57th District, House of Delegates: David Toscano and Robert Brandon Smith.
59th District, House of Delegates: Connie Brennan, Linda Wall. Not pictured: Matt Fariss.
Three perennials always make the list of top local controversies: the Western 29 Bypass, Meadowcreek Parkway, and the water plan. Whether you love these projects or hate 'em, the deciders on these and many other quality-of-life issues sit on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and the Charlottesville City Council. And who's elected to fill seats on those key boards on November 8 has the potential to shift the balance of power on these controversial projects.
In Albemarle, it's always about growth– tightly containing it or encouraging business-friendly expansion. And nothing exemplifies the shift in power in the county more than the Western 29 Bypass, which emerged this spring from the grave where it was believed dead and buried for more than 10 years.
The resurrection of the Bypass is symbolic of how much Albemarle County has changed since the 2009 elections.
For decades, limited-growth policy backers had a 4-2 headlock on the Board of Supervisors, and the county was seen as not so business-friendly.
That course shifted two years ago when Sally Thomas decided not to run for a fifth term representing the Samuel Miller district, and Republican Duane Snow won her seat. He was joined by another Republican, Rodney Thomas, who upset Democratic incumbent David Slutzky in the Rio District. Suddenly, the board had two new Republicans joining Ken Boyd for a 3-3 balance.
Throw in conservative Dem Lindsay Dorrier, who dropped his longstanding opposition to the Western 29 Bypass in a notorious midnight vote in June, and former majority supes Dennis Rooker and Ann Mallek now often find themselves in a lonely 4-2 minority.
The balance of power is in play again in November. Dorrier is not running, leaving the Scottsville District up for grabs with a race between two mostly political unknowns, with a cadre of locals coming forward to show support for not electing one of them.
And when Ken Boyd decided to seek a third term on the board in the Rivanna District, Democrat Cynthia Neff launched a well-funded challenge to funnel the outrage of the bypass vote.
"The future of Albemarle County is at stake," says county Democratic chair Valerie L'Herrou. "A lot of things will go before the Board of Supervisors next year. Obviously, the one on everybody's mind is the Western Bypass."
"We currently have three solid conservative voices and a fourth solid conservative voice with Lindsay," says Republican chair Rachel Schoenewald. "This could change the nature and focus of the board from business-friendly and job-friendly to something else. And the election will determine whether property rights 'are protected or more stepped on,'" she says.
Which way will the county go?
Well-funded in Rivanna: Boyd v. Neff
About the only common ground Ken Boyd and Cynthia Neff share is that they both ran unsuccessfully for higher office over the past two years. Boyd pursued the 5th Congressional seat now held by Robert Hurt, and Neff challenged Delegate Rob Bell, who is unopposed this year.
For the current race, Neff has raised nearly $65,000 as of August 31 compared to Boyd's $41K. The last time Boyd was challenged, Democrat Marcia Joseph took an early lead in fund raising, but the early dollars weren't enough to unseat Boyd.
"I think the money is important, but I don't think it's the critical factor," says Neff. "He tends to get last-minute money."
Neff explains the real difference between them: "Ken is different from four years ago– he's gotten more conservative, and I think he's lost touch with voters. He's aligned more with the Tea Party, and most people are in the middle."
Not surprisingly, Boyd disagrees. "The conservative majority on the board is more pro-job and pro-economic development," he says.
And what's at stake with the Rivanna seat? "The Western Bypass," says Boyd. "Ms. Neff is totally opposed to it and could reverse it."
Occupation: Small business owner– financial planning
Pet peeve in politics: Negative campaigning
Skills that make you suited to be a supe: Life, business, and civic experiences. Constituent service.
What do you do better than your opponent? Understand this economy and how to create jobs.
Best decision the BOS has made the past year: Choosing our Local Climate Action Planning Process (LCAPP) committee recommendations instead of an international agenda.
Worst? Not speaking up for Lindsay Dorrier when he was late for a meeting and wanted to change his vote on the Western Bypass. I never changed my vote.
