News

Barry, Kaylin, Peppe, Snyder Win in F.C. Council Election

Surprise Outcome Spells Trouble for Future of CBC

A stunning development reflecting the frustration of voters with the state of the City of Falls Church’s economy and just-established 15-cent rise in its tax rate, two anti-City Hall candidates won the Falls Church City Council election with solid third and fourth place finishes Tuesday.

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AND THE WINNERS ARE (left to right): Johanna Barry, Ira Kaylin, Ron Peppe and David Snyder in the Falls Church City Council election Tuesday.
Surprise Outcome Spells Trouble for Future of CBC

A stunning development reflecting the frustration of voters with the state of the City of Falls Church’s economy and just-established 15-cent rise in its tax rate, two anti-City Hall candidates won the Falls Church City Council election with solid third and fourth place finishes Tuesday.

The mini-slate of Johannah Barry and Ira Kaylin, both running for public office for the first time, finished solidly in all five Falls Church wards, while incumbent David Snyder came in second overall. School Board Chair Ron Peppe was the top vote-getter, becoming the only one of four candidates endorsed by the City’s venerable candidate vetting organization, the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), to win.

Peppe garnered the most votes in the unofficial returns, with 998 (14.1%). Snyder had 966 (13.64%), Kaylin 961 (13.57%) and Barry 945 (13.35%). Falling short of being elected were John Lawrence with 857 (12.1%), Barry Buschow with 808 (11.4%), Lindy Hockenberry with 776 (10.96%) and Hal Lippman with 735 (10.38%).

Lippman’s last-place finish as the incumbent vice mayor also reflected the anti-City Hall nature of Tuesday’s vote, as did the poor showing for Former Vice Mayor Hockenberry, running again after two terms on the Council and a narrow defeat in 2008.

The turnout Tuesday was 24 percent of registered voters in the City, or 1,981 out of 8,354, including 134 who voted absentee, comparable to past contested municipal elections in Falls Church. With eight candidates sharing the votes, it marked the first time in memory that no candidate in a contested race received at least 1,000 votes.

 

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AT THE POST-ELECTION gathering of supporters of the Citizens for a Better City (CBC) at the Ireland’s Four Provinces restaurant Tuesday night, the CBC’s lone winner, Ron Peppe (center) chats with a supporter, with unsuccessful candidate John Lawrence and CBC campaign chair Russ Wodiska in the background. (Photo: News-Press)

Over 50 people gathered, mostly CBC supporters, at the Ireland’s Four Provinces restaurant after the polls closed Tuesday night, including the four CBC Council and School Board endorsed candidates, and Hockenberry. When the final results were in, a verbal altercation broke out between current CBC President Deb Gardner, casting blame for the poor CBC showing, and Mayor Robin Gardner.

 

Although frequently contested, the CBC has been in command of the electoral process in Falls Church since its founding in 1960, but this election marked its poorest showing in almost 40 years. The future for the CBC’s role in Falls Church elections is also called into question by the fact that the City’s municipal races will move from May to November next year, when some predict that major party affiliations might begin to play a more dominant role.

Peppe, the current chair of the Falls Church School Board, told the News-Press at the “4 P’s” restaurant Tuesday that he could not explain how he emerged as the top vote getter among the eight candidates seeking four Council seats. “I have no idea,” he said when asked why he came in first. “I was myself in the race. Some have criticized me in the past because I came across as a ‘moderate,’ because I can see both sides of things.”

Peppe said he would waste no time reaching out to the other three winners . “I hope we can all pull together,” he said, “Because next year’s budget is going to be even tougher than this one.”

Kaylin and Barry, who ran together, spent election night with about two dozen supporters at the home of Councilman Nader Baroukh. “It was a very celebratory atmosphere,” Kaylin told the News-Press yesterday.

Snyder, finishing as the second-highest vote getter after routinely garnering the most votes in his four previous runs for the Council, spent election night at home with his family. He said the “politics of personal destruction” took its toll on him in the race, as he dealt with harsh criticism from Falls Church-centric political blogs to both the left and right of him.

resultsbox“This election was very personal, as well as political, for me,” he told the News-Press in an interview yesterday. “I think the outcome shows that the voters want a focus on solutions to our problems, and not on personal attacks,” and he thanked the News-Press for its endorsement of his candidacy.”

