A Special Election, A Special Opportunity

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For better or for worse (for worse), a rushed special election will take place Tuesday, January 13. When Del. Brian Moran decided late in the game to give up his delegation to the General Assembly, sending candidates and a small number of voters scuttling to fill his seat, there is no question that many voters were disenfranchised.

But no laws were broken and Moran gave equal (though not ample) notice to both Republican and Democrat leaders. To be trite and at the risk of sounding Yogi Berra-ish, whats done is done. It is what it is. It is now time to make the best of a tough situation, beginning with the voters.

If you do not live in the West Ends 46th District, you will not vote in this special election, but it will affect you nonetheless. The winner either Joe Murray (R) or Charniele Herring (D) will represent all of Alexandria by virtue of representing its west side. If you do live in the 46th District, the special election offers a phoenix of opportunity out of the ashes of a botched democratic process.

The west side of Alexandria is comprised significantly of what many deem transient housing or condos and apartments. Its voter turnout is perpetually low, especially for local elections, excused by many as a function of the West Ends temporary occupants. Of course there is some truth to this; residents who plan on moving away do not invest their time in local matters as much as a third-generation Alexandrian might, but there are also single-family homes and apartment dwellers who may rent, but are bona fide citizens nonetheless. The 40,000 to 45,000 active voters in the 46th District have an opportunity to make their involvement in the city clear and push Alexandrias underrepresented side into the limelight where it belongs.

Cameron Station in the 46th District comes to mind as an outspoken and involved community. Its residents have spoken out and taken action against civic faux pas like the harmful, industrial-strength presence of Virginia Paving and Norfolk Southern Corporations ethanol transfer station.

Such engaged civic action questions the conventional wisdom that West Enders do not make themselves heard. The special election is a valuable opportunity to start solidifying a voice.

An especially unique opportunity exists for Republicans in this unusual political climate. Its been more than a decade since an Alexandria Republican has made the trip to Richmond as an Assembly member. The party could use the short campaign to their advantage by getting their voters to crawl out of the woodwork and surprise a contented and comfortable Alexandria Democratic party but only if voters vote.

Tuesdays special election can only be looked at positively at this point. With the redevelopment of the Landmark and Van Dorn areas looming and the possibility of the Commonwealths next governor coming out of the 46th District, the West End is finally poised to be recognized instead of marginalized.

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