Because much information from the 1980s is not readily accessible online, facts about Steve Stockman’s record as an elected official in Loudoun County are hard to come by. But not impossible.

To summarize:

In 1984, while homeowners were seeing their real estate tax bills increase substantially, and the new proposed tax rate was at $1.10, Steve Stockman wanted the county to spend even more on government projects that were important to Steve Stockman but definitely went beyond (as he likes to say in his 2011 campaign materials) “what the taxpayer can reasonably be expected to pay.”

In 1988, Steve Stockman joined with the Democrats to raise taxes, raise spending, and increase the size of the Loudoun County government by 12% in a single year.

When he held elected office, Steve Stockman was no champion of fiscal restraint and there is no evidence he was as fiscally conservative as Scott York.

Steve Stockman, a candidate for the Republican nomination for chairman of the Loudoun County board of supervisors, is challenging Scott York, the current chairman.

Mr. York is a conservative who left the Republican Party early in the last decade following an intraparty dispute, and since has been elected to consecutive terms in the chairman’s seat as an Independent. He has rejoined the local GOP for the current election cycle, and has garnered the endorsements of every local elected Republican to make an endorsement for the chairman’s race as well as from many other prominent Virginia Republicans.

Mr. York has served on the board of supervisors since 1996. Mr. Stockman served on the board from 1983-1991.

Mr. Stockman’s main selling point during his campaign of the past two months has been to imply that he is the more fiscally conservative of the two, evidenced primarily by the fact that real estate tax rates have risen during Mr. York’s 15-year term in office and that Mr. York supposedly has shown insufficient commitment to reducing taxes and the size of local government.

Mr. Stockman’s supporters, in particular at this blog, have certainly painted him as the true conservative in this race.

Mr. Stockman has presented himself as a tax cutter and reducer of government spending, albeit with no data to make his case save for that contained in campaign literature circulated by the Stockman campaign in the past few weeks.

For example, a recent Stockman campaign email claimed: “Tax rates were never above one dollar and two cents in all the years Steve Stockman was in office, and it was significantly below a dollar in those years.” Mr. Stockman’s literature gives the impression that he personally stood for absolute fiscal restraint during his terms in office.

Press reports from the 1980s (from the Washington Post archives) tell a different story.

The Washington Post, May 10, 1984

The Post reported the board’s vote approving

…a $71 million fiscal 1985 budget, which includes a 10 percent increase in teacher salaries and a 3-cent cut in the real estate tax rate to $1.10 per $100 of assessed value. The budget represents a 10.6 percent increase in spending over the current fiscal year.

Despite the rate cut, homeowners will still be paying more in real estate taxes next year because home assessments in Loudoun have risen an average of 11 percent. The owner of a home valued at $70,000 will be paying about $55 more in taxes because of higher assessments …

Two supervisors who voted against the budget said they did so for different reasons:

Supervisor Andre R. Bird III, a Republican, said the board should not have singled out teacher salaries for cuts without trimming the county’s general budget as well.

Supervisor Steve W. Stockman said the board did not leave enough in the budget for ongoing capital projects. He cited the county’s commitment to provide the Center for Innovative Technologies with utilities and a landfill project as areas that may be inadequately funded.

Source: The Washington Post, May 10, 1984, p. VA B8

Mr. Stockman voted against the budget – because it reduced county spending by too much – even while the average Loudoun County taxpayer was being squeezed by increasing assessments.

The Washington Post, May 17, 1988

In 1988, the Post reported on the previous day’s vote by the Loudoun County board of supervisors to approve a budget to “raise real estate taxes for the typical homeowner by 23 percent,” resulting in a county budget 32 percent higher than the previous year.

On a 6-to-2 vote, the board boosted the tax rate from 88 cents to 95 cents per $100 of assessed value…

Much of the increased spending has been earmarked for services.

The FY 1989 budget included:

  • funds to buy land for a new county office building
  • purchase of the Claude Moore farm site
  • add more than 100 county staff positions to the 900 then-current employees

One of only two Republicans on the board, Supervisor James F. Brownell (Blue Ridge) voted against the increase, saying, “We’re spending so much money so fast.”

The board’s only other Republican, Steve Stockman (Broad Run) voted with the Democrat majority for the tax and new government spending increases.

Voting for the budget and tax plan were Bos, Chairman Betty W. Tatum (D-Guilford) and Supervisors Alice G. Bird (I-Sterling), Thomas S. Dodson (D-Mercer), Ann B. Kavanagh (D-Dulles) and Steve W. Stockman (R-Broad Run). Opposing it were Brownell and Supervisor Betsey Brown (D-Catoctin).

Source: The Washington Post, May 17, 1988, p. d.05

Those acquainted with Scott York know he is a fiscal and social conservative seeking to restrain the growth of the government, reduce public spending and build the business tax base in Loudoun County – which by most accounts would be considered the “conservative” platform for county policy during the next four years.

Of course, over the course of 15 years, nearly all “conservative” elected officials will commit political or public policy acts that will tick off others, and Mr. York has been no exception.

Those acquainted with Mr. Stockman also know he has conservative tendencies – at least in his talking points – but the record shows that when he was in office he was enmeshed in the same nuances and gray areas as anyone else involved with public policy. To put it more bluntly: The record shows that when he served on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Steve Stockman voted for bigger government and higher taxes while taxpayers were being squeezed already.

The record also shows – by its sheer emptiness – that since 1991, Mr. Stockman has taken no role in promoting or implementing conservative policies in Loudoun County, even in recent years when many, many elected and unelected citizens, including Scott York, were working publicly to do exactly that.

And now that Steve Stockman is once again talking about public policy, one has to wonder whether he even understands the issues in Loudoun County.

He said recently that transportation is “not that big” of an issue because “You can make improvements around the margins, but people will decide to live and commute based on their own individual choices … You know, commuting, it’s all voluntary.”

That position reveals an aloofness – a distance from reality – that many Loudoun residents should find troubling in someone aspiring to hold the highest elected position in the county. It shows Steve Stockman to be much more a “country club Republican” than a conservative or even just a problem-solver, regardless of ideology.