My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

The Local Results

Some have asked my thoughts on the local elections….well, the results speak for themselves.  The Democratic party in Manassas is ascendant and put on a convincing display of force.  The Democrats carried the entire contest with the sole exception of a single Council seat.  Mark Wolfe, despite the various head winds that he faced was the top vote-getter with 7,184 votes.  Pam Sebesky in second 6,474 and Ian rounding out the top three with 5,852.  Theresa Ellis came very close to taking Ians' spot with 5,757 votes.  The Mayor was unopposed – a situation that is very unlikely to occur in four years.

I was not surprised by Mark's success.  He has always performed well no matter how hard the far right goes to defeat him (and they've done some outlandish stuff).  He's a popular guy.  I was a little surprised by where Pam and Ian ended up – I thought Ian would take second but Pam benefited from people who were straight ticket voters (which appear to have been most people).  Ian and Theresa worked hard and I think that's why the democrats didn't sweep the entire contest.  It's clear that the republicans are going to have to work hard on turning out their folks in the future.  The base of reliable republican votes seems to be a little smaller than the democrats but those democrat voters are indeed willing to cross over and vote GOP so future contests are likely to be relatively fluid affairs.

As for governance of the city, it means the elected folk from both parties will have to work together.  The Council is split 3-3 with the republican mayor being the tie-breaking vote.  On policy items the republicans could implement legislation without the democrats.  An important thing to remember is that the Council alone can vote to expend funds and that requires 4 votes.  The budget process could be interesting.

There were a number of firsts in this cycle: it's the first time we have had a local election the same time as a Presidential election and it is the first time we've had slick, professionally produced hit pieces sent out by a PAC – Awareness Manassas.

There has been a lot of discussion and hand-wringing about the election date.  The arguments against revolve around "the people that are voting don't know what they're voting on".  The arguments for revolve around turnout and "the more people that are involved in the process the better it is".  My thought is this: I kind of agree with all of that.  No, many people who are voting don't know or haven't studied the Council candidates but I view this as a problem for the candidates to solve.  Ultimately if you want to get elected, you need to educate the voters.  I'm sorry it is harder than it used to be but that's the way it is.  Elected office ain't a beauty pageant (Good thing for me).  There has been some talk of moving the date again and I've heard elected officials talk about moving the date by simply taking a vote of Council.  That shocks me.  The current election date was set by referendum – the absolute voice of the people.  I would think that politicians that aren't prepared to respect that should be prepared to get booted out of office.  My message to those that want to move the date is this: cowboy up and get the question put to a referendum.  It ain't hard.

The "hit pieces"….well, if we're Facebook friends you know how I feel.  I think that the ads that Mr. Youlen ran and the mailers that "Awareness Manassas" sent out were despicable.  There are ways to convey information that do not require that kind of imagery and accusation.  Yes, there is room in our contests for "sharp elbows" but that is as far as it should go.  I believe those negative mailers cost the Republicans votes and they definitely cost them a fair amount of good will (even though the candidates didn't send them).  I think that using that tactic in a small city like Manassas is incredibly destructive and short-sighted.  Do those responsible not think that somebody is going to find out who was associated?  The republican party, to their credit, disavowed the mailers but some of the republican electeds didn't seem to mind.  For my part, I'll not be associated with crap like that and that's why I resigned my post within the party several days before the election.  If you think I was associated with those mailers in any way you need your head examined.  Manassas is my home town.  I cherish and respect it.  She deserves better.

Going forward, two years from now, we have Elston, Bass and Aveni.  More or less the entire political spectrum!  It will be interesting to see if the democrats again bring a full slate and who the third republican will be.  The electoral landscape will be a bit different – it won't be a presidential year but Mr. Trump could have an effect on our local and congressional elections.  If he's going full-on "DTrump", harranguing people on twitter and gets bogged down in social issues, it will definately drive turnout at the local level.  If he's somewhat restrained and sticks to the four or five big picture changes he can make then he will be less of a catalyst for turnout.  My bet?  Well, Trump is Trump and he's aligned himself with the right wing of the republican party.  The election in two years will be about Trump.


