Winning precincts across the city from the West End to Parkfairfax to Old Town, Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg won the primary on June 9 by a convincing plurality to become the Democratic nominee for mayor of the city of Alexandria. She defeated the incumbent mayor, Mr. Bill Euille, who has served since 2003. She also defeated the former mayor, Mr. Kerry Donley, who served as mayor eight years prior to Mayor Euille. Against a combined 20-year incumbency as well as being outraised by both candidates, Vice Mayor Silberberg pulled off an upset. She won in an old-fashioned way. She actively listened to one voter at a time with the promise to bring new energy to the table.
Since the election, some of my Democratic colleagues are trying to negate Vice Mayor Silberberg’s win by invoking sexism (“she can’t do the job,” “it’s bad for business”). They speculate that her margin of victory resulted from Republican and Independent cross-over votes and complain about low voter turn-out.
Let’s be clear. Vice Mayor Silberberg won the election fair and square by keenly focusing on the needs and desires of her constituents. While on council, she developed a deeper core base of constituents across the city who want to change the present dynamic of government. She hosted monthly coffees and welcomed all to join her. Citizens came out in droves. People experienced her commitment to public service and caring leadership. For example, her response to Russell Road families, after a child was struck and nearly killed on a dangerous stretch of road. For years they asked the city to do something. As vice mayor, she got things done to bring them a safer stretch of road.
As vice mayor, her leadership and principled votes often went against the grain of “business as usual.” Guess what – she wasn’t alone in those 6-1 votes after all. With her victory, we now have an opportunity for thoughtful, appropriate development that is in scale and a more transparent government with open debate.
Let’s be clear about something else. If Ms. Silberberg had lost the primary, she would have been expected to, and would have, immediately endorsed the winner. I applaud Mr. Donley’s immediate endorsement on election night. I hope that our other Democratic elected officials and candidates will expressly endorse her soon.
Frankly, it’s been disheartening to read social media and listen to the elitism among some of my Democratic colleagues who set a double standard for the rules of the game to choose who leads the city. When Ms. Silberberg won the November 2012 City Council election, she received the most votes and became vice mayor. She also out-polled Mayor Euille in six precincts.
In 2009, the Alexandria City Council changed the elections schedule to increase voter participation. Knowing the historical trend of Democratic voter performance in Alexandria, it’s no secret that whoever won the Democratic nomination will most likely be elected mayor in the general election. Thus, Alexandrians knew that their best chance to elect their mayor meant they needed to participate in the Democratic primary. Although the voter history data won’t be available for several months, people hypothesize that Vice Mayor Silberberg won by attracting Republican voters and Independent voters to the Democratic primary. I disagree.
Vice Mayor Silberberg ran a masterful campaign that attracted different kinds of voters to vote Democrat across the city by talking to non-voters, swing voters and new voters. She won 11 out of the 26 precincts citywide, from Chinquapin to Agudas Achim, from MacArthur to George Mason, from the Hermitage to the Durant Center, from Lyles Crouch to City Hall. Voter turnout exceeded the 2013, 2012 and 2009 June Democratic primaries. That’s her formula for success in November and her mandate to govern our city.
Don’t make it harder for her. My fellow Democrats, support a popular nominee who brings a new vision of thoughtful leadership for all Alexandrians. Stop the whining and shenanigans. Get to work. We must do better.
Eileen Cassidy Rivera
Campaign Co-Chair, Silberberg for Mayor of the City of Alexandria
Former School Board Member, Alexandria City Public Schools