COVER- Eat fresh, vote local: Pick your own pols in 2009
Those who just turn out for the presidential elections every four years are sort of like the church goers who only show up at Christmas and Easter.
It's easy to get election fatigue in Virginia, which has some kind of voting action every year. Barely a year after the massive 2008 presidential election, it's time to vote again for local and state representation. And this is that one that gives you a say about who represents you on City Council, on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, and in the General Assembly.
The governor's race between the area's own State Senator Creigh Deeds and former attorney general Bob McDonnell is being closely watched on the national level as a possible harbinger of mid-term elections to come.
And the local elections are a harbinger of what this area will look like in the years to come.
We asked Charlottesville and Albemarle candidates to respond to a few admittedly superficial questions in 10 words or fewer. Some candidates followed directions well and combined brevity with levity. Others will probably complain that their long-winded points were lost in brutal editing. Sorry about that.
And here's a handy rule of thumb to tell the difference between city and county candidates: The two biggest area issues are a long-term water plan and the Meadowcreek Parkway. City candidates are open to dredging the Rivanna Reservoir and oppose the Parkway; county candidates cherish the 50-year-water plan with the mega-dam at and pipeline to Ragged Mountain Reservoir– even if they didn't sign the pledge– and they love the Parkway. And those positions cost the six supervisor candidates, none of which picked up a Sierra Club endorsement.
CHARLOTTESVILLE CITY COUNCIL
Two open seats have drawn five candidates, including incumbent and mayor Dave Norris, who was re-nominated by the Dems, and will, along with Kristen Szakos, be the majority party's standard bearers. Three independents joined the race, although only two got enough signatures to get on the ballot. The perpetually outnumbered Republicans didn't put forth a candidate, but they did float a platform.
Occupation: General construction contractor
Family: Victoria, married 42 years, 2 sons, Ross, in Afghanistan, and Austin, coming to UVA JAG School
Why run? To restore responsive, representative government to city
Political experience: Founder and organizer of Save McIntire Park campaign
Biggest issue for voters: With a political monopoly, City Council ignores the citizens
Favorite water supply plan: Dredge here, dredge now!
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? No to an obsolete, 1950s idea.
Skills that makes you suited for Council: Ability to translate words into action.
What do you do better than your opponents? Translate words into action.
Top donor(s): Grace Stearns, Jacquelyn Lichtman, Kelton Flinn, $200
What are you reading now? The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Political hero: Frederick Douglass
Paul Edward Long
Occupation: Transporter UVA Medical Center
Family: Single. One brother, one sister.
Party: Lifelong Democrat, but running as an independent
Why run? There are a lot of issues I care about that none of the candidates were discussing. [Editor's note: Decriminalization of drug use is one.]
Political experience: Secretary of the Tinicum Township Board of Health in Pennsylvania and watchdog to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Biggest issue for voters: Their opinions do count, and they have a responsibility to stay involved in the political process.
Favorite water supply plan: Dredging
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Nay
Skills that makes you suited for Council: During my eight years as a drug/substance abuse counsellor, I learned how to listen and to defuse tense situations.
What do you do better than your opponents? I really don't know my opponents, but I am tenacious and feel that is a virtue.
Top donor(s): Bill Koski, Michael and Becky Wood, $200
What are you reading now? The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Political hero: William Jennings Bryan
Occupation: Executive director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge
Family: Son Eli, 13; daughter Chloe, 9
Why run? To continue to provide responsive, progressive leadership for our community's future. There's a lot of work left to do.
Political experience: Elected to City Council in May 2006, mayor since January 2008.
Biggest issue for voters: Expanding opportunities for children and families, creating affordable housing, promoting alternative transportation.
Favorite water supply plan: Put conservation/efficiency front and center, determine feasibility of dredging, avoid building massive new dam if at all possible, stay in our watershed, improve the ecological health of our rivers.
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? I opposed the Parkway long before I decided to run for public office and still oppose it today.
Skills that makes you suited for Council: I actually enjoy the process of crafting good public policy. And I am willing to admit mistakes and learn from them.
