Republican resurrection? Fighter pilot and cop challenge Dem-controlled council

City Republican chair Buddy Weber has been looking for Republicans to run for City Council since at least 2006, the last year the GOP fielded a candidate in Dem-heavy Charlottesville. After a seven-year drought, Weber has not one, but two candidates– although he's one of them.

Former fighter pilot Weber, 67, and soon-to-be-former cop Mike Farruggio, 50, announced in their respective lingo that they'd be "wingman" and "backup" to each other in a GOP two-fer to take back City Council.

Master political strategist Karl Rove was in town recently for the Ronald Reagan dinner, and since then, Republicans have been "revitalized," said Weber in front of the two dozen or so supporters who gathered April 25.

Traditionally, candidates running for council announce in front of City Hall. Weber and Farruggio chose Central Place on the Downtown Mall, as if to distance themselves from what some see as the shenanigans of a Democratic-controlled City Council.

"During my time in Charlottesville, I have grown increasingly frustrated with a City Council that pontificates with faux authority on issues that do not matter, but dithers endlessly on issues that do," said Weber, a criminal defense attorney who's handled such high-profile clients as convicted wife-killer Eric Abshire and graduation rapist Jeffrey Kitze, who was charged and acquitted of stalking.

"I have found myself up close and personal with young men and women in our community in serious trouble," he said. "With the right leadership, they can do better."

One item on Weber's platform is public housing, now a hot-button issue after a recent Department of Housing and Urban Development review revealed a lengthy list of problems with the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

"Fifty years after Vinegar Hill and the establishment of public housing in the city of Charlottesville, the CRHA continues to receive a letter grade of 'F'," blasted Weber. "It represents years of neglect by the elected officials of this city."

Farruggio, a 25-year veteran of the Charlottesville Police Department who's retiring in August, said he regularly runs into people who ask, "What are they thinking on City Council?" He recalls the short-lived Yellow Bike program about 10 years ago, in which free bikes were placed around the city to reduce auto use– and were promptly stolen, or the days when city government provided garbage pick-up without citizens having to pay extra for it.

He honed in on what critics have dubbed the "rain tax" in his announcement, otherwise known as the stormwater utility fee, which charges citizens based on the amount of impervious surface they own. "Enacting this tax while the city manages enterprise funds collected from utility fees for such improvements and maintenance is plain wrong," said Farruggio. He pegged the cost to taxpayers at $23,000 every time it rains, and said while he'll only pay about $45 a year, the Salvation Army will be hit with $2,000 and a Park Street church will have to pony up $8,000 a year.

A former planning commissioner, Farruggio has served on several city advisory boards, including the 250 Bypass Exchange Steering Committee and was active in his Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association.

"Over the years as a police officer, I have had the opportunity to meet and serve thousands of people, and so many have shared that they are tired and frustrated with council," said Farruggio. "I'm not campaigning on tired and frustrated. I'm campaigning on diversity of thoughts and ideas."

Farruggio describes himself as a conservative. "As Republicans go, I'm very moderate," he says.

So what are the chances for two moderate Republicans in a Dem-dominated town where Rob Schilling was the last to win a term in 2002?

"I would never say never," says Schilling. "But if you look at the numbers and voting pattern in the city, anybody who's not a Democrat has a very tough road."

With City Council elections now being held in November rather than May, he estimates 75 percent to 80 percent of city folk will vote a straight party ticket.

His advice to the candidates: "Knocking on doors constantly between now and the election. People need a personal touch."

"I'm optimistic," said Republican Tom McCrystal, who took on David Toscano for the House of Delegates in 2005 and garnered only 25 percent of the vote. "Even the Democrats are talking about how thin their bench is. We have two very strong candidates. When I talk to Democrats in the city, that's all they talk about, how crappy their candidates are."

That field of five– Wes Bellamy, charged with failure to appear in court days after he announced a run, Bob Fenwick, who's run unsuccessfully as an independent, Melvin Grady, a middle school math teacher, Adam Lees, a UVA grad student, and Kristin Szakos, incumbent councilor– will be narrowed to two after the June 11 statewide Democratic primary.

