Sterling’s voters will meet a different kind of Democratic candidate when they get to know Koran Saines during the upcoming campaign season. Upbeat, knowledgeable, and relentlessly positive, the longtime Sterling resident will also pose a new test for Eugene Delgaudio.
Saines prevailed in the Democratic primary earlier this month, winning the nomination to challenge Delgaudio for the Sterling District seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in the November elections.
Previous Democratic campaigns have appeared, to those who live here, overwhelmingly negative and targeting a caricature of the Sterling supervisor that was always a bit off. With messages that could have been cribbed from progressive Web sites, possibly emanating from distant voices in Arlington, Ashburn or Lovettsville, they painted a picture that had no resonance with many residents who know the “real Eugene” (but managed to lock in their already locked-in hardcore base). The cheerful Delgaudio, meanwhile, connected with actual voters – and extended his advantage over opponents who were out chasing ghosts.
Not this time. Koran Saines comes with an agenda that could find supporters in both local parties as well as among Independents, and a message strong on content and noticeably light on ideology.
Much like the incumbent in the orange hat, Saines has nary a negative word to say about his opposition. He seems committed to making lots of personal direct contact. So the question becomes: Can he out-Delgaudio Delgaudio?
In a recent interview with FirewallNOVA, Saines talked about his commitment to Sterling, the importance of collaboration, attracting businesses to improve the local economy, and improving the quality of life in the district. He has a non-partisan attitude and can talk specifics about policy.
Unsurprisingly, Saines has positions that some will oppose. Topics such as education spending and Metro-related projects will engender debate with Delgaudio in the coming months, as will other policy questions that force the candidates to take concrete positions. But from this first impression of the Democratic candidate, I think we can look forward to a lively and intelligent discussion.
FWN: You had a great turnout at the recent Sterling primary, but it is safe to say there are still plenty of Sterling voters who should learn more about you. What do the residents of Sterling need to know about your background?
I grew up in Sterling in a close-knit, loving family. My parents taught me the value of a dollar and the hard work involved to earn it. Respect for everyone was a principle that I still carry with me today. I attended Broad Run High School when the county had only four high schools. My family and I have attended Heritage Fellowship Church in Herndon most of my life. I currently live with my young son in the Chatham Green neighborhood and serve as vice president of our neighborhood homeowner’s association.
I attended college in Indiana and graduated with a degree in Human Resource Management and worked as a Human Resources manager for many years. Since Loudoun County has hundreds of employees, I believe that having a supervisor with HR experience is critical to ensuring that our employment policies are up-to-date and effective. I also work on budgets and policies every day, which gives me collaboration experience that is critical to sitting on the Board of Supervisors. I have to work with numerous groups of people, listen to all sides of input and come to collaborative conclusions.
FWN: Why are you running for supervisor, and what will you bring to the position if elected?
I am running for the Board to bring true representation to the Sterling District. I will bring respect, dignity, and leadership back to the Sterling seat. I will fight for Sterling residents to ensure that they receive the money and services that they deserve. I will make sure that Sterling residents are the number one factor when I vote on every issue that comes before the Board.
I will also bring a sincere desire for collaboration to the position. I will listen to the input of every department and person involved in making changes to policy so that we can agree on the best possible solution. I will work with each person on the Board, regardless of party affiliation, to create new policies and procedures. I also believe it is critical to work closely with the School Board to ensure that we have an open discussion with them about their budget and improving our school system all year long.
FWN: Your opponent, the incumbent Eugene Delgaudio, is a unique case because of his ability to get elected as a Republican in a heavily Democratic district. Sterling is close to 75 percent minority population, and the district almost always votes majority Democratic. But since 2010, Delgaudio has trounced the vote percentages of Republicans such as David Ramadan, George Allen, Mitt Romney, Ken Cuccinelli, Ed Gillespie, etc. In fact, whereas Delgaudio only took 50 percent of the vote in 2007, in 2011 he increased his margin to over 53 percent. How can you reverse this trend and succeed where past Democratic candidates have fallen short in Sterling?