What do you do better than your opponents? See all sides of a given issue and work to find common ground wherever possible.
Top donor: Personal loan to my own campaign.
What are you reading now? Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
Political hero: Paul Wellstone, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr.
Occupation: Freelance editor, writer
Family: Husband Joe, daughters Anna, 20, and Maria, 18. Dog and a cat.
Why run? During the last presidential campaign, I was excited to see how many new people were energized by the idea that they could affect change on the national level. I hope that through my campaign, I can encourage active participation in our local affairs as well.
Political experience: Activist engaged in public issues for 35 years, including the Barack Obama campaign, president of the Burnley-Moran PTO, vestry member of Trinity Episcopal Church, and on the boards of the Charlottesville NAACP and the Special Education Advisory Committee for the city schools.
Biggest issue for voters: City government responsiveness; the opportunity gap in our schools, jobs and housing.
Favorite water supply plan: Generally, the 50-year-water supply plan approved by the city and county, but modified (the dam reduced) by the accurate addition of dredging and conservation.
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? I wish it was that easy. Nay– but I believe it's too late to legally stop now.
Skills that makes you suited for Council: With my background in journalism and a wide and varied range of life experiences, I am able to learn about complicated issues and synthesize them into understandable language.
What do you do better than your opponents? Sing. (I am also able to understand the nuances of complex issues and work with others to arrive at workable solutions that take into account all perspectives.)
Top donor: $3,555 cash contributions of $100 or less, also $500 Democratic Road Back PAC
What are you reading now? Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement by Patricia Sullivan
Political hero: Barack Obama
Andrew D. Williams
Occupation: Insurance claims adjuster
Family: Not married. Parents live in Troy, Virginia.
Party: Independent [Williams is a write-in candidate.]
Why run? I would like to see a different perspective in local government.
Political experience: Virginia Community College Strategic Planning, Virginia 21, and PVCC's Student Government.
Biggest issue for voters: Balanced representation, employment security (and employment in general), city spending and traffic congestion.
Favorite water supply plan: Dredging existing infrastructure with the cost of building something new in mind. Dredging would have less of an impact on our environment and I believe with proper initiatives, we can sustain.
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Only as a last resort and all potential alternatives exhausted. No, we have many alternatives left.
Skills that makes you suited for Council: The ability to listen, coupled with the desire to make reasonable and practical decisions that would represent the major populous.
What do you do better than your opponents? I am willing to adjust my thinking to fit the needs of Charlottesville's families, students, and workers. I also adapt to changes quickly without losing focus of how local government should look.
Top donor: One of my key mentors is a retired surgeon at UVA. I don't have many monetary donations, but people have donated their time to speak to me about their concerns and ideas.
What are you reading now? The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard, Society in Focus, Management Accounting and the Bible.
Political hero: Martin Luther King. I believe I would not have had the opportunity to run for City Council 50 years ago, especially in Virginia.
The sheriff is responsible for transporting prisoners and maintaining order in the court– and the constitutional position pays well at around $95K. Albemarle cop James E. Brown III got the Democratic nomination; Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement task force member Paul Best runs as an independent.
Paul J. Best
Occupation: Charlottesville Police detective with over 15 years of experience.
Family: Fiancée Kimberly Simmons, a nurse, who has one son Zack.
Why run? Improve the quality of life in Charlottesville by creating healthier neighborhoods.
Political experience: More now then I ever wanted.
Skills that makes you best suited for sheriff: A diverse law enforcement background for a law enforcement position.
Top donor: I am and would love for someone to bump me out of that slot.
What are you reading now? Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon by Dan Parry and Virginia Search and Seizure 5th edition.
Political hero: Theodore Roosevelt
James E. Brown III
Occupation: Police officer
Family: Wife at Martha Jefferson Hospital, 10-year-old daughter at Walker, and 6-year-old son at Clark.
Why run? To make Charlottesville better and safer, to give back to the community where I grew up, to get the Sheriff's Office more involved with the community, to be a role model for the youth, and to help with the lack of diversity in positions of leadership.
