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Votes

Democrats Gear Up for Party Caucus on May 10

Three candidates vie for the Democratic nomination for Dranesville District supervisor

Democratic Caucus Pledge

"I hereby state that I am a Democrat, that I am a registered voter within the jurisdiction for which this caucus is held, that I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party, and that I do not intend to support any candidate who is opposed to a Democratic nominee in the next ensuing election.”

This Saturday, when the two respective political parties in Dranesville District gather in McLean, a field of five candidates for Dranesville District supervisor will be winnowed down to two.

But many voters seem virtually clueless that such a momentous decision is coming so soon. Without primaries, there has been little to make them aware they have a choice. There have been virtually no yard signs, no campaign flyers and no candidate forums.

And with a Republican primary on June 10 getting attention because it will determine which of two candidates will run to oppose Virginia Sen. Janet Howell for the 32nd District seat, sheriff and board chairman, voters seem not to be focused on the race for supervisor in Dranesville.

Asked Saturday if he and his wife plan to participate in either the Democratic Party caucus or the Republican Party canvass, Bob Hummel of Great Falls said, “You know, we are not. The reason is we are going to New Orleans tomorrow. We are aware of the election,” he said. “It is basically a disinterest.”

Another McLean voter, asked the same question, said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Tell me again what are the main issues.”

Then, chagrined that she did not know about the Democratic caucus and the Republican canvass set for May 10 in McLean, she asked that her name not be used in the newspaper.

AFTER ATTENDING a May 5 Dranesville Democratic Committee meeting to review the caucus rules, Democratic candidate Fred Mittelman of McLean was disgruntled.

“It will be run like any other party caucus,” Mittelman said. “There will be no literature inside the room. There will be a table out front for literature.

“You will come in, you will sign the pledge, they will check the data base to see that you are a registered [Virginia] voter, and then, you will be seated.

“They will allow five minutes per candidate to speak, and five minutes for questions to each candidate.”

A drawing on Friday will determine the order in which the candidates speak, he said.

“I tried to say the time was inadequate,” Mittelman said. “I got shot down.

“Think about it. I speak for five minutes, I speak for four minutes, whatever. Somebody gets up and says ‘Mr. Mittelman, are you a tool of the soccer community?’ That question took 30 seconds.

“But they could ask, ‘What are your views on the public questionnaire the Board of Supervisors thought about doing, and what do you think about asking 13-year-olds about their sexual practices?’ That takes a little longer,” Mittelman said. “Five minutes is not adequate.

“It really doesn’t matter what I say,” Mittelman said. “Virtually everybody who is going to be there will have already decided.

“Does this mean that if I am not the candidate I am not going to support whoever is the candidate against the Republican? No.

“My differences with my fellow Democrats are so minor, compared to my differences with the neo-conservative and outright conservatives in Virginia, that I have much greater differences with those folks,” he said.

But his party’s caucus “is very important,” Mittelman said. “And yes, we are requiring them to spend three, maybe four hours. And yes, I would have loved to make it easier for them. But this is the future of Fairfax County government,” he said.

“WHEN WE SAT DOWN to discuss the process, one of the issues was that [Mittelman] was totally unknown, had done nothing of substance for the [Democratic] party, and the caucus would provide the opportunity for the candidates to introduce themselves to the voters who attend,” said McLean attorney John Foust, the first candidate to announce. “It is a very democratic process.

“I continue to believe it is an excellent way for the voters to see all three candidates, hear from them, and decide who they want to have represent them.”

“It is an adequate amount of time for people to form opinions and make a judgment as to who the most effective leader of the Dranesville Democratic Party will be.

“I would encourage everyone to come out; those who know who they will vote for, and those who don’t,” Foust said.

“Each of us is making ourselves available to let people decide who they’d like to select as a candidate.”

MITTELMAN ALSO QUERIED whether it was appropriate for Dranesville Democratic Party chair Dale Evans to endorse one of the candidates, John Foust, when he announced his candidacy on Mar. 2.

Although Foust was the first to announce, Evans did not rescind his endorsement after Mittelman and Pierce entered the race, Foust confirmed.

Mittelman said Evans “does not recognize that he has an incredible conflict of interest. He defends it, and says he has been perfectly fair to everyone.

“The Dranesville Democratic Committee and its chair have stacked its procedure in favor of a longtime member of that committee,” Mittelman said.

“Is there anything wrong with that? No. If I controlled the committee, I would have chosen a procedure that favored me. Let’s face it. That is the nature of politics.

“I was not a longtime member of the [Dranesville] Democratic Party,” he said.

But the process “might not necessarily give you a candidate who can win the general election, and that is the ultimate goal of all parties.

They are not debating societies. Their role is to get people elected,” he said.

BUT EVEN THOUGH he says the deck is stacked against him, Mittelman said, and “as much as I may gripe about it, and even though I don’t think it is the most Democratic [process] and I certainly don’t think it is advantageous to me, it is the process, and I have to respect it.”

Merrily Pierce, another candidate for the Democratic nomination, would not comment before the caucus, saying it wouldn’t be appropriate.

She referred questions to Dranesville District Democratic Committee chairman Dale Evans.

Pierce has distributed postcards which include a written statement of support from Providence Supervisor Gerry Connolly, who is running for board chairman. Foust said he received a similar comment from Connolly.

The Democratic Party’s caucus begins at 9 a.m. with registration. The assembly convenes at 10 a.m. It will be held at Langley High School in McLean.

Mittelman has arranged for a room to be open for child care.

The Dranesville magisterial district, one of nine in Fairfax County, includes Great Falls, Herndon, and McLean.

Any Virginia registered voter may participate although the party may ask them to sign a loyalty pledge.