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The Washington Post Endorsed No Female Candidates in Fairfax. What’s Up With That?

Photograph by Evy Mages

Hey, here’s a headline no one wants in 2019: “WaPo Endorses All Men in Fairfax County,” as the progressive blog Blue Virginia wrote Tuesday. And indeed, the Post‘s editorial board did endorse Jeff C. McKay, James R. Walkinshaw, Walter L. Alcorn, Rodney L. Lusk, and Phillip A. Niedzielski-Eichner for contested Democratic primaries in Board of Supervisor races on Monday. The dude-fest appears to be an anomaly: The Post endorsed women for the board in 2015 and in 2011.

Women who unsuccessfully sought the paper’s endorsements have another gripe. Both Alicia Plerhoples, who is running for chairman of the board, and Larysa Kautz, who is running for Lee District supervisor, say the Post asked them how they’d balance being a parent with the demands of their desired offices.  “The very last question that the editorial board asked me during my endorsement interview was — ‘how will you be Chairman with two young children?'” Plerhoples writes on Facebook. “That says it all.”

Kautz also talks about getting passed over on her Facebook page: “To add insult to injury,” she writes, “I was informed during my interview with the WaPo editorial board that the reason that there are no women with young children on the Board of Supervisors is because ‘there are late night meetings, and it’s hard work.’”

Reached by phone, both candidates told Washingtonian they were interviewed by Lee Hockstader, who’s been on the editorial board since 2004. They had different overall impressions from their meetings: Plerhoples, who met Hockstader in person, says her conversation was “very much issue-oriented”; Kautz, who spoke to him over the phone, says she found the whole thing “a little adversarial” and that Hockstader asked her that given an opponent’s experience, why he wouldn’t be the superior candidate. But while Kautz acknowledges she’s opening herself to accusations of sour grapes, both candidates say they were dismayed by the question about work-life balance, which Plerhoples calls “alarming.” Plerhoples also remembers Hockstader introducing the question as saying it was something the board “could have asked” her opponent McKay.

Post editorial page honcho Fred Hiatt tells Washingtonian in an email that the board asked the same question of McKay, which McKay confirms.

But why ask that loaded question at all? After all, as Kautz notes, McKay has been a supervisor since 2007, so presumably he’s got a plan for late-night meetings. “It’s 2019. We should all be beyond asking women about their families in their careers or whether they’re seeking public office,” Plerhoples says.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.