Political experience: First time running for office. Obama campaign volunteer.
Skills that make you best suited for sheriff: Spanish fluency, organized, self-motivated, innovative, public speaking, ability to work with people from all backgrounds.
Top donor: Self! "Put your money where your mouth is."
What are you reading now? Thomas Jefferson on Leadership by Coy Barefoot
Political hero: Mitch Van Yahres. Barack Obama. All politicians that fight for justice and equality for ALL people.
ALBEMARLE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Jack Jouett District
The unopposed incumbent sits on the biggest war chest– $70K, according to Virginia Public Access Project. Go figure.
Occupation: Attorney and business owner
Family: My wife, Ann; daughters Elizabeth and Lauren; and four grandchildren, Jared, Dylan, Lottie, and Lem.
Why run? To continue to provide effective leadership on environmental, financial, educational, and other significant issues facing our community, and to help this area remain one of the best places in the country to live.
Political experience: Four years on Planning Commission and eight years on the Board of Supervisors. Also numerous other committees and boards for Albemarle County.
Biggest issue for voters: The economy and its many impacts on citizens and governmental services.
Favorite water supply plan: The one approved by the regulators and adopted by the Board of Supervisors, City Council, the RWSA Board, and the ACSA Board after more than six years of study and public input.
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Yea. The county was asked to participate in this project by the city long ago and has supported it for many years. Now under construction, it will be the most pedestrian and bicycle friendly multi-modal transportation project ever built in this area and result in a net gain of about 40 acres of new parkland.
Skills that make you suited for Board of Supervisors: My legal, business, and financial background provides me with the tools to be an effective participant in governing.
What do you do better than your opponents? I have no opponents.
Top donor: John Grisham
What are you reading now? The Facebook Era by Clara Shih
Political hero: Abraham Lincoln
Samuel Miller District
The Ivy-North Garden area seat long held by Sally Thomas is hotly contested in a three-way race.
Russell Madison Cummings Jr.
Family: Wife of 40 years, Pat; children Kristin, Katy, Josh
Why run? I like volunteering, I like people, and I think government can be a force for good if it is managed by people of good will.
Political experience: Samuel Miller Democratic District Chair, 2004-2009; elected to Albemarle County School Board in 1997 after being appointed in 1994.
Biggest issue for voters: Restoring our economy, employment and business opportunities, while respecting our natural resources.
Favorite water supply plan: The Community Water Supply Plan adopted by the Board and Council in 2006, with maintenance of the Rivanna Reservoir as a water and recreational source by doing "entrepreneurial" or opportunistic dredging if indicated by the dredging study.
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Yea, and I would love to see a roundabout at the intersection at U.S. 250, but that's City Council's decision.
Skills make you suited for the Board of Supervisors? Eight years on the School Board, dealing with all sorts of budgetary, social, and educational issues. Also served on the Commission on Children and Families, which acquainted me with the myriad social issues impacting our community.
What do you do better than your opponents? I have experience in governing and preparing an over $100-million budget. I also probably can play tennis or split wood better, but I'm just guessing!
Top donor: My mom, Mary Frances Cummings
What are you reading now? The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara (about D-Day in WWII)
Political hero: Abraham Lincoln
John C. Lowry
Family: Married to Nancy Feil Lowry, three children, and four grandchildren.
Party: Not affiliated = independent
Why run? Life-long desire, positioned myself to be able to.
Political experience: Current chair Economic Development Authority of Albemarle
Biggest issue for voters: Responsible economic activity in growth area– more jobs, less need to raise property taxes.
Favorite water supply plan: Four boards-approved plan of 2006
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Albemarle is doing its part.
Skills that makes you suited for Board of Supervisors: Work experience– I can act to solve money needs. Volunteer experience– long list of decades of community service. Government experience– besides EDA, I am past chair of Joint Airport Board.
What do you do better than your opponents? I introduced Albemarle's investment banker to the county. I know how we could finance many things– voters should try me out!