For the two Republican candidates, it boiled down to this, says Weber: "I told Mike that if he ran, I would, too."


Sensible folks. Not like other Republicans. Maybe a new breed here.

Best of luck to them. Single party rule is never good.....regardless of the single party in control.

I have never voted republican in 40 years, but for the ongoing public housing debacle, the rain tax, and that silly woman talking about removing the confederate statue in front of the court house last year...let me just say there's a first time for everything. We could use some fresh ideas and some common sense.

First off, trite-writing reporters need to forego the descriptor "master political strategist" for Carl Rove. Look, I am a conservative, but he managed Bush's first election, where it took the Supreme Court to rule on one state for him to prevail over one of the worst pols this nation has seen, and he managed his re-election, in which we were riding the public-perception crest of a war on terror and running against another hideous candidate (sorry to use a redundancy to use "hideous" when describing a Democrat). He is as much a master strategist as Katie Couric is a journalist.

Now, as for Toni H., not sure of your hard-on against "old white males" (I don't think 50 is old unless your news diet consists of MTV News and you think Jimmy Fallon is funny), but I suspect your bedroom wall has a Jason Collins Fathead above the bed.

Amigo1...Try it, you'll like it!

R.I.P.: Freddie "The Fog" Shero

amigo1 ... don't forget the Diversity Council and the Council "thanking" the guy for pointing out that the mall business owners are all racists because he says there are not enough black faces on the mall....

We need some "diversity" on the city council.

Weber pretends that he supports public housing. What a joke. He would sell it off in a heartbeat.

Weber gets a govt pension and he gets taxpayer money to defend indigent criminals. A double dipping "taker". Guess that makes him one of Mitt Romney's 47%.

I worked on the Obama campaign and may help with McAuliffe too (is there a bigger chowderhead than The Cuke?). But I'm with Amigo1 on the local scene. Some of the current city council seem to be utterly detached from reality or any distant facsimile thereof. Count on this liberal voting Republican in the Cville context if only to break up the group think.

I want to hear a little more about these guys. At first blush, they sound nothing like Rob Schilling, whose chance was wasted on his refusal to actually try to work with his co-councilors. Don't know much about Weber, but as a cop Farruggio must have a more practical sense of the functions of city government, and is less likely than a GOP chair or a radio celebrity to feel beholden to party ideology. Their entrance in the race must be why Fenwick is now running as a Dem, instead of Independent -- he doesn't seem like such a novelty now, and needs the backing of the city machine.

While I think the city budget is an obfuscated joke and needs some serious sunlight and reform, and I'd definitely agree we need to reform the housing authority, I think the definition of "reform" needs to be cleared up.

I am a Democrat and cannot imagine voting GOP (though I voted for Pfaltz) under most circumstances, one party rule in this town has been seriously corrosive to good government. And yeah, boy howdy, the bench is getting extremely thin.

The trouble is, it sounds to me like for both of these guys - Weber certainly - "reform" really means "eliminate".

I agree with Szakos that the utility fee model is appropriate for the storm water runoff - the treatment of runoff is the issue, not just laying pipes. And while our public housing needs serious re-working, eliminating public housing is not reform that makes it work. This is kind of like killing the patient to cure the disease...sure it cures the disease, but that's kind of beside the point.

Farrugio might be good since he's got actual civil governance experience, and some sunlight on the budget would be good - a cop is better suited to that than an airhead radio show host like Schilling.

@Dolemite...Since you used one of Moe Howard's favorite derogatory epithets in your challenge regarding The Cooch, why yes! There is indeed a bigger chowderhead than he, and that man sits "a heartbeat" away from the presidency.

@Confused are. Double-dipping for Weber? So someone who spent years in the military to obtain a pension cannot work in the public sector? You would not want a 50-year-old accomplished JAG prosecutor taking a position as an assistant district attorney or an experienced Naval law enforcement official taking a post in a police department like, say Virginia Beach, where there is a large Naval presence?

