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New job requires supervisor to pull bid for re-election

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Philip "Phil" Lemieux wanted his son's first time voting to help his re-election bid to the Frederick County Board of Supervisors in November.

A new job opportunity -- and the federal Hatch Act -- ended that possibility.

Lemieux recently accepted a position as a construction superintendent with Abingdon-based People Inc. for a housing rehabilitation project in Woodstock.

The Republican supervisor had sought re-election to a second term as the Red Bud representative on the board. He faced independent Richard Howett, currently serving the same district on the county School Board. Howett opted to vie for the supervisor seat rather than run for re-election to the School Board.

Since the funding for the project in Woodstock includes federal grant money, the Hatch Act precludes anyone affiliated with such an endeavor from running for re-election and serving in an elected position, Lemieux explained.

Under the act, Lemieux said he can serve out the rest of his first term, to which he was elected in November 2005.

"Wish I coulda run for re-election. That'd be even better," Lemieux said. "This was going to be the first year my son could vote for me and I was so proud of being able to try to earn his vote alone. It's kind of a bummer."

The issue of the conflict didn't come up until later interviews for the job, the supervisor recalled. The interviewer and Lemieux did not know how far the law extended, he said, and at one point he thought the act only forbids him to be party-affiliated and that he could still run, but without the Republican endorsement. That turned out not to be the case, he said.

Lemieux said he learned of the conflict less than a week before the Frederick County Republican meeting Tuesday.

"I felt I needed to look out for my family first, obviously that's why I took the job, but I needed to look out for [the party] also because I needed for them to be able to have someone else on the ballot because it's just so hard to win one when there's nobody on there," Lemieux said.

Local GOP Chairman Dave Stegmaier said members already have someone in mind to take Lemieux's place on the ballot: attorney and long-time resident Christopher Collins.

The party plans to hold a special meeting Tuesday to make a final decision and then file the necessary papers by the Sept. 4 deadline, Stegmaier said.

The last-minute switch shouldn't affect the county GOP's efforts to put a candidate in the office, Stegmaier said, given that campaign season for the Board of Supervisors doesn't begin until September.

"We feel as though we're right on schedule," Stegmaier said. "I think we're in good shape."

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