  1. "many people who are voting don't know or haven't studied the Council candidates" I really like what you wrote, I just see it a tad different. I quoted you because I feel Wolfe got many, many votes from republicans who did not know he changed party and also he as much as Sebesky benefited from a straight dem ticket. 

    Sebesky landed exactly where I had suspected she would in second place, but I was wrong about Lovejoy as the leading vote getter. 

    Lastly, as Mrs. Clinton blamed the FBI this morning, I am placing blame with the last minute Manassas Awareness campaign with hurting my Republican Party in the closing campaigning. 

  2. Mary Ann Jenkins

    November 13, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Andy, enjoyed reading your summary of the results of the election.  I am not going to question at this point how those that got elected, got elected!  Lack of voter information was definetely at play here.  I did not see a strong platform from either side and the only thing that I personally got from this election is that the democratic ticket did not feel that the republican led Council is spending enough on infrastructure and has been  trying to hold taxes down at the cost of much needed improvements in the City. One of the things that has always been an asset to the City is that we never did more than we could pay for.  Any budget conscience person can relate to that.  I am sure that there is a wish list a mile long of wanting new fire stations, police stations, ball fields, libraries, new school buildings etc.  I think the missing theme from both the democratic party and republican party in this election was how to grow the economy in the City of Manassas.  I was at Giant today and there are four empty storefronts.  Some have been empty for a long time.  Wellington is not exactly out in the middle of nowhere and yet we cannot get new businesses to locate there.  This is just one example of a lot of empty storefronts in the City.  We pretty much count on most of our revenue on our three big companies; Lockheed, BAE and Micron.  Take one of those out of the equation and we could be in a lot of trouble tax wise.  I know the City gets all excited about a new brewery or distillary opening or expanding in the City but that is just not going to cut it for generating revenue to pay for all of this new infrastructure.  Manassas is changing demographically and this is quite obvious.  I do not think a republican carried  even one of the precincts including Haydon.  The question is now do we start raising taxes to provide all this new stuff?  I know of many in my age group (baby boomer) who  have lived here for a long time and have stated  that as soon as they retire, they are leaving this area because of the cost of living.   If the taxes take a big hike next year, even more long time residents will reconsider whether to stay or not.  I think the democrats ran a good campaign but like they say, the devil will be in the details on what all of this could cost.  If the taxes go up dramatically then everyone will come out of their cocoons and march down to City Hall and complain during budget time.  Time will tell but we need to get our Economic Development Director to get on the stick and get something bigger in Manassas than just another brewery to pay for all of the stuff that the citizens of Manassas seem to think the City is lacking as a needs as a result of this election.

  3. So are you still a republican?

  4. andy

    November 13, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Depends on who you ask 🙂  

    Seriously, my philosophies are generally aligned with the free market ideas that the republicans favor.  I'm what I call a "businessman republican".  I've never thought much of the Tea party's approach to politics but I do understand and sympathize with their frustration.  I think Trump is going to (and probably should) have some trouble with them (freedom cauccus guys) on the budget front and that's probably for the best.

    MaryAnn – I agree with the weak platform on both sides but I did hear loud and clear from the Democrats that they want to do a new strategic, community-based strategic plan and I think that's a necessary predicate to doing just about anything.  Time will tell I guess.

  5. Team Manasas put out a large number of the negative ads. Their candidates seem to have chosen to ignore or forget about that. Since they were all a part of the ads, you have to assume that they were aware and support the attacks. 

    As for Mr. Wolfe, all he seems to do is win elections. 

  6. Andy,
    Why were there no party affiliations shown on the ballot for Council positions? I can understand school board but don’t understand why no D’s and R’s for Council.

  7. andy

    November 14, 2016 at 8:16 am

    I don't know.  I'd honestly say that I've never noticed and that's probably because I always know who I'm voting for before I go.  I think it's always been that way and that is why the parties hand out "sample ballots" or a "voter guide" like the republicans did this time around.  That most people do straight ticket voting probably explains why the parties hand those things out.  