R.I.P.: Chris Kelly

"So someone who spent years in the military to obtain a pension cannot work in the public sector?"

He certainly may work in the public sector, but it's more than slightly hypcocritical for someone who has been a government employee - who's pay is taken entirely from tax-payer dollars - to run on an anti-government/small-government platform. The same might be said about his complaints regarding "Socialized Medicine" - when he has Tricare. Just because it's "defense" does not make it any less a "Public Good" (good, as in "dry goods") than public education or public health - something for which there is no individual incentive to pay, but which we all need and benefit from.

I think it's fine for this employee - like other government employees or private sector employees - to enjoy the benefits he *earned* (just as city employees, teachers and others do). But then going after those benefits for other employees on the basis of "government can't afford this" is at best intellectually dishonest. Similarly, those who've paid into Social Security have *earned* that benefit - it's not a free handout.

I'd have a lot less trouble with these clowns if they would be honest - it's not government spending they don't like or the size of government in the abstract - the DOD and the "Security State" spends more now than ever and is far more intrusive than ever before in our history, and they have no problem whatever with that. What they really mean is they don't like some policies - they don't like public housing, they don't like public schools and they don't like social welfare, but they don't want to say that, they just want to pretend it's all government they don't like. It's ok to pay more for police, but not teachers.

I really don't know about Farrugio - he was on the planning comission and the police force - maybe he's got a clue. I am a bit irked though: why as a non-believer and a taxpayer should I be forced to subsidize a church? If my utility rates have to be higher to cover the costs of the runoff treatment because they - with their giant mega-church parking lot - get a free pass, then you're really forcing me to pay (in part) for them - and that's a government support of religion. The notion that these churches provide more in services to the community than what they get saved from taxes is...dubious at best. Thanks, I'd rather have the city run the food bank and the schools.

I don't know how long Mr. Farrugio has been around here, but I very much wonder if he remembers that First Baptist torched their old building at first street so they could collect the insurance and build the new mega church.

I do want someone who will force some accountability onto Maurice Jones (how did we ever wind up with a former TV sports journalist cum PR spokesman as a technocrat manager? ) and the budget process. It does seem like we could squeeze significant savings from the budget

Complain all you want about the weak bench on the Democrat side: why can't we have a decent opposition party?

Weber wasn't JAG. Weber takes govt money to defend criminals, then advocates for a political party that rails against meals on wheels, aid for disabled kids and other "takers". Hypocrite.

My comment about old white males was sort of tongue in cheek. Mostly it spoke to how they'll be perceived by the city's electorate. Both of these guy's would be good to have on council, but it won't be likely they'll ever get there with the ingrained silliness of Charlottesville voters, and , even if one gets in, one or 2 sensible guys on the council will still be a minority. The wannabe "people's republic" will continue and we will continue with ideas like the proposed criminal waste of public funds for stupid things like the "human rights commission"

With the recent revelations that City Council lied to us about vouchers paying for the residents of The Crossings, Weber may have a good point about the broken public housing system in Cville. Us tax payers are now into this project not just for the $1M land purchase, and then for $4M or so in construction costs, but we also have to pay for the residents of this transitional housing to live there each and every month because the City and County never bothered to successfully apply for the vouchers needed before they opened the place up.

Shame on Dave Norris and all of Council which pushed so hard to take prime property which could be occupied by private business paying good real estate taxes and make it into this scam.

I understand Dave Norris is looking for a job and was hoping to work with Virginia Supportive Housing, the group that brought up this project, but who never had the financiall wherewithall to finance it, as promised. When does the feeding at the public trough end?

I'm looking at these guys because I'm looking for a change.

Freelove Freida - there is virtually nothing in your comment about the Crossings that is truthful and it's a shame that people like you disseminate false information in such a reckless manner. Please do a little fact-checking first next time. Thanks.