Top donor: Robert Carey, M.D., former dean of UVA Medicine and friend.
What are you reading now? Two biographies, one of Cicero and one of Winston Churchill.
Political hero: I have many. One would be Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a late starter who wonderfully contributed to his nation.
Occupation: Retired CEO of Snows Garden Center
Family: 5 kids, 13 grandchildren
Why run? My son asked me, my wife convinced me
Political experience: Nothing elected
Biggest issue for voters: Efficient use of tax dollars
Favorite water supply plan: We agree on the water supply plan
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Yea
Skills that makes you suited for Board of Supervisors: 35 years business experience; listening, thinking, and acting
What do you do better than your opponents? Smile
Top donor: My neighbors
What are you reading now? The Hook
Political hero: Thomas Jefferson
The race in Albemarle's smallest, most urban district is, perhaps, the most contentious. It heated up after Rodney Thomas did, er, a HotSeat interview in the Hook. Later, the Daily Progress reported incumbent David Slutzky calling his opponent "ultra-conservative," and the challenger contending that while his choice of words may have been un-PC, he's not a racist.
Occupation: Supervisor, small business owner, teacher (UVA)
Family: Wife Melissa; children Briana, Becca, and Isaac; grandson Phineas
Why run? To continue serving the public
Political experience: Senior policy advisor, EPA and White House; chairman, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Biggest issue for voters: How to fund our future during difficult economic times.
Favorite water supply plan: The approved plan
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Yea
Skills that makes you suited for Board of Supervisors: Policy experience, leadership, research and analytical skills, innovative thinking
What do you do better than your opponent? Work on behalf of the future
Top donor: My army of volunteers who give of their time
What are you reading now? Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, and a Plan to Stop then All, by Brian Czech
Political hero: Gandhi
Rodney S. Thomas
Occupation: Owner Charlottesville Press (commercial print shop)
Family: Wife Nancy, son Rod, daughter Ashley, and eight grandchildren
Why run? Because the people of Rio deserve a more responsive supervisor
Political experience: Albemarle Planning Commission (8 years), chairman 2004
Biggest issue for voters: Taxes– people worry the board's "pizza & beer" will become "surf & turf."
Favorite water supply plan: One that includes new and accurate cost figures from the recently hired consultants.
Meadowcreek Parkway– yea or nay? Yea. Charlottesville must also build its part as promised.
Skills that makes you suited for the Board of Supervisors: Good listener, fiscal realist, result oriented, proven leader and expert door knocker
What do you do better than your opponent? Fiscal restraint and experience delivering quality customer service.
Top donor: Rodney Thomas, and that's after I gave myself a deal on printing.
What are you reading now? Keeping the Faith by Richard McKinney (the history of Charlottesville's First Baptist Church on West Main)
Political hero: Ronald Reagan
ALBEMARLE SCHOOL BOARD
Charlottesville has three uncontested incumbents, so that's why we're not covering the city race. Albemarle has three seats open, with incumbent Pam Moynihan challenged in the Rio District. Eric Strucko steps uncontested into the Samuel Miller seat, and in the Jack Jouett District, incumbent Diantha McKeel, like Supervisor Dennis Rooker, is unchallenged for reelection.
Occupation: Chief financial officer, University of Virginia Health Services Foundation; chair, Albemarle County Planning Commission.
Family: Wife Laurie (16 years), son David (11 at Henley Middle School), daughter Claire (7 at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School)
Why run? To maintain the Samuel Miller District tradition of bringing a parent's perspective on the School Board, to serve Albemarle County in a new capacity, and to advance public education.
Educational experience: MPP, Georgetown University; MPA, George Washington University; BA, Vanderbilt University, AA (Paramedic), Piedmont Virginia Community College. Albemarle County Schools Long Range Planning Committee, Meriwether Lewis Elementary PTO, Board of Trustees, Miller School and Free Union Country School
Skills that makes you best suited for School Board: Professional financial manager, dedication to public service, parent of two children in the public schools.
