Unopposed at the Courthouse
Back in 1979, the competition to become Alexandria's next commonwealth's attorney was fierce. Prompted by the resignation of John Cowhig in a Bingo-and-sex scandal, a heated special election featured former Republican Commonwealth's Attorney John Kennahan, former prosecutor Barry Poretz and acting commonwealth's attorney John Kloch, who won that election and served several terms before becoming a Circuit Court judge.
Then, in 1997, acting commonwealth's attorney Randy Sengel faced defense attorney Bob Battle in a Democratic primary. Now that Sengel is stepping down from the office after serving four terms, assistant commonwealth's attorney Bryan Porter will sail into office unopposed — no Democrats emerged to challenge him in the primary and no Republicans stepped forward to stand against him in November.
"My philosophy is that the Republican Party has an obligation to find candidates and run them because a true democracy is best served by giving citizens choices," said Tom Fulton, chairman of the Alexandria Republican City Committee. "But I was not successful in making that argument."
For the first time in recent memory, a commonwealth's attorney will be elected without any opposition at all, either from his party or an opposing party. Although some may feel that's bad for democracy, Porter argues it's probably a good thing for law and order in Alexandria.
"I'm relieved because it allows me to focus on doing what I love to do, which is prosecuting cases," said Porter, who has been a prosecutor since 2001. "It has given me the ability to focus on some very serious cases this summer, whereas if I was running a seriously contested campaign I might not be able to give as much attention to my job."
Del. Charniele Herring (D-46), who also serves as the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, may not have an opponent for her House seat this fall. But she is involved in another campaign — going after current Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for governor.
This week, Herring led the charge for the governor to "come clean" about his ties to Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, the Virginia businessman at the center of a growing scandal involving previously undisclosed gifts to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. Cuccinelli has tried to distance himself from the scandal, although the attorney general also received $18,000 worth of gifts from Williams and Star, $5,000 of which he failed to report initially.
"Virginians deserve better than leaders who embroil themselves in conflicts of interest and then wait until they are caught to acknowledge the impropriety of their actions," said Herring. "If he ever wants to repair that trust he should come clean today.”
Republicans say Cuccinelli has already come clean, including a press conference detailing all of Cuccinnelli's ties to Williams and Star Scientific. As a result, they respond to Herring's comments with a sense of indifference. But University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondik said the fact that the attorney general has already had to revise his disclosure forms once gives the Democrats an opening.
"It's not necessarily unreasonable to question whether he would need to revise more," said Kondik. "It may be a cheap trick, but that's politics."
Never Too Early
This year may feature the most expensive race for governor in Virginia history. And next year will feature the congressional mid-terms. After that, 2015 will spotlight the Virginia state Senate as well as the race for Alexandria City Council. But it's never too soon to be thinking about 2016.
A new poll out this week by Quinnipiac University features a number of theoretical presidential match-ups in Virginia, which is expected to be a key swing state once again.
The poll is good news for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who comes out ahead against New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie, 45 percent to 40 percent as well as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 51 percent to 37 percent. Results are more mixed for Vice President Joe Biden, though. Christie beats Biden 46 percent to 38 percent although Biden beats Paul 47 percent to 40 percent.