Frank Fannon, a local business leader and fifth-generation Alexandrian, and Phil Cefaratti, a realtor and newcomer to the political scene, declared this week that they will run for two of six city council seats behind the dais at City Hall. Along with Republican candidate for the 46th District Delegation Joe Murray, they represent the hope to secure a GOP say in city politics and legislation.
Not since 2003 has a Republican held a seat on Alexandrias City Council. It has been even longer more than a decade since an Alexandria Republican represented the city in the General Assembly. But with a special delegate election on Jan. 13 and a city council election in May, Republicans look to claim back some ground. And the political climate offers slightly more hope than the party has had recently.
Its pretty exciting; it represents a lot of potential, said Chris Marston, Chairman of the Alexandria City Republican Committee. Weve had a fairly bad run on not having any elected officials since 2003 in the city and were excited about the prospect of having some Republicans to represent the many republican voters in Alexandria again.
Murray is running against Democratic insider Charniele Herring in the special election to represent the citys West End in Richmond, and the candidates quick campaigns (about four weeks long, two of which were over the holidays after Del. Brian Moran (D-45) decided to run for governor full-time and relinquish his seat) could benefit Murray, a newcomer to Alexandria politics and a four-year resident who works on the Hill for Congressman Henry Brown (R-S.C.).
Because of the rushed election process, very few of the districts 40,000 to 45,000 active voters are even aware about the election (Id wager about 75 percent dont know, Marston said), and there is little time to study the candidates, meaning residents will likely vote along party lines. If Republican supporters show up in significant numbers even in a heavily Democratic area their chances of securing and an upset are viable.
There arent a lot of voters who have time to spend considering the candidates, Marston said. The turnout in this election is going to be all core party voters. Its just a question of who turns out more.
I think Joe is fully qualified and will be a great delegate, but, I dont think that a detailed biography or the condition of either candidate is going to be a big factor in the race. I just dont think theres a lot of time for persuasion of undecided voters.
The City Council race is another monster for Republicans. Its homogenous mixture of Democrats worries Republicans who think there are too few perspectives on the governing body. As candidates register and begin to launch their campaigns before the deadline, Republicans hope to capture a seat via a well-used term of late: Change.
I want to be the candidate to bring new and innovative leadership to the city, said Fannon, echoing the sentiments of a recent letter from Councilman Ludwig Gaines in which he declared that he will not run for reelection.
My primary focus is that I think that we need more checks and balances on the city council, Cefarratti said. I absolutely want to work with every other member of the City Council, but I think when you have one party running everything you run the risk of losing perspective.
Fannon, in particular, is running on a platform that champions public-private partnerships. He says he is the voice of local business that the Council currently lacks, and he wants to be the connection between business and government.
A lot of businesses and developers, they just dont want to come into Alexandria because traditionally, they know it is so bureaucratic and its so hard to get projects done, Fannon said. That is our reputation in the business and real estate community. But we want to encourage business.
West End resident Cefaratti, a former active member of the military and current realtor with an MBA, is also running on the hopes to dilute the Democratic dais. He recently ran for 46th District delegate in the Republican canvass against Murray, but lost by a slight margin. He is a newcomer to politics other than that stint.
Im not going to serve just the Republican party 100 percent; Im not going to serve just the West End 100 percent, Cefaratti said. Ultimately, my goal is to present myself as a representative of the city of Alexandria and try to do whats best for our city.
If Fannons and Cefarattis goals are to be realized they must first break through the dominant Democratic stronghold Alexandria represents, meaning getting non-Republicans to vote Republican, which is obvious to them. The question is how.
I absolutely do recognize that I need Democrats to vote for me, Cefaratti said. And I hope to present a very logical, very down to earth argument to let voters realize that I am not necessarily bound by any one partys beliefs that Im going to be a rational thinker and try and do my best for the entire city of Alexandria.
Fannon is hoping to downplay divisive party lines and focus on his role in the community as a businessman and member of various community organizations. In community-oriented elections such as this, he hopes, the R next to his name need not define his goals or actions.
Its no surprise to any one that Alexandria is a majority-Democrat town, so to get elected, you need some folks from both sides of the aisle, Fannon said. You need to draw some independents and get some Democrats. I think particularly in a city council election there are a lot of discerning Democrats who are willing to look past party labels to do whats best for the city.