    I've worked the polls for the republicans for about 12 years now and it isn't unusual for accept the sample ballot and say "I need to know who to vote for"…..

  8. I didn't see a single negative add or mailpiece from Team Manassas.

    It will be a completely different electorate in 2018. Andy is correct in that it may end up being a referendum on Trump. Also, the 2017 Statewides will be the first indicator as to whether or not the pendulum is swinging back to the R side or will continue to the D.

    One benefit I see of the 3-3 split is I'll bet we have a lot of people watching the budget.

  9. There has been some talk of moving the date again and I've heard elected officials talk about moving the date by simply taking a vote of Council shocks and appalls me, too. There was a vote. Citizens decided. It would be extraordinarily shady and self-serving indeed for the Council now to decide, "Oh, we don't like it this way" (presumably because they didn't win seats as hoped) and undo the vote. I don't see the newly elected council participating in that kind of sneaky behavior, however – the Democrats ran on a platform of a citizen-led Council. The previous Council has demonstrated that they will support their own interests, and not those of the majority. I suppose that's why there are some changes on the panel now!


    I'm very interested to see how the budget process moves forward this year. I'm very much looking forward to a new focus on funding our schools and public safety.

  10. Raymond Beverage

    November 20, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    OK, Andy, you wanted to  know my thoughts on the election, so here it is.  I'll focus more on Local since National was what it was.  So grab a drink, sit back, and remember – you asked for my opinion. LOL!

    First off, as you note, there has been a rise locally in the "Democrat" where "Republican" has been for years. Two thoughts there:  (1) on the local Democrat Party (our City and Manassas Park), watch for the rise of the Millenials. They will factor more in Canditates and efforts to elect.  (2) on the local Republican, watch also for the rise of the Millenials who do not agree with the local "leaders". Actions of the last year is such matter as "Land Use Decision" and others is not appealing to Millenial supporting the local GOP view.  Not much different, Andy, then your speaking about watching Ethnic Mix of the City….it is changing and the people are being more active as they see "leaders" less responsive.

    I also don't put stock in "straight ticket" votes.  Looking back at others, and even now, personality driven votes prevail.

    And keep in mind, many many many Voters do not claim either party.  Local election is always about the Candidate, more than party alligeance. Looking at the way the numbers went for Council, I give more credence to person than party.  More as that comes up below.  Me?  I vote for the person which sometimes is also a "revenge vote".  More on that below too.  

    National:  Tally sheet shows 15,411 showed up to vote President.  Number turning out double of past years and the majority of registered voters is what was to be expected.  Four years from now, who knows?  Better bellweather is the Governor & General Assembly next year, then Council.  See who actually shows up (second rule of local politics: decisions are made by those who show up).

    Ok, so with that baseline of 15,411 or so….lets move on to the others:

    US House of Representatives:  around 14,829 by the sheet.  So one might suppose that 500 came in, voted President, and left.  A slight factor to consider as it also bleeds over into the Local.

    Treasurer:  13,497 (see what I mean about vote for other then run?).  I had a strong hunch Patricia would win given being African-American.  It has been awhile since an Elected in this City was a person of color. And she won even with a strong negative ad attack against her.  So in part, some of those 6,907 votes she got may have been "revenge" votes.  

    Revenge votes = You of the far right (or left) who bad mouth a Candidate, fine, they get my vote.  Alas though, have to say it has been more far right negative ads.

    Mayor:  I don't place much on the 13,290 votes as I have a hunch he received what I will call a "click through".  That means those voting saw one name and voted for it.  More interesting is the 4.35% who did write-ins.  Of all the races, the Mayor had the highest number/percentage….and would be interesting to see the breakout as to who was written in.  I know of one person who was a write-in and a valid name (meaning spelled correctly and not abbreviated in any way). Depending on what was written in, I would call these a "protest vote" – mine was.  Still, you wil note the numbers are falling further from President to Mayor…down over 2,000 voters.  And the no opponent:  many have said Rex Parr should have run.  He might have lost, but it would be interesting to see the numbers.