Biggest issue for Albemarle schools: Managing the financial challenges to retain and recruit the most effective teachers, and supplement the core curriculum with stronger enrichment programs that enhance student creativity and problem solving ability.
Southern elementary schools: consolidate or remodel? Remodel. I am a strong advocate for keeping Red Hill, Yancey, and Scottsville open.
Top donor: Laurie Strucko.
What are you reading now? Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, Liaquat Ahamed's The Lords of Finance, James I. Robertson Jr.'s biography of Stonewall Jackson, Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello, Robert W. Keidel's Game Plans: Sports Strategies for Business.
Educational hero: Constance Strucko, a public high school English teacher for 37 years.
Occupation: Cardiology clinical coordinator at UVA Health System
Family: Wally, husband of 32 years; children Megan and Tom, graduates of Albemarle County Public Schools
Why run? Education must provide opportunities for all children and our national interests require an educated citizenry. I want to be part of reaching that goal.
Educational experience: BA in Sociology and Education; LPN license with clinical research certification
Skills that makes you best suited for School Board: I am a former teacher with 12 years experience on the School Board, two terms as chair, and a willingness to communicate and listen to everyone.
Biggest issue for Albemarle schools: Preparing all our students to be well-rounded, critically thinking and participatory citizens.
Southern elementary schools: consolidate or remodel? School Board will vote October 22. The superintendent, Dr. Moran, has recommended renovating the three small schools.
Top donor: Me! I am unopposed.
What are you reading now? The Restorative Practices Handbook-Building a Culture of Community in Schools (Costello & Wachtel) and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (Wroblewski)
Educational hero: Horace Mann, the "father" of free public schools and John Baker, my role model as an educational leader.
Pamela R. Moynihan
Occupation: Senior analyst [National Ground Intelligence Center]
Family: Married 28 years with 2 children
Why run? Continue eight-year record of fiscal responsibility and educational excellence
Educational experience: BA Political Science, Long Island University; MA Diplomacy, Norwich University
Skills that makes you best suited for School Board: I am a two-term incumbent with analytical and school budget experience.
Biggest issue for Albemarle schools: Budget in light of reducing revenues, teacher compensation, achievement gap
Southern elementary schools: consolidate or remodel? Remodel– community schools are important to Rio District residents
Top donor: Self
What are you reading now? Leaderless Jihad, Terror Networks in the 21st Century, by Marc Sageman
Educational hero: My 6th-grade teacher, who encouraged me to think analytically and creatively
Ned L. Gallaway
Occupation: Director of training, Brown Automotive Group
Family: Married to Julie, daughters Kaitlyn, 7, Maggie, 3, and Aidan "AJ," 3.
Why run? To serve the county and its students, to provide the Rio District with a new choice at the ballot, and to bring an ardent voice of support for arts education and other co-curricular/extra-curricular activities.
Educational experience: BFA Ohio University, Athens, Ohio; Doctoral candidate, Curry School of Education, UVA
Skills that make you best suited for School Board: Former Shaker Heights High School teacher; thoughtful, pragmatic approach to budget matters; previous success collaborating on issues such as the enhancement of arts education and successfully closing the achievement gap.
Biggest issue for Albemarle schools: Comprehensive programs must be provided and improved during a budget process marked by cuts. In addition, providing competitive teacher compensation needs to be preserved.
Southern elementary schools: consolidate or remodel? Remodel
Top donor: Myself
What are you reading now? Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner; Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Educational hero: My grandmother, Margaret Reinbold. She earned her bachelor's degree past the age of 60 and taught me the importance of education and knowledge in living a fulfilling life.
Races for Richmond
One county, four delegates. 25th District: Steve Landes (R) v. Greg Marrow (D). 57th District: David Toscano (D) v. Robert Brandon Smith III (I). 58th District: Rob Bell (R) v. Cynthia Neff (D). 59th District: Watkins Abbitt (I)
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER
Usually an incumbent in the General Assembly has a free ride at election time for as long as he (typically) wants to spend his Januarys-March in Richmond. This year, for some reason, three of the area's four House of Delegate races are contested, except for firmly entrenched Watkins Abbitt in the 59th District (which takes in southern Albemarle), who soundly trounced a challenger two years ago.
