Next Tuesday’s election is guaranteed to make history, if for no other reason than it will mark the first time ever for the City of Falls Church to elect its local officials in a November, rather than May or June, election. Five candidates are seeking four Falls Church City Council seats, and uncontested five School Board and three Constitutional Officer seats will also be on Tuesday’s ballot.
But the election promises to be a lot more than that. For City of F.C. voters, if they ratify with a “yes” vote the sale of the City’s water system, it will mark the first time since the 1930s that the City has moved to get out of the water distribution business. Also, if the referendum passes, it will mark the first time since the City obtained “independent city” status in the late 1940s that it will expand its borders.
The City is due to pick up 40 acres of valuable real estate in exchange for its sale of the water system to the Fairfax Water Authority.
On a statewide level, going into the final days before the Nov. 5 election, chances looked good for a pattern that has been in play since 1977 to be broken. In 2008, a trend in state elections that held since 1964 was broken when a Democrat carried the state in a presidential election. This election could mark the first time since ‘77 that a candidate of the same party as the sitting president will be elected governor.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe holds a double-digit lead in the polls over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the statewide gubernatorial race, and polls indicate that it is a disillusionment by many voters with the Tea Party, following the recent shutdown of the federal government for more than two weeks, which is a major factor.
If the Democratic trend in the governor’s race spills over to the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General races, then there will be a major shift in the political disposition of the entire state. In particular, if Democratic State Sen. Ralph Northam upends his GOP opponent, arch-conservative E.W. Jackson, then a deadlocked state senate will tilt toward the Democrats.
That’s because the lieutenant governor’s most important job is to cast a tie-breaking vote in the event the senate is deadlocked, and with 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats making up that body, there are more than a few opportunities to exercise that option. For the last four years, the tie-breaking vote went to a Republican lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling.
While there are no state senate races this fall, all the state delegate seats are in play, and Democrats are hopeful they will cut heavily into the GOP’s lopsided advantage in that body, enough to sustain a gubernatorial veto if needed. Currently, the GOP holds a more than 2-to-1 margin there (67 to 32, with 1 independent), but that margin is almost certain to be trimmed.
The best chances for that in Northern Virginia are in the 34rd District of McLean, just to the north of Falls Church, where Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock is facing a fierce challenge from Democratic challenger Kathleen Murphy. Murphy has focused on Comstock’s votes in Richmond with the GOP majority mandating the invasive transvaginal ultrasound procedure for women considering an abortion and for her opposition to gun control measures.
The delegate seat representing Falls Church will not be protected by an incumbent for the first time since 1992, when Del. Bob Hull was elected to fill a vacancy in the 38th District caused by Rep. Leslie Byrne’s election to the U.S. Congress. Due to redistricting in 2001, the City became represented by Del. Jim Scott of the 53rd District, and Scott, who was first elected by a single vote margin in 1991, has announced his retirement, hoping that his hand-picked successor, his former aide Marcus Simon, will win Tuesday to keep the district in Democratic hands.
Simon is on the ballot faced off against Republican Brad Tidwell and Libertarian Anthony Tellez.
Another House of Delegates race to watch in the region is the challenge that Democrat Jennifer Boysko is bringing to incumbent Republican Thomas Rust in Herndon.
Locally in Falls Church, the five City Council candidates, incumbent Vice Mayor David Snyder, former Councilman Dan Sze, Marybeth Connelly, Karen Oliver and Robert LaJeunesse are vying for four open seats on the Council. Three current incumbents chose not to seek re-election this fall – Ira Kaylin, Johannah Barry and Ron Peppe – and three of the candidates in Tuesday’s election have never run for public office before (Connelly, Oliver and LaJeunesse).
With no over-arching political groups backing any of them, by contrast to the decades when the Citizens for a Better City (CBC) did that sort of thing, the candidates have all been running independently, focusing a lot of their energies on going door to door to talk to voters.
Running unopposed for the F.C. School Board are current chair Susan Kearney, John Lawrence, Lawrence Webb, Margaret Ward and Michael Ankuma. Running unopposed for new four-year terms as the City’s Constitutional Officers are Steve Bittle for Sheriff, Tom Clinton for Commissioner of the Revenue, and Cathy Kaye for Treasurer.
As usual, throughout the commonwealth, the polls will be open from 6 a.m to 7 p.m. Tuesday. However, City of F.C. residents may need reminding that there are now only three polling places (down from five) in the City: at the Community Center, the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and the Oakwood Apartments.