Top donor: Richard Baxter Gilliam
What are you reading now? Too Big To Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin
Political hero: Ronald Reagan
Occupation: Retired IBM executive
Pet peeve in politics: Extreme partisanship, inflexibility, lobbyists, lying
Skills that make you suited to be a supe: Smart, committed, open, honest, with strong leadership skills
What do you do better than your opponent? Listen, collaborate, remain open-minded, network, straight talk, and have perspective and balance
Best decision the BOS has made the past year: Unanimously voting to approve Places29 as the master plan to guide development in the northern growth areas in February. At the same time, the BOS voted against adding another 140 acres in Hollymead to the growth area.
Worst? Reviving the Western Bypass without public input, followed by killing the Cool Counties and Local Governments for Sustainability because some of the BOS believe in the Tea Party's conspiracy theory that the UN is trying to take over Albemarle County through programs that promote clean air and regional cooperation.
Top donor: Sonjia Smith and Hunter Lewis
What are you reading now? That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We can Come Back by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris.
Political hero: Mahatma Gandhi, Ben Franklin, and Nelson Mandela
The Scottsville situation: Dumler v. Norwood
Lindsay Dorrier's decision to not seek a fifth term on the Board of Supervisors has left a rare opening in the Scottsville magisterial district, which is often perceived as the rural outskirts of the county and a world of its own. That's only partially true. The district includes densely populated urban ring neighborhoods like Mill Creek and Lake Reynovia– yet both candidates for the seat live in Scottsville, with fewer than 600 residents.
Democrat Christopher Dumler and Republican Jim Norwood both have photos of themselves with Dorrier on their websites, but the elder statesman of Scottsville has declined to make an endorsement.
Dumler is a young attorney who's been active in local Democratic campaigns and says he's knocked on 5,000 doors in the district. Norwood is a longtime businessman in the area with large signs along Route 20. Both are running for public office for the first time.
What's unusual about this race is the people coming out in opposition to Norwood based on personal, not political, grounds– a group Norwood dubs as having "very little credibility."
In 2010, Norwood served as economic development director for the Scottsville Community Chamber of Commerce after the town's largest employer, the Hyosong tire cord plant, had shut its doors.
He also consulted with some of Scottsville's struggling restaurants, and three of those owners accused Norwood in the February 11 issue of the Scottsville Weekly of trying to take over their businesses after taking a look at their books.
Norwood fired back with a February 12 letter titled "Scottsville has a Cancer" that urged a boycott of the newspaper and the businesses that distributed the free broadsheet.
"Let's not support the businesses in town that do not uphold their moral and fiscal responsibilities in Scottsville," he wrote.
Norwood calls the contretemps "unfounded accusations from the town's liberals" and specifically points to Scottsville Weekly editor Bebe Williams as the the perpetrator, "an individual who has very little credibility," Norwood tells the Hook.
Former town councilor Williams unsuccessfully ran for reelection in 2010 advocating legalization of marijuana as a way to ease Scottsville's economic woes, a position supported by the majority of candidates.
"I don't think he was thinking reasonably," says Williams about Norwood's "Cancer" letter. "I don't think he represents the people, and he shouldn't be in politics."
John Keaton owns the recently closed 330 Valley Street restaurant, and acknowledges that the business was not doing well when Norwood offered to examine his financial statements. "A few weeks later, he wanted to lease my business and give me 10 percent of the sales," says Keaton.
"It's pretty immoral," says Keaton. "He used his position to get information about the business to get his own business." Norwood's daughter opened Slice of Heaven, a pizza restaurant, in the building that housed the now-closed Pee Wee's Pit BBQ.
Norwood flatly denies the accusations, and has a stream of supporters contact a reporter to voice their support and denounce "the rumor mill from hippies," as one of them said in a voice message.
Dan Gritsko, a Scottsville town councilor, has known Norwood for about a year and a half, and he trumpets Norwood's Christian values and integrity. "I found him to be a person who cared a lot about the town and ended up giving a lot of time to promote it," Gritsko says.
Gritsko suggests Norwood had "had it up to here" when he wrote the "Scottsville has a Cancer" letter. "He probably– not probably– he was overreacting," says Gritsko, adding that editor Williams "has an ax to grind."
Not all of Norwood's critics come from Scottsville. Hightech Signs owner Ben Foster says he was stiffed for over $5,000 on a sign for Norwood Shoes on U.S. 29 near Rio when Norwood declared bankruptcy in 2009.
