Column: Covert Matters

Column: Covert Matters

Mr. Write-in Bolts His Party

Not since 1961 has a write-in Alexandria City Council candidate managed a victory. That person was a beloved community, political and business leader Frank Mann. He died at 86 in 2007.

Bill Euille is in his 12th year as mayor and has been a faithful and strong member and supporter of city Democrats. His blessing has always been sought in party maneuvers.

Hizzoner in this year of political surprises has pulled off a stunner. He has bolted his party to which he has been faithful for years. His good leadership has been recognized. In various campaigns he has been challenged to no avail.

In June, city Democratic primary voters had a three-way choice for the mayor’s seat. The mayor faced challenges from former mayor Kerry Donley, and Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg.

To the utter shock and surprise of political watchers, the vice mayor won the nomination. Ms. Silberberg earned her council seat three years ago with the largest number of votes. The result was the vice mayorship for the 52-year-old.

Her triumphant election did send shocks throughout what has been called the “good old boys.” She has conducted herself with quiet charm and action.

Following the June primary and her 312-vote victory, the city’s partisan landscape began to change.

Euille just smiled and kept on his routine of being everywhere and running the show, especially in political events.

When the loyal party primary voters spoke, Ms. Silberberg’s win was nicely and whisper-like congratulated. Mr. Euille was quoted as saying, “I will not go quietly into the night.” He didn’t.

He naturally denied having anything to do with it but a twitter address began this way, “write-in Euille.” He has nice friends and the online site has been extremely busy pumping out the hoopla.

The task for the mayor is a difficult one. Democratic Party insiders are distressed by the write-in effort. The current candidates want to focus on their bids for council seats in the November election.

The questions? How to educate city voters to cast write-ins? Mr. Euille’s name won’t be on the ballot. His campaign workers must be schooled in their door-to-door crusade throughout the city. Sample write-in ballots suddenly take on a new character.

To combat the supporters of Vice Mayor Silberberg, Mr. Donley and Lonnie Rich, former party leader and council member, are resigning, I mean “taking a leave,” from the city party to campaign for Euille and raise campaign coffers.

Alexandria politics has always been a bastion for Democrats. In recent years only Frank Fannon, a Republican, has broken the barrier elected to a one-term council seat.

What happens now? The mayoral race will be quite different from the past. This is more than a catfight. The mayor’s job is part time and pays $30,500. The vice mayor and council members, also part time, earn $27,500. It’s not about the money.

From now until Election Day, the mayor’s race will certainly be fun to watch. Council members seeking re-election won’t be in the limelight. This time the opposition party, GOP members, have a chance for some success.

Another train of thought brings on some interesting concepts. If the vice mayor prevails, a new day undoubtedly begins for the city. If Mr. Write-in carries the day, will he be banished from the Alexandria Democratic Party?

In all probability, new rules are going to come about and members and candidates will have to take a pledge or loyalty oath.