Six Times the Voters
Alexandria Registrar Tom Parkins is forecasting a 12 percent to 15 percent turnout for the June 12 Democratic primary, which would mean about 9,600 to 12,000 voters are expected to show up at the city's precincts on Election Day. That's a dramatic increase from the firehouse caucus that has traditionally been used to select the slate of candidates - a process that included about 1,700 voters in 2006 and 2,000 voters in 2009. That means about six times as many voters will participate in the selection of the party's slate compared to recent election cycles.
“Because there are a large number of candidates, that could make a difference,” said Parkins. “If you have several candidates that really organize and get people out, we could see those numbers go up.”
A whopping 14 candidates are seeking six slots on the Democratic ticket for City Council in a fiercely competitive race that has tightened in recent days. Perhaps the biggest change is that the contest will be conducted in a citywide primary rather than a firehouse caucus. That means that all of the city's precincts will be open on Election Day rather than one centralized location. Another factor contributing to the higher turnout is the top of the ticket. Democratic voters will also be selecting a congressional candidate, longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Moran or first-time candidate Bruce Shuttleworth. Parkins said he's basing his projections on the hotly contested 2004 Democratic primary between Moran and Andrew Rosenberg.
“Most of the turnout for the June 12 primary will be driven by the Moran-Shuttleworth race,” said Parkins.
Politics of Beauregard
The Beauregard small-area plan is shaping up to be one of the hottest election issues in this campaign cycles. During a heated debate at Cora Kelly Elementary School earlier this month, candidates were asked to take a position on the issue, which was being voted on that weekend. Incumbent Councilman Paul Smedberg said he was leaning yes, although incumbent Councilwoman Del Pepper declined to answer because she wanted to make a decision after hearing testimony during the public hearing. She eventually voted yes.
Even after the vote, the issue remains a topic of conversation on the campaign trail. And candidates continue to refine their views. During the Cora Kelly debate, John Taylor Chapman said he would vote “to delay it or vote no.”
“I don't believe that we, as a city, should be continuing to force out folks that have lived here for decades,” said Chapman. “We have an opportunity on the West End where we have sort of cashed in our opportunity in other parts of the town to push people. Now we're pushing people out of the West End to other areas. That's not right.”
Now that City Council members have passed the plan, Chapman says he would have voted to defer rather than voting against the proposal.
Mark Your Calendars
Voters hoping to get a glimpse of all 14 candidates will have two more opportunities.
The second and final forum hosted by the Alexandria Democratic Committee will be at 7 p.m. on June 4 at George Washington Middle School. Like the first event at Hammond Middle School, the party's official forum will be hosted by Sorensen Institute executive director Bob Gibson. Like the first party debate, the event will feature lightning rounds, core questions, candidate-to-candidate questions and personal statements.
“This is the best opportunity to hear from all our candidates together at one time,” said party chairman Dak Hardwick. “Come out and get to know these candidates and hear about their vision for Alexandria.”
Another event that will feature many if not all of the Democrats is the Chamber of Commerce's legislative reception, which will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Westin Hotel. Although the event will not feature a formal debate, voters will have an opportunity to meet the candidates and ask questions.