Foster belongs to the Monticello Business Alliance PAC, and says, "I told them I was opposed to someone who declared bankruptcy running for supervisor." The PAC donated $5,000 to Norwood's campaign.
Norwood says he and his wife sold their business to their son and guaranteed a credit line that was pulled as a result of the recession. He acknowledges that if Foster filed as a creditor in the bankruptcy proceedings, "he didn't get paid."
Will his personal bankruptcy be an issue in the race? "I don't think so," says Norwood, "unless you want to make it one. It's part of life."
Brian Lafontaine heads the Scottsville Chamber of Commerce, and he praises Norwood's efforts as economic development director and for getting Scottsville on the Journey through Hallowed Ground.
The Chamber isn't endorsing anyone, says Lafontaine. "I know Jim and Chris well," he adds. "Either would do a good job. I'm ecstatic we've got two people coming from Scottsville in the race. People feel like it can be ignored because it's the outer reaches of the county."
Occupation: Attorney- solo practitioner and Army JAG Reservist
Pet peeve in politics: Money and special interests controlling the conversation, followed closely by the need to master "the 15-second soundbite," distilling complex policy to jargon-y, "feel good" language.
Skills that make you suited to be a supe: I've been an engineer as well as an attorney, and know I have the right mix of know-how, attention to detail, and board/commission experience (Region Ten, Natural Heritage Committee) and service to do this job well.
What do you do better than your opponent? I bring energy, enthusiasm, and fresh ideas to an office that's going to be grappling with countless uniquely 21st-century problems in the future.
Best decision the BOS has made the past year: Accepting the HUD grant for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, which will allow the city, county, and UVA to incorporate land use and infrastructure decisions efficiently, smartly, and safely.
Worst? Regardless of how one feels about the Bypass, I don't think anyone likes the way the vote happened. Transparency and public notice are critically important in government.
Top donor: Until the other week, it was my grandmother ($500). We had more small-dollar donations than any other local campaign. Hunter Lewis stepped up a few weeks ago with a very generous contribution, though!
What are you reading now? Confidence Men, an excellent exposé of the fallout of the financial crisis; I'm also exercising my inner-engineer and exorcising memories of the Braves' late-season collapse with Moneyball.
Political hero: Jim Webb, both for his years of service to the country in and out of uniform as well as his unorthodox and populist approach to politics.
Pet peeve in politics: Partisanship
Skills that make you suited to be a supe: 45-year business career, national and international trade experience, small business owner in Albemarle County, trustee University of New England, past president of the Charlottesville Heart Association and Charlottesville Cancer Association Boards of Directors.
What do you do better than your opponent? Proven success in Scottsville economic development and job creation, review and critique financial reports.
Best decision the BOS has made the past year: Western Bypass
Worst? The late night meeting to approve the Bypass.
Top donor: Donations are still rolling in!
What are you reading now? Every line item in the county and city budgets, as well as School Board budgets, and the long-range Comprehensive and transportation plans.
Political hero: George Washington
Unopposed in White Hall: Ann Huckle Mallek
Occupation: Teacher, farmer, elected supervisor
Pet peeve in politics: Telling people what they want to hear rather than the truth, as this undermines trust in government. Arrogance is also destructive.
Skills that make you suited to be a supe: I enjoy and learn from interactions with citizens. I am patient, honest and devoted to the welfare of the county, its citizens, and environment.
Best decision the BOS has made the past year: Refocusing the Economic Vitality Plan on rural economy, agriculture, and tourism. This supports business and the critical resources we cannot create but only protect– our environment and scenic beauty.
Worst? The midnight massacre to bring back the Western Bypass without process, notice, or input. That process failure may sink the process in the end.
Top donor: My husband, Leo Mallek. Of the other top 25 donors, 21 are White Hall District voters.
What are you reading now? The Eighty-Dollar Champion, about world-famous horseman and Dyke resident Harry de Leyer.
Political hero: Our State Senator Creigh Deeds. He tells the truth to his constituents, balances their varied views, and helps us achieve the best government possible.
