Rep. Gerald Connolly (D)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: March 30, 1950, Boston, MA .
Education: Maryknoll Col., B.A. 1971; Harvard U., M.A. 1979.
Family: Married (Cathy); 1 child.
Elected office: Fairfax Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 1995-2008, Chmn., 2004-08.
Professional Career: Non-profit executive; U.S. Senate aide; Defense contractor.
The new congressman from the 11th district is Gerald Connolly, a Democrat elected in 2008 to the open seat left by retiring Republican Rep. Tom Davis. Connolly grew up in the Boston area. He considered joining the priesthood, and studied for six years at a Catholic seminary. But his interest in public policy led him to Washington, D.C., after college, where in the 1970s he managed the American Freedom from Hunger Fund and the U.S. Committee on Refugees. He got a master’s degree from Harvard and worked for a decade on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he specialized in Middle Eastern affairs and foreign aid. In 1989, he left Capitol Hill to run the Washington office of Stanford Research Institute International, and then became vice president of the San Diego-based defense contractor SAIC. In 1995, Connolly won a seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, whose former chairman, Davis, had been elected to the 11th District seat in 1994. In 2003, Connolly was elected board chairman, putting him in charge of a large local government at a time of rapid growth. Transportation was a major preoccupation, and his biggest project was the Metrorail extension from Tysons Corner to Dulles. Connolly was attacked for backing an above-ground line rather than a more expensive tunnel.
|Gerald Connolly (D)||196,598||(55%)||($1,974,640)|
|Keith Fimian (R)||154,758||(43%)||($2,010,087)|
|Joseph Oddo (Green)||7,271||(2%)|
|Gerald Connolly (D)||14,233||(58%)|
|Leslie Byrne (D)||8,196||(33%)|
|Douglas Denneny (D)||1,508||(6%)|
In these battles, Connolly worked with Davis, who paid close attention to local issues as well as playing a major national role as the chairman of National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2000 and 2002 election seasons. But Davis, an expert on political demographics, could see that Northern Virginia was changing, a lesson that was driven home when his wife, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, was defeated for re-election to the state Senate in November 2007. In January 2008, Davis announced he would not seek re-election. Connolly was obviously a prime candidate for the office. Also getting into the primary however was former U.S. Rep. Leslie Byrne, who was defeated in the 11th District in 1994 by Davis. She had the backing of the national women’s fundraising group EMILY’s List, but Connolly outpaced her in fundraising, in part because of his support from defense contractors. Both ran as solid liberals. Byrne said Connolly’s contributions from defense contractors cast doubt on his opposition to the Iraq war. Byrne was endorsed by Democratic Sen. Webb, but Connolly was endorsed by Byrne’s 2005 running mate when she ran for lieutenant governor, Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine. In a low turnout June primary—only 24,000 people voted—Connolly won by a solid 58%-33%.
The Republican nominee was Keith Fimian, a businessman and newcomer to Northern Virginia politics who self-financed much of his campaign. Democrats attacked Fimian as a conservative on cultural issues, in contrast to Davis’ moderate record, and Fimian got little help from national Republicans. Connolly won by a solid 55%-43%. Connolly’s victory, and that of 8th District incumbent Democratic Rep. Jim Moran, means that most of Northern Virginia is now represented by Boston natives with thick Massachusetts accents.