Here's who's who in those races.
57th District– Charlottesville
David Toscano took over this Dem stronghold seat in 2005 after Mitch Van Yahres, who held the seat for 24 years, stepped down. Attorney Toscano, a former Charlottesville mayor and city councilor, is challenged this year by long-shot Robert Brandon Smith III.
The incumbent has raised about $125,000 and is sitting on $111K, and counts among his 170-plus donors developer Hunter Craig, music impresario/developer Coran Capshaw, and Van Yahres' Democratic Road Back PAC. [Hook co-owner Ted Weschler contributed to Toscano's campaign.]
Smith, a carpenter and drywall mechanic, lists $101 in contributions from an organization called Citizens for Much Lower Taxes and zero cash on hand as of August 31, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
The big issue for the 57th District, says Smith, is the Meadowcreek Parkway, and he's in the stop-it camp.
"I think there's a lack of public debate on issues, and running is a way to have that debate," says Smith, who made a run as a write-in candidate two years ago.
58th District– northern and eastern Albemarle, Greene, parts of Fluvanna and Orange
Just as the 57th District is configured into a safe Democratic seat for David Toscano, so too the 58th has been a Republican safe haven for Rob Bell since he won it in 2001 and before that, for Paul Harris. That did not stop former IBM exec/Democrat Cynthia Neff from going for it.
"Both sides had reasons why they think someone should run this year," offers Bell. "If you're a Democrat, you look at Obama and think you should run. For Republicans, they've recruited candidates they think are going to be competitive."
Bell has the money advantage, sitting on $570K August 31, according to VPAP. [The Hook's Weschler contributed to his campaign, too. Maybe it would be easier to list the campaigns to which Weschler didn't contribute, but while we're disclosing, donations went to Dennis Rooker and David Slutzky's Albemarle supervisor campaigns.] Neff has raised a seemingly respectable $127K for a House of Delegate race, but the $84K she has on hand pales besides Bell's war chest, in what political pundit Bob Gibson calls the most expensive delegate race in the state.
Neff is learning what it's like to run against a four-term incumbent. "He has a lot of access that I don't," she says. "He goes into schools and teaches civics. What people don't know is that I was endorsed by the Virginia Education Association. He's on their wall of shame." She's also chafed about the difficulty of setting up a debate.
Both candidates are doing lots of door-to-door in the four-county district.
"I'm encouraged when I knock on doors– more people know who I am," says Neff.
"In the 58th, they're used to seeing you on doorsteps every couple of years," says Bell. "I've been an employee of the voters for eight years."
25th District– Crozet, Waynesboro, parts of western Albemarle, Augusta, and Rockingham counties
The 25th District seems like a Shenandoah Valley district, only it reaches across the mountains and snags western Albemarle.
And perhaps Augusta County isn't really another world. Crozet and western Albemarle have a lot in common with Waynesboro and eastern Augusta, says Steve Landes, 49, the seven-term Republican incumbent. "A lot of people live there and work in Charlottesville and Albemarle. A lot who live in western Albemarle shop in Waynesboro."
Landes hasn't had a challenger in 10 years. Optometrist and McGaheysville resident Greg Marrow decided to take the plunge for the Democrats, and the 25th has become the most contentious area delegate race.
Marrow, 45, who once campaigned for Reagan, calls Landes an "entrenched career politician." He takes a shot at Landes' pet project of trying to rid Virginia Code of obsolete laws. "While Rome's burning, Nero's fiddling," scoffs Marrow.
"That's just one of the things I've done," responds Landes, who's gotten rid of 75 laws. "I'm on the appropriations committee and use that for my constituents' benefit."
He touts his seniority and experience, but disputes the "career politician" label. "It's my part-time job, although sometimes it seems full time," says Landes. "It's public service, not a career."