for the same seat back in 2011 and only narrowly lost to former Supervisor Wally Covington.
The pre-holiday special election was prompted by Covington’s September resignation, which followed his appointment to a judgeship on the county’s district court.
“I’m very excited, I’m thrilled,” Lawson said shortly after the votes were tallied Tuesday night. “It’s a great Christmas gift.”
Lawson said the results prove Brentsville voters agree with her message of slowing growth in the Brentsville district, which straddles the booming Linton Hall corridor and the county’s Rural Crescent, where development is limited to one house per 10 acres.
“I think the voters sent a very strong message that they agree with my positions on balancing growth, reducing our class sizes and keeping our taxes low,” she said.
Throughout the campaign, Lawson promised she would fight to slow residential growth in the Linton Hall area as a means to ease school overcrowding and traffic congestion.
Lawson also campaigned as an opponent to the controversial Stone Haven housing development that proposes 1,650 new homes and townhomes for a currently undeveloped area just south of Jiffy Lube Live.
The development won the support of both the planning commission and the school board for the more than $90 million in proffers it promises to the county, including a $24 million site for a 13th high school, which is needed to relieve overcrowding at nearby Patriot and Battlefield high schools.
But Lawson agreed with opponents who say the project will only exacerbate school overcrowding by adding more residents and school children to already crowded schools.
Supervisors considered the project in October but deferred action until after the special election election.
While greeting voters at Brentsville High School Tuesday, Lawson said she believes there are enough votes to block the project when it comes up for a vote Jan. 20.
“I believe there are enough supervisors who are reluctant to vote for that massive residential development,” Lawson said.
School officials, she added, are likely searching for a “plan B” for the high school site, “and that’s a good thing,” she added.
Young also opposed Stone Haven, mostly because he said it didn’t offer enough road improvements to alleviate area traffic congestion.
Jacobs promised to support Stone Haven if elected. In general, Jacobs has said he is in favor of allowing rural landowners additional options for their properties, as long as the county retains some means of preserving rural farms.
Jacobs said he wasn’t sure whether the development was a driving factor in the election, but said some supporters of the project voted for him when they understood he would have voted for it if elected to the board.
“My decision to support Stone Haven will be unwavering whether I get elected or not,” he said.
Turnout for the Dec. 23 election was just more than 9 percent, higher than the 7 percent Acting Voter Registrar Rokey Suleman had predicted for the holiday-timed contest.
Suleman said the county would have liked to avoid having the election so close to the Christmas holiday. But state law requires a vacancy on the Prince William Board of Supervisors to be filled by an election – not an appointment – that must take place between 45 and 60 days after a sitting member’s resignation.
Covington resigned too late for the election to coincide with the November General Election, making Dec. 23 the next possible date.
It’s not clear exactly when Lawson will be sworn in to her new position, but it will likely be before the supervisors’ first meeting of the new year on Jan. 6.
Like all current members of the board of supervisors, Lawson will have to run again next November, when all seats are up for re-election. Lawson said she would likely defend her win next fall.
Jacobs said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll try again.
“One step at a time,” he said Tuesday. “We’ll see how it goes.”