By Melissa Quinn
Voters hoping for multiple chances to see Mayor Bill Euille square off with Independent challenger Andrew Macdonald can expel a sigh of relief — the rivals will spar next week.
The long-anticipated showdown, co-sponsored by the Old Dominion Boat Club and the League of Women Voters, happens Tuesday evening with an hour-long debate at George Washington Middle School. Both candidates agreed to the contest — the first of several before Election Day — after the lack of mayoral debates threatened to overshadow the race.
Macdonald has charged Euille of trying to dodge a one-on-one matchup, but the Democratic mayor denies his rival’s characterization.
“We were always planning on debating, it was just a matter of coordinating and scheduling,” Euille said. “Campaigning is more than just debating, it’s about knocking on doors and reaching out to voters.”
Dak Hardwick, chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, took a similar though more pointed line in August, telling the Times that Macdonald was politicizing what was, essentially, a scheduling conflict.
Macdonald, a former vice mayor, said Euille’s campaign finally caved to public pressure. He welcomed the outcry for mayoral debates, turning it into a campaign issue.
“They were [enraged],” Macdonald said of residents. “This is just politics. The community is more irritated now than I am, and I’m glad about that. I think it’s great.”
The debate, which will conclude with all of the city council candidates squaring off against one another, is the first in a series scheduled for next month. Three other forums — October 10, October 15 and October 24 — will feature mayoral as well as city council candidates. And on the last dates, the two mayoral candidates will have 30 minutes in a head-to-head debate. Macdonald, though, voiced skepticism that the mayor will appear at the shorter debates.
Euille rejected the challenger’s speculation, pledging to attend “any and all debates.” A public showdown affords him an opportunity to showcase the achievements of his 18-year tenure on city council, he said.
“They’ll get to witness my sincere passion and commitment and sincerity to the job,” Euille said.
Macdonald, too, sees the debate as a chance to stand out among voters. He launched his campaign for the mayor’s seat in city council chambers after leading an impassioned effort against the waterfront redevelopment plan last year.
“I hope it’ll make people make up their minds in the best sense of the democratic process, which is exactly what Alexandria has been lacking on a lot of levels,” Macdonald said.