WINCHESTER — Three candidates made their case to the Frederick County Republican Committee on Tuesday night about why they should be the GOP nominee for the Shawnee District seat on the county's Board of Supervisors.
A special election for the seat will be Nov. 3.
The committee will chose its nominee during a party canvass from 4-7 p.m. March 24 at Millwood Station Banquet Hall, 252 Costello Drive. Only voters registered in the Shawnee District may vote. Voters must sign a pledge to support the nominee on Election Day.
The Shawnee District seat is temporarily filled by Republican Gene Fisher. He was appointed by the Board of Supervisors after independent Shannon Trout stepped down in November to move to California.
The person elected on Nov. 3 will serve the remainder of Trout's four-year term, which expires Dec. 31, 2021. Supervisors are paid $9,000 annually.
Those seeking the GOP nomination are firefighter J. Kermit Gaither, Shenandoah University accountant Elaine Holliday and retired congressional staffer David Stegmaier.
Gaither is a lieutenant with the Warren County Fire and Rescue Department, where he has worked since 1999. He also has been employed with the Winchester Sheriff’s Office as a deputy since 2015. In November, he was elected to the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. He is a graduate of the county's James Wood High School.
Gaither told the committee he wants to improve communication with residents and "make Frederick County great." He said he doesn't have a yes or no response when it comes to raising county taxes.
"I'd have to get in there first to see what we have to work with [and] reach out to the citizens and see what they want to do," Gaither said. "And I would like to give a [tax] break to people over 60. If I can give a break to them, I’d love to do that.”
Committee Vice Chairman Gary Lofton said some Republicans are concerned about Gaither’s political allegiance, since he previously supported 10th District Rep. Jennifer Wexton and state Senate candidate Ronnie Ross, both Democrats. Lofton asked why people should believe he is a Republican and not a Democrat or independent.
Gaither responded that he likes to network with people, but the GOP has never reached out to him.
“The Democrats were really friendly to me, but right now I can’t support them,” Gaither said. “That’s why I came to [be] Republican. I’d probably like to stay independent, but I want to make the Republicans better. I know a lot of people in the county, and I went to school with different people and we always get along no matter what party we are in. I wish there wasn’t a party. I’m a network kind of person and I get along with everybody. I’ve been in this area a long time and I wish I could get your support. I’m a nice guy.”
Holliday is a lifelong county resident and has lived in the Shawnee District for 14 years. She is a senior accountant with Shenandoah University. She is an adviser to the university's Student Investment Club and mentors young women pursuing business degrees.
If elected, she said she plans to use her financial background to be a responsible steward of taxpayer money.
“I am not an advocate of tax increases,” Holliday said. “It would have to be something that really is a necessity for an increase in taxes, because I think we are taxed enough.”
Holliday received her master's in business administration from Shenandoah University. She earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Liberty University and an associate degree in accounting from Lord Fairfax Community college. She is a graduate of James Wood High School.
Stegmaier, who is retired, previously worked as community outreach director for former 10th District Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock. He served as chairman of the Frederick County Republican Committee from 2009-2011. He ran for the at-large seat on the county's School Board in November, but he lost to Brian Hester.
Stegmaier said being retired will allow him to dedicate more time and energy to being the Shawnee District supervisor.
A Virginia resident since 2007, he described himself as a "strong Trump supporter" and said the Democratic Party will transform Virginia and the country "into something we would not recognize and would find totally obscene.”
He was critical of Democrats on gun control, saying they “desire to ultimately take away our ability to defend ourselves and our loved ones.” He also bemoaned "the LGBTQ agenda" and what he called “the devastating effect on our lives of political correctness, which falsely makes people into victims and oppressors.”
“So in everything that we do, including me as a candidate for supervisor, you and I need to talk to others about the incredibly high stakes that are involved in the upcoming elections and the absolutely clear choice that the Democrats have given us between capitalism and socialism, between having God in our lives and turning our backs on him,” Stegmaier said.
Stegmaier has a law degree from Richardson School of Law, a bachelor's degree in social science/secondary education from Rhode Island College and a bachelor's degree in political science from Earlham College.
Candidates not seeking the Frederick County Republican Committee's nomination for the Shawnee District seat have until Aug. 14 to file their paperwork with the general registrar.
Also at the meeting, gun rights activist and former Frederick County School Board candidate Susan Shick was named the committee's new chairwoman. She replaces Tim Stowe. Shick was the only candidate for the position.
“She’s got the connections and has a very conservative heart,” Stowe said. “I think she is going to be a great leader.”