    Mark Wolfe:  ah, leads again as the #1 vote getter.  Many find his leadership style commendable; his candor when he speaks is also respected.  He always paraphrases it with "this is just Mark speaking" or words like that, but people respect direct speak.  Plus, add in the Revenge Vote – the right always attacks, and always looses the attack.

    Pam Sebesky:  I disagree a bit with your view she won on ticket.  She also won because she was known from the School Board in more than just name recognition.  Pam expressed her views during meetings, was seen at school events, was seen at the Football Games.  It would be intersting to see the demographic breakout for ages on who voted – How many 18 to 25 voted for her?  These would be people who saw her name and said "Oh!  I know her!" and voted accordingly.

    Ian Lovejoy: wins seat by just 95 votes over Theresa Coates Ellis.  Close vote in my book.  Both have many of the same views on positions & politics.  This was the most interesting of all the vote spreads….and I could expound more on it, but won't.

    Rex Parr and Jon Way:  good runs.  Rex well known, although I personally wished he had ephasized more of the business experience; economic development background; and especially his leadership for years in diversity of employees.  Jon though seemed to run on the same message as before….possibly a more targeted update of accomplishments.  Although for Jon, I ponder how many votes he received in past were transferred to Pam, Rex, or Theresa.  

    Sidebar: A good benchmark for messages is the 2014 Citizen Survey.  It has many good points of what Citizens want; although seemed to be dismissed by many since it is not what politics want.  Good start point also for developing Strategic Plans.  Survey results aslo fit into Manassas Next 2032 Comp Plan Matrix.

    Michael Youlen:  the Independent…ran a negative campaign.  Not a firm message out of him.  Can't say "well,. independents don't make it in this City" as former Councilman Steve Randolph was an Independent for many of his political years.

    School Board:  I always say this is a name-recognition election.  I cannot recall, in my 22 years in the City, any school race where it wasn't.  And only a few Candidates from time to time who walked the neigborhood (Pam Sebesky comes to mind as the last one years back). For fun, can extrapulate the votes of council vs. school board and see how they relate….totally irrelevant especially since for Council, around 12,000 or so voted, and only around 9,700 or so for School Board.

    You like the way the numbers drop as you hit each category?  

    Now, as to your saying:  "the people that are voting don't know what they're voting on".   I kinda disagree as there was a LARGE number who voted for both Constitutional Amendments.  Question 1 on Right to Work had 14,631 and Question 2 has 14,771.  The first question is one you have to stop and think on…the second, being tax exemption, may also have to be thought on.  Of course, on a tax issue, there are the "don't tax me crowd" who would vote no anyway.  I see it more as people will vote more on who they know, so you and I agree the Candidates must get out.

    One factor I haven't really dwelled on was this team approach to running.  Did it help or did it hurt?  My gut reaction is it had no impact except maybe to be able to pool dollars to produce campaign literature instead of everyone ponying up individually.

    "Awareness Manassas" and "Friends of Team Manassas":  as I said before, thank you Andy for being a true leader and stepping up to speak out against them.  I had hoped last Monday the Mayor might have given a stronger, more of a leader statement than just using a blend of slogans from both Parties. Leadership failure that be, and I did not expect more.  

    My view is there are those in the local GOP who want the attack dogs.  Many residents during the lead-up to Election Day asked the Mayor and Candidates to speak out against the negative attacks…and they didn't.  Of course not.  Next year is the Virginia Races and for HOD 50, the Democrats have a candidate who is already proving his leadership by speaking up on issues where other "leaders" are not  Then, of course, the following year is the City elections.  No, no…let us not speak ill of the right wing attack dogs as they shall work to ensure we have the one-holy-GOP-as-we-see-it-City that it should be.

    Ok, enough rambling.  Thanks, Andy and anyone else for reading!

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