It is almost surreal how many people have no idea that there is a special election January 13 that will send a 46th District representative from Alexandrias West End (and a sliver of Fairfax County) to the General Assembly. If this is news to you, then join the absurdly lopsided majority of people who do not know such an election exists.
After an emergency Democratic caucus and Republican canvass last week, only 283 out of the 40,000 to 45,000 active registered voters in the district showed up to vote. How is this possible? It stemmed from the 46th Districts current delegate, Brian Moran (D), announcing late last week that he would not seek reelection so he could focus his time and attention on the gubernatorial race full time. Morans decision was his own to make; it was a personal decision that had political ramifications and his actions were understandable given the circumstances. But candidates ran absurdly quick campaigns as a result, the most extreme example being the winner of the Republican canvass, Joe Murray, whose entire campaign was just shy of six hours.
These miniscule windows of opportunity are unacceptable, both for the candidates who wish to run in such elections and the voters who are expected to cast their ballots in them. The delegates for whom we will vote will be our local representatives in Richmond, serving as Alexandrias voice when it comes to state matters. These positions are too critical to leave to chance.
The way the caucus and canvass were thrown at voters at the last minute made light of a heavy situation. Murray and Charniele Herring, winner of the Democratic caucus, are certainly viable candidates. But there should have been more competition, which would have increased the size of the field and therefore the quality of the candidates involved. Anyone interested in running who happened to take his or her holiday vacation early was out of the mix from the onset. Worse, voters were not given adequate time to even begin to look into the candidates experience and make an educated decision.
The scramble to elect a delegate in January is on for better or for worse. But it is hard not to think the election is already spoiled and skewed. Once Moran announced that he would not seek his delegate seat, a trickle down effect threw the whole process into unorganized chaos.
The Commonwealth needs to have a better plan for dealing with situations like this. Disallowing a governor to simultaneously be a delegate would be a good start, as would creating an early deadline to make a final decision is in order for candidates facing similar decisions. Bottom line: Alexandrias representation in Richmond is too important to cut and paste in a flash.