Three-time political candidate Tom Coen picked up his first election victory Tuesday, defeating Stafford County native Gordon Silver for the George Washington District seat on the Stafford Board of Supervisors.

Coen, 57, a government teacher at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, collected nearly 53 percent of the vote compared with 46 percent for Silver. Coen unsuccessfully vied for the seat as a Republican in 2003 and 2007, but ran as an independent this year.

Silver, 51, a finance manager for Cox Automotive, received the Republican nomination.

Coen has served as an interim supervisor since February, when the Board of Supervisors appointed him to the seat after Bob Thomas voluntarily stepped down to become a state delegate. He will serve out the remainder of Thomas’ term ending Dec. 31, 2019.

Coen, who previously served on the Planning Commission, said he plans to run again next year for a full, four-year term. In an interview, he said he thinks his experience and independent candidacy contributed to the win.

“A lot of people said that they’re just really tired of the acrimony and partisanship, and they were very pleased somebody was running as an independent … trying to unite people,” he said.

Both candidates emphasized their desire to minimize housing developments in the southern Stafford district, which includes the site of George Washington’s boyhood home. And neither candidate closed the door on future real estate tax increases for education and other priorities.

Coen questioned his opponent’s commitment to managing growth, citing the Fredericksburg Area Construction Trust’s $1,000 donation to Silver. Coen said he met with the organization, but was never offered money.

Silver criticized Coen for voting in favor of a capital plan this year that includes money for renovating, rather than rebuilding, Ferry Farm Elementary School, saying his opponent “folded like a cheap lawn chair.” The county’s capital plan includes $10.6 million to renovate Ferry Farm Elementary by fall 2020, but Silver thinks a rebuild would be more cost effective.

But that criticism did not seem to resonate with voters, as Coen received 58 percent of the vote at Ferry Farm’s polling place.

Coen said he had two options: Vote to renovate Ferry Farm soon or wait at least another decade to rebuild the 61-year-old school. He said he would love to rebuild Ferry Farm in the near future, but that there wasn’t enough support from fellow supervisors to do so at this time.

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Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

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