The Democratic primary proved that Sterling residents are ready for change. My campaign will focus on reaching out to all Sterling voters to get them out to vote for the supervisor, School Board, and constitutional officer elections. These are the positions that affect Loudoun residents’ day-to-day lives, so I want to make sure Loudoun residents vote this year.
My goal is to reach out to Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. I am running because I believe that the residents of Sterling deserve better than their current representation. I am willing to work with everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to ensure that I win in November. I will leave no stone unturned and make sure that people understand my message and what they will get with me as their supervisor.
FWN: What are some of the key issues and decisions facing the Board of Supervisors in the next several years?
I think the number one issue facing the Board of Supervisors is making sure we are controlling our growth in a smart and logical way. We need to ensure that as we build, we are constructing the necessary infrastructure before we are building new homes or office parks. I will work step-by-step with developers to ensure that we are using smart growth plans and implementation.
We need to bring more businesses and job centers to Loudoun. Doing so will create an environment where our residents can truly live, work, and play. Maintaining our high education standards and improving transportation would secure Loudoun’s attractiveness in the business community. Increasing our business footprint will help equalize the tax burden on homeowners.
Having a top notch education system requires investment, and I believe Sterling residents will vote to preserve our education services. I would like to put a plan in place phasing full-day kindergarten throughout the county. Our teachers’ pay should be sufficient for them to live in Loudoun County and be a full measure of their value. We should ensure a pay scale that is on par with neighboring counties to retain and attract quality teachers.
Creating better connectivity in our transportation infrastructure is important. With millennials driving less and less, I believe the Metro coming to Loudoun is going to be vital to ensuring that new families and businesses move here. County leaders should streamline and improve bus operations to better serve commuters and those who rely on it for all their transportation needs. The expansion and improving roads should be prioritized so that critical needs move forward.
FWN: The Silver Line Metro to Loudoun County is now delayed until likely 2020, with over $200 million in cost overruns, and possibly more costs coming. Delgaudio alone of the Loudoun Supervisors described it as a “boondoggle” which some might say looks prophetic. What is your current view of the project, its eventual price tag, and its future?
The Silver Line extension is critical to our growth in Loudoun. We need to ensure that we develop the area around the new Metro stations with smart growth initiatives that eliminate vehicular usage. Regardless of the management of the project thus far and its shortcomings, I believe the Metro will prove to be a huge asset for Loudoun County. It will be critical for our economic growth and health as the DC metropolitan area becomes larger over the next decade.
FWN: On your Web site you list as priorities to bring more county money to Sterling, to improve transportation in Sterling and to upgrade the Sterling Community Center/Library. These are also among Delgaudio’s priorities of recent years, based on his statements. Do you think you can be more effective in bringing more money and services to Sterling, and if so, how?
I know that once I am on the Board, I will fight for Sterling every step of the way. I will make sure that any bond money passed by Sterling residents is brought directly to our public services. It should not take two bond approvals in two different elections to finally bring change to our Fire Department and Library/Community Center.
Sterling residents have waited for years for these projects to come to fruition. Residents shouldn’t come to expect action only during election cycles.
While I am very happy that we are finally getting improvements to our library, I am disappointed that our library will be located in a shopping center and near a bar. Libraries are places of value and Sterling residents deserve spaces that are meaningful. Locating the Community Center and library together can achieve this goal. Expanding and integrating our public spaces with modern conveniences will preserve community property values and truly serve the growing population.
The government is about serving the people, and I would like to see a comprehensive survey of Sterling residents to determine what services they want in their Community Center. A state of the art facility will attract residents to locate in Sterling, increase activity offerings, and preserve area home values. `
FWN: How would you appraise the Board of Supervisors’ actions of the past three years? Pluses? Minuses?
I commend the Board fully funding the school budget, but I am naturally suspect it occurred during an election year. Using surpluses to plug the budget holes is not the most prudent method. The continual rezoning of areas designated offices/commercial to residences will have long lasting ramifications and are a main contributor to the budget crisis that come up every year.
Thanks to Koran Saines for taking the time to answer our questions. For more information on his campaign, click here to visit his Web site.