So far, three-term Mayor Bill Euille has yet to agree to a one-on-one debate with independent challenger and former Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald. A debate featuring all the candidates for City Council including Euille and Macdonald has been scheduled in October hosted by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. But none feature the two mayoral candidates going head to head. Euille says he’s already turned down one invitation to a one-on-one debate because he couldn’t fit it into his schedule.
“I’m not sure why there needs to be a separate one for mayoral candidates,” said Euille. “But certainly both campaigns are discussing options.”
Macdonald describes that discussion as one-sided, with his campaign agreeing to all the proposed debates while Euille says his schedule won’t permit a one-on-one debate — at least not yet. As someone who has been critical of recent actions of city government, Macdonald is eager to mix it up with the mayor. He says voters have a right to hear where the candidates stand on the issues in a forum that isn’t bogged down by more than a dozen other candidates waiting for their turn to speak.
“He doesn’t want to debate me,” said Macdonald. “I think he’s doing whatever he can do to slide through to November and pretend that I don’t exist.”
Euille disagrees, pointing out that he’s already agreed to one debate featuring both candidates. And Euille says he hasn’t ruled out agreeing to a one-on-one debate if he can fit it into his schedule.
“If it’s something we can get worked out, yes,” said Euille. “But this is a short campaign period, and we have less than 85 days left.”
Four or More?
Is four debates for City Council candidates enough? As with many issues during a campaign year, the answer depends on the party of the person answering the question. Republicans say no. Democrats say yes.
“Our candidates want more than four,” said Alexandria Republican City Committee Chairman Tom Fulton. “Four is fewer debates than I believe most citizens or voters would feel comfortable coming away knowing that they have listened to a debate in their neighborhood on issues they feel are important.”
This week, Democrats issued a press release announcing their candidates have agreed to four debates. The dates are Sept. 12, Oct. 2, Oct. 15 and Oct. 24. The Sept. 12 debate is hosted by a group of West End civic associations, and the Oct. 24 event is hosted by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. The two other dates are still being worked out. Alexandria Democratic Party Chairman Dak Hardwick says four debates should be enough for voters to know where the candidates stand on the issues.
“This is a not a campaign tactic; this is a scheduling challenge,” said Hardwick. “In addition to running for office, we have candidates on both sides that have to run the city as well.”
Tale of Two Turnouts
One will have about 10 percent participation. The other will have about 80 percent participation.
That’s the spread Alexandria Registrar Tom Parkins expects between the Sept. 4 special election for the House of Delegates and the Nov. 6 general election.
Right now, Alexandria has about 80,000 active registered voters — about 40,000 of whom live in the 45th District. That means about 4,000 to 6,000 voters are expected to participate in next month’s special election. Parkins said his turnout projection is based on the 2007 summertime special election for City Council between Justin Wilson and Bill Cleveland.
“I think that campaign between Wilson and Cleveland might actually end up drawing more voters than this one,” said Parkins. “That was a citywide election, of course, although the 45th District draws a little heavier than the rest of the city.”
As November approaches, however, Parkins expects the political season to heat up considerably. Between now and Election Day, for example, he expects to add about 10,000 new voters to the rolls. Part of that is the get-out-the-vote operations of the parties and part of that is simply people moving to the city and registering to vote.
“That’s pretty standard for a presidential election,” he said. “It’s not standard for any other election because that’s just what happens in presidential elections.”