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Votes

Democrats Like ‘Assembled Caucus’ to Select Candidate for Supervisor

Democrats in Dranesville District will very likely choose their candidate for supervisor in an “assembled caucus” sometime between May 9 and June 10.

A Dranesville District Democratic Committee (DDDC) subcommittee voted Jan. 25 to recommend that the party convene a caucus at one location, rather than hold a primary election at all Dranesville precincts, to select a candidate for supervisor.

It would probably be held at a government building or public school in Dranesville District, said DDDC Chair, Dale Evans. The full DDDC board, which has about 66 members, will vote on the recommendation on Feb. 18.

The next step would be to set a deadline, not earlier than March 13, when candidates have to file.

“We have one announced candidate, and two circling,” Evans said. “Each one has agreed they will support the other candidates [if elected]. We just have to choose which one we think is best and will represent the party best. It is good that all three of those people support each other,” Evans said.

At the caucus, voters gather “in a room, an auditorium, a theater; and they listen to all the candidates speak and present their issues,” Evans said.

“Each candidate makes their best case” in an exchange of their views under questioning by the voters. In the process, Evans said, “We are not looking at brochures mailed into the house, or little sound bites, or mechanized telephones calling us and saying to vote [for someone].

“The people get to hear all the [candidates] and all their issues,” he said. “There is give and take. We ask questions and debate the issues. “We are looking for openness, to get to the bottom of the issues and find out what everybody thinks.

“Then they vote, and the person who gets the most votes” is the candidate, he said.

Any registered voter, including those registered as Republicans and Independents, can participate, provided they sign an agreement to support the Democratic candidate in the general election on Nov. 4.

IN COMPARISON with a primary election, an assembled caucus would hold expenses down. In a primary, each of 25 precincts is open all day on a Tuesday, with taxpayers paying the bill.

An unassembled caucus, or firehouse primary, is also held at only one location, but without an open discussion.

Instead, candidates use traditional methods like printed mailers and door hangers, phone calls and candidate “meet ‘n’ greets” to reach voters to voice their messages on the issues.

In an assembled caucus, after each candidate presents his views on the issues, voters may ask questions.

In an unassembled caucus, the voters and candidates don’t interact, said Evans.

John Foust, a Democrat, and Joan DuBois, a Republican, have filed papers to organize election campaigns for the open seat as Dranesville supervisor.

Foust said the assembled caucus “is a good process to use. It is open to all the voters in Dranesvillle.

“It will provide a forum for the candidates to be seen by the people who are going to vote, and to hear them speak on the issues, and present their vision for the job,” he said.

“It is another way to open the process up and let people participate. It is also significantly less costly for the taxpayers” who would foot the bill, Foust said.

“It is probably a good thing to have more than one choice any time you have to make a choice,” Foust said. “If [the undecided candidates] go forward, it will provide that choice.”

Foust, DuBois and at least two other Democrats who are considering a run for supervisor all live in McLean.

Fred S. Mittelman, an attorney who graduated from Hunter College in New York in the same class with Fairfax County Public Schools supervisor Daniel Domenech, said he is strongly considering entering the race for Dranesville supervisor as a Democrat.

“I favor a firehouse primary,” Mittelman said. “An assembled caucus is not my first choice in methods of candidate selection.

“I think the Democratic party properly stands for openness,” he said.

But Mittelman said the style of the Democratic primary alone won’t determine whether he runs. He won’t make a final decision before Feb. 22, Mittelman said.

Former McLean Citizens Association president Merrily Pierce, now a legislative aide to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Katherine Hanley (D), has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Dranesville District seat but remains undecided, she said.