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.