“The message in Tuesday’s vote,” he said, “Is that citizens want their leaders to work cooperatively to come up with feasible ideas to move the City forward ands assure its sustainability while preserving core values,” he said.

He said that Peppe’s strong showing is evidence that there was “no repudiation of core values” in the vote, but “rather, a concern for the future,” adding, “We have to move quickly to reset and retool our plans to move beyond rhetoric with quick and aggressive efforts at economic development” since an “economic recovery may be coming relatively soon.”

In comments to the News-Press yesterday, Kaylin said of his election, “This will be a challenge and exciting.” His running mate, Barry, was out of town on business, but Kaylin commented on their behalf, saying “We’re facing terrific challenges for the next couple of years. We are under no illusions about what it will be like.”

He said he was “cautiously optimistic” going into the voting Tuesday, saying the campaign had been “like a roller coaster ride.” He said the mood at Baroukh’s home Tuesday night was “celebratory, but we were exhausted” from a day full of working the polls. He hailed the tireless efforts of his son, James, on election day, moving around between the City’s five polling places, bringing coffee and generally helping the effort.

Kaylin said he felt the turnout was lower than he expected, despite efforts, he said, of the League of Women Voters, the Village Preservation and Improvement Society and the News-Press to “get the issues out there and get people engaged.”

Tradition holds that the highest vote getter in a City Council election is voted by his or her colleagues on the Council to be the mayor when sworn in on July 1, but this election has hardly gone according to tradition. Some pointed out that it marked the first time in 40 years that the CBC failed to get more than one of its candidates elected in a four-person race.

The Council’s make up as of July 1 should mitigate against another term for two-term mayor Robin Gardner, and the early odds are for a return to the mayor’s seat of Snyder for the first time in over a decade. First elected to the Council in 1994, he held the mayoral post from 1998-2000. Kaylin said there was no discussion of the subject at the Kaylin-Barry victory party Tuesday night.

For unsuccessful CBC-backed candidate Lawrence, he told the News-Press Tuesday night that this, his first one would not be his last effort at seeking public office in Falls Church. But his next move, he said, was to go home and pack to make it on a 9 a.m. flight to the Philippines, where he will work with a group of colleagues to help monitor elections in the northern part of the country. He said that after today’s arduous get-out-the-vote efforts at the polls all day, he plans to sleep on the 22-hour flight. “I am going to watch with great interest what happens now,” Lawrence said of today’s F.C. election result. “The next 18 months should be very interesting.”

His mention of 18 months referenced the time until the next F.C. City Council election, which will be held in November 2011. As a result of a split vote on the Falls Church City Council last winter, the City has permanently moved its municipal election to November, when a much higher voter turnout is virtually assured.
Long-time F.C. City advocate for affordable housing, Carol Jackson was among the election-watchers at the “4 P’s” Tuesday, and she told the News-Press, “I thought the outcome was inevitable. Our community has resulted in people accustomed to receiving what the economy has delivered, and they don’t know how to handle less. So they vote out the elected officials and vote for those who said the things they wanted to hear.”

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Lindy Hockenberry (left) and School Board Member Joan Wodiska. (News-Press photo)

Even though she did not win the nomination of the CBC, former Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry spent the evening at the “4 P’s” with the predominantly pro-CBC crowd. She said that, after two full terms on the City Council before her narrow loss in a bid for a third term in 2008, said that with her last-place finish tonight, she is done seeking elected office in Falls Church, She will continue to serve in an appointed capacity on the City’s Planning Commission. Current Vice Mayor Hal Lippman, also present at the gathering Tuesday, said he will not run again after taking a pounding in the race today.

“This last year has not been very pleasant for me” he said, referencing the difficulties associated with passing the budget last week coupled with his electoral defeat

Unsuccessful CBC candidate Barry Buschow was also present, as were all of the unopposed, and therefore winning, candidates for School Board.

The four candidates running unopposed sailed to victory. Along with the Council victors, Rosaura Aguerrebere, Susan Kearney, Greg Rasnake and Pat Riccards will be sworn in to seats on the seven-person school board on July 1. Augerrebere and Kearney were re-elected to second terms.

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