Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille's poor performance in the congressional primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) is calling into question his ability to lead the city, opening the door to talk about former Mayor Kerry Donley challenging Euille in next year's Democratic primary. That possibility has encouraged talk about Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg possibly entering the race as a candidate who would oppose the kind of large-scale development that Euille and Donley both support.
"The behind the scenes politicking in Alexandria is exactly what happens when you try to reach for a higher rung on the ladder and fall short," said Stephen Farnsworth, political science professor at Mary Washington University. "The mayor did not perform well, and rivals are circling."
In an interview with the Alexandria Gazette Packet, Euille said he is committed to running for a fifth term. He said his goals for the next term would be to oversee redevelopment at Landmark Mall, construction of a new Metro station at Potomac Yard and implementation of the waterfront plan. He said he's proud of his record in office, a time that's seen the city read a historic agreement with the Old Dominion Boat Club and the adoption of a plan to redevelop three key pieces of property on the waterfront.
"The main thing I want to do with my fifth term is to continue to grow the economy in the city and attract top-notch economic development projects," said Euille. "My team is still together from the congressional race to move forward at the appropriate time, and I look forward to continuing to serve the great people of this city."
DONLEY SAID he is "actively planning" a campaign for mayor, and some Democrats are already committing their support to him in the upcoming primary, which is next June. Although the former mayor said he is still talking over the idea of a campaign with this family and his employer, he minced no words about his opinion of the Euille administration.
"The record speaks for itself," said Donley, who has also served as the chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia and the athletic director for Alexandria City Public Schools.
The former mayor said he's disappointed that the process for constructing a new Metro station at Potomac Yard seems to be intractably delayed, and that he believes the Eisenhower West study is moribund. He added that he believes the tax base is not growing fast enough, adding that the city's expenses have exceeded its revenues for seven out of the last eight years. And even though Euille has publicly talked about having a balance of residential and commercial properties in the city, financial records show the opposite has taken place.
"If you look at the primary results for Congress, that is potentially a referendum on the mayor," said Donley.
A POTENTIAL CAMPAIGN between Euille and Donley for the Democratic primary would be a battle for each to claim the mantle of being pro-business and pro-development. Both Euille and Donley supported the waterfront plan and the Beauregard small-area plan, two planning efforts that some critics say have valued the interests of developers over the interests of historic preservation and affordable housing. That's why supporters of Allison Silberberg, who was critical of both the waterfront plan and the Beauregad plan, are trying to get her to enter the race in the event that Donley challenges Euille.
"I am incredibly flattered that people I know and even people I don't know have been encouraging me to get into this race," said Silberberg, who became vice mayor in 2013 after she received more votes than any other candidate for City Council. "Right now, I'm focused on being vice mayor and doing the best job I can for the people who brought me to this point."
The race for Congress opened the floodgates among Democrats, many of whom have been eyeing the seat for years. At one point, the race had 13 Democrats vying for attention. One of the first candidates to announce his candidacy was Euille. His campaign was seen by some as following in the footsteps of Moran, who was mayor when he defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Stan Parris (R-8) in 1990. But Euille won only two precincts in Alexandria.
"Despite our best efforts and the hard work that my campaign put in, if folks don't come out to vote that affects the outcome," said Euille. "There were people weeks after the election saying to me that they would be voting for me and supporting me. I would say to them that it's too late, and they would say they thought it was in September."