Monday, January 23, 2012

The Other 2012 Race

For the first time in decades, Alexandrians will go to the polls in  November rather than May  to vote for the Mayor and City Council.  Many suspect that the Council changed the election date to coincide with the Presidential race to ensure better (or perhaps more partisan) voter turnout. 

This fall's local elections promise to be rather more interesting than usual.  In 2009, the big news was the Republican Party's promotion of a "plunking" strategy.  This technique, which involved casting votes only for the alternative candidates, successfully broke up the complete Democratic hegemony on Council by bringing in Republican Frank Fannon and independent candidate Alicia Hughes.  (As a then-federal employee Ms. Hughes could not affiliate with a party due to the provisions of the Hatch Act.)

Last year Democratic Councilman Rob Krupicka announced this was his last term, regardless of whether he won the State Senate race or not. (He didn't, and lost to Adam Ebbin.)

Not surprisingly, former Democratic Council members Tim Lovain and Justin Wilson, who were ousted by the newcomers in 2009, announced they were tossing their hats in the ring for 2012. Originally they seemed to be hoping they could fill Mr. Krupicka's chair and perhaps knock off Ms. Hughes if not Mr. Fannon, whose popularity and long-time family ties to old Alexandria give him an advantage. 

However, just last week the challengers were handed another opportunity when Democratic Vice Mayor (and former Mayor) Kerry Donley announced he will not seek another term

Will it be a shoe-in for Mr. Lovain and Mr. Wilson?  Some around town are questioning Mr. Lovain's increasingly vocal calls for streetcars and the high-density development that they will bring in their wake.  Is this the key to winning hearts and minds in 2012?  As the Growler pointed out after the 2009 election, former Del Ray Citizens Association president Mr. Wilson rather surprisingly did not do as well in his home precincts as either Mr. Donley or Mr. Krupicka.  With those contenders removed, will he sweep his own neighborhood and others as well?

Other rumored Democratic candidates include Boyd Walker and Planning Commissioner Donna Fossum, who would undoubtedly hope to capitalize on the West End's dissatisfaction with BRAC, the handling of the Norfolk Southern ethanol issue and underinvestment in general.  Newcomers Sean Holihan and Charles Sumpter are also weighing in from the West End.  Both are 30 years of age or younger. 

No word yet on one intriguing possibility, which is that former Police Chief David Baker will put his name into contention.  Mr. Baker attended the Democratic candidate school, but has not confirmed that he will run.  Former School Board chairman Arthur Peabody is also rumored to be considering putting himself into the race.

Longtime Council member Del Pepper is seeking election to yet another term, as is Paul Smedberg. After 27 years on Council, many including some in Democratic circles — privately question whether the 75-year old Ms. Pepper should retire. But only Republican contender Gordon has suggested in print that it was advisable.

In another departure from the past, the Democrats will determine their candidates at a June primary, rather than a caucus. 

On the Republican side, former Del Ray Citizens Association board member Scott Gordon has declared he is running.    No word on whether former GOP candidate Phil Cefaratti will run again.  Can we also expect that Alicia Hughes will formally align with the GOP, now that she has left the federal U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and is no longer subject to the Hatch Act?
It seems unlikely whether anyone will challenge incumbent Mayor William D. Euille. However, it's been rumored that former Democratic Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald may run against Mr. Euille, probably as an independent. In the last year, Mr. Macdonald has focused almost exclusively on fighting the City's controversial waterfront plan; is this enough to give him broad support across Alexandria and lead him to success?  Now that the Council on Saturday approved the waterfront plan, will this give Mr. Macdonald the impetus to finally announce?

So readers, what are your thoughts about the upcoming primary and elections?