Aldous takes on Deeds in the 25th
Charlottesville and Albemarle became acquainted with Bath County native Creigh Deeds in 2001, when he won a special election to fill the seat of State Senator Emily Couric who died that year. The rest of the state became familiar with Deeds in 2005 when he ran for attorney general and lost to Bob McDonnell by a scant 380 votes, and in 2009, when he went up against McDonnell again in the governor's race, and lost by a much wider margin.
Deeds has been in the General Assembly since he was elected a delegate in 1992. Every year, Deeds carries a bill to thwart gerrymandering and promote nonpartisan redistricting, and if reelected, he'll no doubt be carrying it again.
He's also well known as the author of Virginia's conservation easement program, one of the most generous in the country and one that led to the Biscuit Run deal, which allowed a failed development to profit from a potentially bloated appraisal and ensuing tax credits. Last year, he carried a bill to supposedly reform the program, but it failed to stanch the tide of money to wealthy landowners.
Up against incumbent Deeds is political newcomer T. J. Aldous on the Republican side. A lawyer and very likely the first Mormon to run for the 25th Senate seat, he works at a firm that touts itself as an expert in securing conservation tax credits.
Thomas W. “TJ” Aldous Jr.
Occupation: Attorney, member of Zobrist Law Group
Address: Albemarle County
Pet peeve in politics: Failure to find and act on common ground
Skills that make you suited to be a state senator: Understanding of taxes and how they affect business decisions; listening to and being sensitive to the needs of others and their struggles.
What do you do better than your opponent? Recognize that (1) Virginia needs to be and remain competitive in business; (2) the federal government’s overreaching laws are harming Virginians; and (3) family is the basic unit of society, and government decisions need to support families.
Best decision the General Assembly has made the past year: Not raising taxes.
Worst? Gerrymandering the state senate districts based on political gain rather than commonality of interests.
Top donor: Zobrist Law Group
What are you reading now? The Bible
Political hero: George Washington
R. Creigh Deeds
Pet peeve in politics: Rabid partisanship
Skills that make you suited to be a state senator: I listen and am accessible to constituents, and I use the legislative process to solve problems.
What do you do better than your opponent? I am ready to go head-to-head with anyone on rock-and-roll trivia.
Best decision the General Assembly has made the past year: Passed the first resolution of a constitutional amendment to protect private property from eminent domain abuse.
Worst? Drove a stake through the heart of "pay as you go" on transportation funding.
Top donor: Of the more than 250 individual donors to my Senate campaign this year, the three largest contributors include Edward Hart Rice, John Grisham, and Sonjia Smith. The top donors since 2008, the official start of this election cycle, are Verizon and Associated Distributors.
What are you reading now? Life by Keith Richards
Political hero: Gerry Baliles (among many)
Who's your state senator? Welcome 17th District
Voters in western Albemarle can say goodbye to Shenandoah Valley-based Emmett Hanger, whose 24th District no longer includes any part of this county. Instead, residents in the northeastern part of the county find themselves in the Spotsylvania-centered 17th District.
In some ways, that race is similar to the 25th: Long-term Dem incumbent Edd Houck is challenged by conservative political newcomer Bryce Reeves.
What's different? State Republicans have targeted Houck in an effort to gain control of the Senate, the Free Lance-Star reports. The hefty war chests each of these candidates has raised are going to no-holds-barred commercials, and Houck has been chastised by Politifact for falsely claiming Reeves is responsible for sending jobs to China.
Occupation: State senator; director of corporate and community affairs, Mary Washington Healthcare
Pet peeve in politics: no answer
Skills that make you suited to be a state senator: I have the experience and progressive vision necessary to help create jobs, improve our schools and preserve our quality of life.
What do you do better than your opponent? no answer
Best decision the General Assembly has made the past year: Restoring $500 million in state funding for public education.
Worst? Enacting additional restrictions on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.
Top donor: Medical Society of Virginia
Occupation: Self-employed– insurance and financial services
Pet peeve in politics: The worst part is having to be away from your family and the sacrifice it takes to run for office.
Skills that make you suited to be a state senator: I am a Sorensen Institute Political Leaders graduate. I was an Army Ranger, police officer, and a business owner. I know how to build relationships and solve problems.
What do you do better than your opponent? My ability to respond to the challenges that face Virginians each day. I know how to create jobs because I have done it. I put people's needs first.
Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: Audit VDOT and find hidden funds and be able to open the rest stops again.
Biggest donor: Opportunity PAC
What are you reading now? Hand of Providence: The Strong and Quiet Faith of Ronald Reagan by Mary Beth Brown, Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowan
Political hero: Congressman Rob Wittman and Attorney General Ed Meese
Three-way race in the 59th
Delegate Watkins Abbitt's decision not to seek a 14th term in the House of Delegates opened up his long-held Central Virginia District that stretches from Alta Vista through Appomattox to southern Albemarle.
Nelson supervisor and Dem Connie Brennan challenged Abbitt in 2007 and pulled in not quite 40 percent of the vote. Republican Matt Fariss, Lynchburg Livestock Market co-owner, is a first-time candidate who has Abbitt's endorsement and is familiar with the legal system, having picked up four misdemeanor convictions– three related to hunting, and one DUI in 1997– and who has been a civil defendant in a number of cases, the Alta Vista Journal reports. And independent Linda Wall, who joined the race in August, owns a store in Appomattox geared to tourists; she supports county government's right to open meetings with Christian prayer, according a News & Advance story.
Age: Just slightly pre-boomer
Occupation: Member, Nelson County Board of Supervisors; retired nurse-practitioner
Address: Nelson County
Pet peeve in politics: Partisan bickering and the failure of politicians to get to know and understand from whence an opponent comes.
Skills that make you suited to be a delegate: 35 years of community leadership; 10 years on the Board of Supervisors and School Board before that; experience working with Republicans, independents and Democrats to find solutions.
What do you do better than your opponent? Much greater knowledge of issues; more experience in public and community affairs; ability to work without partisanship; ability to obey the law and play by the rules.
Best decision the General Assembly has made the past year: Expanding and strengthening protective order laws.
Worst? Blatant partisan redistricting: state's plan exacerbates current partisan gerrymandering, fractures communities of interest, and contorts legislative districts.
Top donor: My mom, who has always been there for me.
What are you reading now? Surely you jest, but: my speedometer, lists, and more lists, and an occasional page of Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland.
Political hero: Mitch Van Yahres
Occupation: Small business owner
Pet peeve in politics: Manipulation of party politics
Skills that make you suited to be a delegate: Leadership, compassion, and discernment
What do you do better than your opponent? Listen to people and hear what they are saying.
Best decision the General Assembly has made the past year: Regulating abortion clinics
What are you reading now? The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
Political hero: Patrick Henry
Matt Fariss did not respond to multiple requests from the Hook.
Speaking of Van Yahres
Charlottesville's 57th District is about as Democratic as a district is going to get in Virginia, and so convenient that a candidate doesn't have to leave Albemarle County. Once elected, it's pretty much yours for life, and David Toscano inherited it (figuratively speaking, of course) from Mitch Van Yahres in 2005. Despite pulling in only 21 percent of the vote two years ago, this year Robert Brandon Smith is running again as an independent. "There's supposed to be a choice," says Smith. "Someone's supposed to challenge these people."
Robert Brandon Smith III
Occupation: Carpenter/drywall mechanic
Pet peeve in politics: Non-participants
Skills that make you suited to be a delegate: 35 years as a grassroots volunteer, activist (including 10 years at General Assembly in session one day per week)
What do you do better than your opponent? I'm not a lawyer.
Best decision the General Assembly has made the past year: Restoring funds to education
Worst? Building superfluous roads for automobiles to dystopia
Top donor: To date, myself
What are you reading now? Historical Consciousness: The Remembered Past (1994 ed.) by John Lukacs
Political hero: John Randolph of Roanoke
David J. Toscano
Pet peeve in politics: Ideological rigidity
Skills that make you suited to be a delegate: Ability to analyze, listen, and work collaboratively to get things done
What do you do better than your opponent? Work with diverse groups of people from different political perspectives to accomplish positive things for this region and the Commonwealth.
Best decision the General Assembly has made the past year: Restored $600 million to the budget for K-12 education that was cut by House Republicans.
Worst? Raiding the VRS to balance the budget
Top cash donor: Roberta Williamson
What are you reading now? Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, That Used To Be Us
Political hero: Abraham Lincoln