The five candidates vying for four seats on the Falls Church City Council began honing their campaign speaking skills in the past week at two public candidates events where everyone showed up and everything was not heat, but light.
It was expected the candidates would get a bit more exercised, in terms of taking on their challengers in pursuit of votes, at a debate in the Council chambers of City Hall last night. That debate will be reported thoroughly right away on the News-Press website, fcnp.com, and in next week’s print edition.
Election day remains more than a month away, on Nov. 5, and this marks the first time ever in Falls Church history that the election for Council and School Board is being held in November, rather than in the spring, and it will be that way from now on.
So, one among a number of new elements to this campaign will be the timing. In the traditional spring elections of the past, they were held just a week or so after the City Council adopted a late April budget, and the issues of such deliberations, including tax rates and funds for schools and other programs, were in the forefront of voter minds.
Now, in November, those issues are relatively more distant, and few people are really exercised about them in the fall months that are dominated by things like apple cider, hay rides, high school football and Halloween.
Plus, with the statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general demanding citizen attention, it’s not surprising that it may take some extra effort by the candidates for local office to gain the kind of recognition and passionate support to carry off a victory in November.
Before reading on, for example, can you, the reader, name all the five candidates running for the Falls Church City Council right now? Don’t read on before you try. Can you name all five candidates running for five seats on the School Board? Well, since that’s an uncontested race, it may not be as important to know those.
Do you know if there are any other local or quasi-local races on the ballot? Anything else?
Answering the last question first, Yes. There will be a referendum question on the ballot asking Falls Church voters whether they approve the terms negotiated between the City, Fairfax County and Fairfax Water for the sale of the City’s water system.
On the next-to-last question, Yes again. There is the general election for the Virginia House of Delegates, and in Falls Church that is for the 53rd District which has been deftly represented by Del. Jim Scott for over 20 years but who is not seeking re-election this time. The Democrat, endorsed by Scott, is Marcus Simon. The Republican challenger is Brad Tidwell and a third candidate is Libertarian Anthony Tellez.
All three candidates are running for public office for the very first time.
Is that it? No, there’s more. There are the elections, held every four years, for the City’s three Constitutional officers, the Sheriff, the Treasurer and the Commissioner of the Revenue. In these tax collection-centered offices, the state pays part of the operations of the offices, and the locality part. It is a throwback to the old era of the infamous, highly-centralized Byrd Machine in Virginia, set up to ensure that all taxes due the state were collected and sent to Richmond, and not diverted or withheld by any locale.
At any rate, this time all three Constitutional officers are running unopposed, although their names will be on the November ballot. As a refresher, they are Sheriff Steve Bittle, Treasurer Cathy Kaye and Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton.
Now, to name all the School Board candidates, they are Susan Kearney, John Lawrence, Lawrence Webb, Margaret Ward and Michael Ankuma.
Then, the Council candidates are incumbent Vice Mayor David Snyder, former Councilman Dan Sze, Mary Beth Connelly, Karen Oliver and Robert LaJeunesse. Connelly, Oliver and LaJeunesse are all running for public office for the first time. Snyder has been re-elected every four years since 1994 to the Council, and Sze was elected in 2006 but did not seek a re-election bid in 2010.
Anything else? Actually, there is the public referendum that all citizens of Falls Church will be asked to vote on, concerning the proposal to sell the City’s water system.
In addition to the new fall election regimen, the other new reality for the Council candidates is the lack of any wider community organizational backing for one or more among them. The long-standing Citizens for a Better City (CBC) candidate vetting organization has now decided to stay on the sidelines, and confine its activities to hosting public events, such as one Sunday night, where the candidates are all on their own to win votes.
The next big event on the City Council campaign debate calendar is Oct. 15, when they will all appear at the monthly luncheon meeting of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce.
Then, starting in next week’s edition of the News-Press, City Council and School Board candidates have been invited to have 500-word campaign statements published in the weeks leading up to the election.
Meanwhile, the CBC, along with the City’s Democratic and Republican committees, is hosting an informational event on the water referendum tonight, Sept. 26, at the American Legion Hall, 400 N. Oak, at 7:30 and the City staff, in conjunction with Fairfax Water, will hosted another informational meeting on the water referendum Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Community Center at 10 a.m.
CORRECTION: The Oct. 15 debate will take at the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, not City Council. And Dan Sze was not ‘unseated,’ but did not seek re-election in 2010.