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Votes

Standing By Their Man

Panoply of city leaders endorse Dana Lawhorne for sheriff.

After last week’s events in Del Ray, when Sheriff Jim Dunning made a rare public appearance to endorse Republican Bill Cleveland, supporters for Democratic candidate Dana Lawhorne decided to have their own press conference. With days to go before the Nov. 8 election, current and former elected officials stood with Lawhorne in a show of support.

“I never thought that I would be up here standing next to these people,” Lawhorne said, thanking supporters for rallying behind his candidacy. “You know that I will not let you down.”

Attendance at the press conference, held in front of the Alexandria Courthouse, was a virtual who’s who of city leadership. One participant joked that the event had a “quorum of mayors.” U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, state Sen. Patsy Ticer, former mayor Kerry Donley and Mayor Bill Euille were there to represent 20 years of mayors.

Commonwealth Attorney Randy Sengel and Clerk of Courts Ed Semonian were there to show support from the courthouse, which is guarded by sheriff’s deputies. Other leaders at the event included several City Council members: Ludwig Gaines, Andrew Macdonald and Vice Mayor Del Pepper. From the local delegation to Richmond, Del. Brian Moran (D-46) and candidate David Englin arrived to support Lawhorne. Former City Council members David Speck and Lonnie Rich were also there to show their support for the Democratic candidate for sheriff.

“One of the most important things is who stands with you,” Speck said. “We stand with Dana Lawhorne, the next sheriff of Alexandria.”

ONE BY ONE, speakers endorsed Lawhorne. They spoke of his Alexandria roots, his longtime service to the Alexandria Police Department as an officer and a detective and his qualifications to head the sheriff’s office.

“You don’t just hand the detention center over to anybody,” Donley said, adding that securing the prison would be the focus of the city’s next sheriff. “He knows the community, and he’s best suited to serve the community.”

Congressman Moran agreed that the Alexandria Detention Center was a top priority.

“Some of you may remember what the Alexandria jail used to be like. It was a source of embarrassment,” Moran said. “The Alexandria jail used to be a place where you would dump people, and they would be subjected to inhumane treatment.”

Moran said that things have changed, but the jail still needs solid leadership.

“We need someone running the Alexandria jail who has judgment — someone who has a sense of humanity,” he said, adding that he supports Lawhorne.

Euille took a moment to comment on Cleveland, whom he ran against in the 2003 mayoral race.

“Some of us had an opportunity to serve with the other candidate,” said Euille, who served with Cleveland on City Council for many years. “I know for a fact that the other candidate does not have the leadership qualities for this position.”

Sengel, who will work closely with the next sheriff on courthouse security, was impressed by the Monday afternoon showing.

“I feel like a need a T-shirt that says ‘I survived four of these mayors,’” he said, adding that he has been a supporter of Lawhorne throughout the campaign. “If leadership is going to be successful in this city, it’s going to have to be a team effort.”

CLEVELAND’S CAMPAIGN also has its supporters. In addition to Sheriff Dunning, Cleveland has been endorsed by Michael Steele, the Republican lieutenant governor of Maryland. But in a statement last week, Cleveland downplayed the significance of endorsements.

“I've been endorsed five times by the people of Alexandria as their City Council member,” Cleveland said. “The only endorsement that truly counts for any candidate is the endorsement of the voters on Tuesday, Nov. 8.”