As the clock struck 7 p.m. Tuesday night, marking the deadline to file for seats on the Falls Church City Council and School Board in the November election, six City Council candidates had filed and were certified for the ballot to compete for four seats by the City’s voter registrar, and five School Board candidates had filed and were certified to fill five vacant seats on the School Board.
The only new name that emerged among those who were petitioning to run for City Council was Karen Oliver, an officer of the Winter Hill Homeowners Association.
Other candidates, whose qualifying efforts were reported earlier by the News-Press, are Marybeth Connelly, Joan Wodiska, Dan Sze, Robert LaJeunesse and Vice Mayor David Snyder.
Snyder is the only candidate seeking re-election this cycle, as three other members of the current Council, Johannah Barry, Ira Kaylin and Ron Peppe, chose not to run again.
For the School Board, the candidates are current chair Susan Kearney, seeking to fill the final two years of a vacated term, John Lawrence, Lawrence Webb, Margaret Ward and Michael Ankuma. With the five candidates seeking five seats on the School Board, that election will be non-competitive.
However, that will not be true for the City Council race. It is anticipated that the six candidates seeking four seats will be undertaking a highly-competitive process. Unlike the old days in Falls Church, when candidates ran as part of slates backed by civic organizations that funded and volunteered for them, this time all six candidates are expected to run solo, on their own, which will bring out the strengths or otherwise in them all.
That said, Oliver’s ties to the Winter Hill Homeowners, whose president is the wife of Mayor Nader Baroukh and which played a major role as residents impacted by the in-coming Harris Teeter project, may signal a more collective effort in support of her candidacy.
Connelly’s well-known ties to the Falls Church school system could result in some organized Parent-Teacher Association-like support for her candidacy, and the same goes for former School Board chair Joan Wodiska.
Snyder, seeking election to a sixth consecutive term on the City Council, has the advantage of drawing from a citizen base of support built up through many prior campaigns.
Sze ran and won for City Council in 2006 with the backing of the Citizens for a Better City (CBC), and lost when the CBC failed to provide him its support in 2010. But his four years of achievement on the City Council will be his strongest suit campaigning for himself this time.
LaJeunesse, who’s never run for or held office before in Falls Church, became known increasingly in the past budget cycle as a knowledgeable and articulate opponent of the current Council’s fund balance policy which salts away 17 percent of taxpayer revenues in a lock box, a percentage he argued was much too high.
All of the candidates are highly qualified in terms of their “day jobs,” and information about that will certainly surface as the campaigns get underway.
This is the first year that City Council and School Board elections will be held in November in the City of Falls Church, moved from May as the result of a public referendum in 2011. Therefore yet-unanswered questions loom, such as how long the campaign season will run. In the past, it was a fairly short time frame that races were run for an election the first week in May. This time, it remains to be seen how soon any of the candidates will commence campaigning in earnest.
Another unknown is the impact of voter turnout this November. When elections were held in May, voter turnout was uniformly low and it was easier for campaigns to target likely voters. This November’s election is expected to draw a much higher voter turnout as contentious statewide elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general will also be on the ballot. Reaching that higher voter base will be a challenge for all the local candidates.
Development, school funding, tax rates and special interest matters, such a development plans in particular neighborhoods, will be where the candidates can be expected to focus most of their attention.
Once elected in November, the new Council members will be sworn in just after January 1. Meanwhile, current Council members will continue serving to the end of the year, their terms extending to four and a half years because of the election date change.
This election will mark the first time that as many as three incumbents are not seeking re-election in Falls Church.