Jul 28, 2014

Is This the Face of Loudoun County?

Eugene Delgaudio is becoming the most visible – and notorious – person in the county.

Is This the Face of Loudoun County?

In November 2011, Scott York received 31,942 votes in his race for chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Roger Zurn, running unopposed, got 45,807 votes for county treasurer.

Of those candidates who won district seats on the Board of Supervisors, the leading vote-getters were Geary Higgins, who received 4,473 votes, and Janet Clarke, with 4,435. At the other end of the spectrum were two candidates, each of whom ran in a three-way race – Shawn Williams (2,354 votes) and Eugene Delgaudio (2,836).

Yes, less than three thousand Sterling District voters – less than one percent of the county’s total population – handed Delgaudio a fourth term on the Board.

Nevertheless, one can make a pretty good case that Delgaudio, more than York, Zurn or anyone else, has become the face of Loudoun County.

Last July, I was watching the evening news – I believe it was WJLA, Channel 7 – when I saw a report that Delgaudio had been accused of using a photo of a gay couple without their permission in a political ad. As the head of an organization named Public Advocate, Delgaudio makes a career of opposing civil rights for gay people.

Earlier in the year, Delgaudio had also made the evening news when Public Advocate was deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The news reports referred to Delgaudio as a Loudoun County Supervisor, even though he is elected only by residents of the Sterling District.

It occurred to me that Delgaudio seemed to be getting more notoriety than any other elected official in Loudoun County. So last month I decided to do some Internet searches to see if my hunch was right.

I started to type “Loudoun County Supervisor” into my Internet search engine and before I had even finished, the auto-complete feature filled out the rest: Eugene A. Delgaudio.

Then, as I suspected, Delgaudio’s name showed up in half of the top 10 results when I searched on that phrase, “Loudoun County Supervisor.”

Number three was Delgaudio’s official Loudoun County webpage. Filling out slots six, seven, nine and 10 were links to Delgaudio’s comments that TSA pat downs are part of a “homosexual agenda” (and suggesting that gay male TSA agents might “get their jollies” frisking a man or boy), the Huffington Post’s report on Public Advocate being named a hate group, Delgaudio’s personal web page, and a Daily Show excerpt that lampooned Delgaudio for his comments that referred hypothetically to a transvestite as “it.”

Of the other Loudoun supervisors, only Clarke made an appearance in the top 10 search results. Her campaign page showed up as number five on my list.

Delgaudio’s name also popped up frequently when I did the same search on websites for Washington-area newspapers and television stations.

This was before a Washington Post story propelled Delgaudio’s name into the headlines again. The story aired charges from one of Delgaudio’s former aides that he had improperly used taxpayer-funded resources to raise funds for political purposes.

A subsequent Post editorial, headlined “Loudoun County’s Embarrassment,” pointed out that Public Advocate is the only hate group in the country to be headed by an elected official – Delgaudio.

In my opinion, Delgaudio’s disparaging comments about LGBT people degrade himself more than anyone else. But, unfortunately, they also reflect badly on the county that keeps returning him to public office.

This is evident in the comments that have been posted online in response to the Post’s story. One pointedly asks what this says about Delgaudio’s constituents and Loudoun County in general.

It may seem unfair to tar the entire county with the brush of hostility toward gay people, but I feel that the responsibility for electing Delgaudio to public office extends beyond the borders of the Sterling District. After all, Delgaudio was endorsed by Board of Supervisors chairman Scott York, Congressman Frank Wolf and even the Loudoun Times-Mirror – all of whom knew full well what Delgaudio stands for.

People who care about Loudoun County’s “brand” should be concerned.

Loudoun County has a lot of good things going for it – high incomes, low unemployment, a highly educated workforce, good schools, a low crime rate – but it can’t help county leaders attract businesses, employees, shoppers or tourists if a person who stands for intolerance is our most prominent local elected official.

If Eugene Delgaudio has indeed become the face of Loudoun County – if people conjure up his image when they think of Loudoun County – then we may need to come up with a suitable tag-line to accompany that image. Maybe something like:

“Hey, we’re not all like this guy.”

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