Community News Politics — 12 July 2011
The court’s nonpartisan Democrat

Every eight years Alexandrias Democratic Party sends their choice for Clerk of the Circuit Court to the ballot and for the past three decades Edward Semonian has been their choice as best man for the job. 

Voters seem to agree. Theyve elected him for the position since a special election landed him the job in 1979. There have been few other choices. Except for that first race, hes run unopposed.  

Unless things change before the August 23 primary, it will happen again. The citys Republican Party isnt running anyone against the perennial clerk, at least not yet, according to chairman Thomas Fulton.

Semonian, busy most days managing a staff of 20 employees, filing paperwork, and recording marriage licenses and real estate transactions among a slew of legal proceedings, cant think of an instance where his or Democratic leanings might have mattered. 

And the politics of the residents he deals with on a regular basis dont matter either, Semonian said. 

The job is really a job [where] Im here to serve the citizens regardless of what their political affiliation is, he said. Youre elected because there is a need to be independent.

Though city Democrats include Semonian on their lengthy list of locally elected party members, its not exactly a position rife with partisan politics, said Clark Mercer, chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee. 

Eds position is not viewed by anyone as being a partisan position, he said. Its a pretty big managerial job. Eds been doing this for a number of terms and hes kind of an institution in Alexandria and Ive never heard anyone say anything negative about Ed or about how the courthouse is run.

Frank Hargrove, president of the Virginia Court Clerks Association president, agrees. Whatever the clerks political leanings might be, their job is to serve the public as efficiently as possible, he said. Doing a poor job is more likely to oust a clerk than wherever the political winds are blowing, he said.      

I think that service to the public is probably the paramount consideration and that may cancel out partisan consideration, Hargrove said. Were here to serve those people and going through the electoral process for any clerk, whether theyre an Independent, Democrat or Republican, they have to get out, meet people, find out what they want, find out what there complaints are or the things that theyre happy about.

Keeping court clerks and their constituents connected makes the position more responsive, he said. 

With eight-year cycles between elections and more concerned with running an office than anything else, circuit court clerks hold what might be the least publicized of local public offices. Semonian thinks so; he cant remember ever feeling the need to hold a press conference. 

Its not the kind of a position that gets a lot of publicity for what we do, he said. We dont handle very controversial matters. We do things individually for citizens as opposed to some political office where youre involved in issues that are very controversial.

Doing that, and doing it well, is key to holding onto the post for as long as Semonian has, said Mercer. 

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