Chairman foes squabble over money

Prince William Chairman Corey A. Stewart, R-at large, said his Democratic opponent, Sharon Pandak, should return some of her campaign money.

“It’s one thing to take money from a developer,” Stewart said. “It’s another thing to take money from the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, whose sole purpose is to advocate for developer interests. Especially considering that those interests are adverse to the county’s interests.”

The association, her single largest contributor, gave Pandak $10,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that tracks campaign contributions in Virginia.

Pandak has raised $136,746 since last year’s special November election, when she first ran against Stewart for the chairman’s seat.

Stewart has raised $92,770.

Pandak’s campaign has received $35,300 from the real estate and construction industry, while Stewart’s campaign has received $30,340 from the real estate and construction industry.

Pandak said Stewart is running a “smear campaign” and when he gives back all of his developer money, she will consider returning hers.

Stewart said the difference is in the kind of developer that donates to the campaigns.

“Most of my money from the development community comes from office and retail and other commercial developers,” Stewart said.

“I’ve been encouraging commercial development. It’s positive for the county,” he said.

Stewart’s antipathy toward residential development precludes campaign donations from developers, he said.

“Very little of my money comes from housing developers, because they don’t like me all that much,” Stewart said.

In a recent press release, Stewart called Pandak a “shill” for developers and implied that Pandak is against increasing proffers.

Stewart said in the release that one only had to “connect the dots.” Since the association has consistently opposed proffer increases, Pandak must also oppose proffer increases, Stewart implied.

Pandak said there are no dots to connect.

She said her record belies the implication. She helped create the county’s proffer guidelines in the late 1990s when she was county attorney.

“My 15 years as county attorney clearly indicates that I can’t be bought by anybody,” said Pandak, who worked for Prince William County for a total of 25 years.

“I have made no commitment to the Northern Virginia Builders Association or to anyone else. My sole commitment has been to act in the best interest of the people of Prince William County,” she said.

She said she’s not opposed to raising proffers.She said the people she hears from in the business community say they want someone they can trust regardless of whether they agree with her, and she might not be the best bet for developers either.

“I’m the best of two bad alternatives,” Pandak said of the developers’ choices. “I’m straightforward. I’m candid. I’m consistent, and Corey is none of those.”

Stewart was unswayed.

“I highly doubt that they’re going to give $10,000 to a candidate who they think is going to oppose the proffer increase,” he said. “You need to judge a candidate by the organizations that endorse them.”

Stewart said he would not return his money.

“The housing developer industry is rewarding her. They are clearly funding her and trying to get rid of me,” he said.