NEWS- Shipp sails: And Claytor advances in Dem fest

After 30 years as a deputy clerk, Debbie Shipp is ready to sail as the Democratic candidate for clerk of court.

There were no bathroom breaks May 14 when Albemarle County Democrats massed at the County Office Building to nominate a plethora of candidates in the party's largest turnout ever, according to county chair Fred Hudson.

 Candidates tried to make a literal impression on every caucuser, and sheriff candidates Larry Claytor and Roger Craig stickers dotted the crowd in the closest race. 

"It looks kind of even so far," said Craig, a master deputy for the sheriff's department, who went on to narrowly lose the nomination to Albemarle cop/CARS president Claytor.

Kevin Fletcher, who challenged incumbent Lindsay Dorrier for the Scottsville seat on the Board of Supervisors, used handwritten stickers. "We didn't want them to look like they came out of a machine," he laughed.

Even unopposed Dems like Denise Lunsford, who's running for commonwealth's attorney, had plenty of blue stickers on hand.

 Promptly at 7pm, Hudson figuratively "locked the doors" (fire codes prevented a literal lockdown) in Lane Auditorium and warned attendees that if they left early, their vote would not be counted.

Four hundred ballots were handed out, with 112 going to the Scottsville Dems segregated in the balcony. They ultimately nominated Dorrier to run for his third term over Fletcher, who hasn't ruled out an independent run.

Hudson pegs the turnout even higher than the ballot numbers. "There are 500 seats in that auditorium, and very few were not taken," he notes. 

The evening was in sharp contrast to previous years when county Dems frequently couldn't muster candidates to challenge the iron grip of incumbent Republicans, particularly for constitutional offices such as sheriff, commonwealth's attorney, and clerk of court.

Competitive jabs between the candidates were subdued. And party chief Hudson noted that the county registrar had certified all candidates to be on the ballot, perhaps quelling buzz about Craig, who has long lived in Barboursville but registered using the address of a house he owns in Albemarle that he said he intended to move to– at least before the caucus.

And in nominating Claytor, who has been criticized for not being Democratic enough after previously running for sheriff as a Republican and an independent, Steve Rosenfield noted that Claytor's parents were Democrats, and he compared Claytor to Jim Webb, a former Republican who won a seat in the U.S. Senate as a Dem. "Larry has come home," said Rosenfield.

Shelby Marshall's decision to end her 40-year reign over the clerk's office has made that the most coveted open seat in Albemarle. Five candidates including a Republican and two independents were running to be keeper of the county's records, a position that pays $113,000. By the end of the evening, the field had been narrowed to four.

Relative newcomer Janet Ferrance, who's been in Albemarle eight years and is a deputy clerk at Charlottesville District Court, tried to capitalize on not being entrenched. "Sometimes it takes an outsider to move an office through change," she said. "I am that person."

Caucusers thought otherwise and voted for the continuity of Marshall's longtime deputy, Debbie Shipp, and her 30 years of experience in the clerk's office.

"She knows the water best who has waded through it," said Shipp, who then quipped, "This Shipp is ready to sail."

Unchallenged State Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David Toscano accepted their party's nominations, as did Lunsford, who will face off against Republican Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Camblos. 

Landscape architect Marcia Joseph will be the Dem taking on chairman of the board supe Ken Boyd in the Rivanna district. 

And in the White Hall district, Ann Mallek will be the Democratic candidate challenging Republican incumbent David Wyant and independent Tom Loach.

"I'm fired up," said Mallek, who said that folks in the Crozet area are "on a rant" about all the growth going on around them. 

Fourteen speeches and under two hours later, before the squirming got too bad, the Dems were released with a slate of candidates. 

Third time the charm? Larry Claytor gets the Dem nod for sheriff.