Less than a month before the start of early voting, members of the Loudoun County Republican Committee voted Aug. 28 to nominate political newcomer Gary Katz as the party’s new candidate for chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
Katz, a 42-year-old Leesburg resident, will replace Stephen Karbelk, of Belmont, who was nominated a few days before the filing deadline in June but dropped out of the race Aug. 22. Virginia law allows a party to find a replacement candidate before ballots are printed if a nominee steps aside. Tyler Catalina, a professional football player, also sought the GOP nomination after Karbelk stepped aside.
The incumbent, Democrat Phyllis Randall, is running for a third term. Sam Kroiz, a Lovettsville-area farmer, is running as an independent. Randall defeated Republican John Whitbeck Jr. by 17 percentage points in 2019.
Katz said in a brief phone interview Aug. 30 that, while he has never run for office or been involved formally with local government, he was compelled to step up because of what he described as lack of integrity and honesty among Randall and other Democrats on the board.
“Honesty, integrity, trust, accountability and transparency really do matter,” he said. “If you lose faith in your leadership, then everything else is lost. That’s what I think is lost — we’re seeing a lack of leadership.”
He said the delegations Randall led to sister cities in Ghana and Uruguay earlier this year — and some Democratic supervisors’ responses to criticism of those trips — were especially motivating for him to run against Randall.
“What really upsets me is that [some Democrats on the board] may believe they are beyond reproach,” he said. “… I disagree with not holding our government accountable.”
Randall, he said, was “going to go unchecked unless someone runs against her — and I put my name in, that’s really what it was. That was the driving force,” adding that “servant leadership is really my mentality in leadership.”
He emphasized, however, that he is “not a one-issue candidate” and that he is developing a campaign platform that he plans to release before early voting begins Sept. 22.
For instance, he said, “there is a lot of discussion right now about whether Loudoun is truly business friendly — that is probably a number one concern. At the same time, that needs to be weighed against the needs of the residents. I think we need to strike a better balance.”
He said his professional background — he works in technology sales — make him especially suited represent the county from the chair’s seat.
“I’m not equating a sales role with serving people,” he emphasized, but “… I am often in my life in a visible role, I’m not shy of engaging with others. My job is to engage with people.” He said his approach to representing the county would be the same approach he would take in his professional life.
“I want to hear from everyone. I want to talk to everybody who would be my constituent. I don’t want an opposing view to be dismissed. … We have to be willing to have those conversations,” he said.
Last year, Katz also criticized publicly the Loudoun County School Board and school division officials for their botched response to two student-on-student sexual assaults in 2021.
Daniel Brubaker, who sought unsuccessfully the Loudoun GOP’s endorsement in the school board election for the Catoctin District seat, said in an Aug. 29 Facebook post, “I know Gary a bit from the school board fights over the past several years and judge him to be a solid ally for common sense who will take the lead in reversing the damage that has been done by Randall and her political allies. We owe him our thanks for stepping in at the eleventh hour and offering to carry the standard across the finish line. Please help us spread the word all over Loudoun that there is now hope for all those who have been abused by the current leadership.”
Loudoun GOP officials did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Each of the nine seats on the Board of Supervisors is on the ballot this year. Democrats currently hold a 6-3 majority. Republicans were in the majority from 2012 to 2019.
There are a total of 37 elections this year in which at least some Loudoun County residents may participate, including each of the nine seats on the Loudoun County School Board; seven General Assembly seats; constitutional officers; seats on the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District board; and council and mayoral races in several towns.
Early voting begins Sept. 22. Election Day is Nov. 7.