Local Dems line up to challenge mayor

Local Dems line up to challenge mayor

By Susan Hale Thomas and Erich Wagner (File photo)

Rumors are flying around the Port City about the mayoral and city council races like toilet paper off the shelves before a winter storm.

Mayor Bill Euille (D) will run for reelection, and his first announced challenger is former Democratic Mayor Kerry Donley.

But Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg, also a Democrat, is the lone city councilor not to announce her candidacy for reelection, leaving Alexandrians wondering what her intentions are.

Silberberg said a campaign kickoff event is planned for March 1 at Los Tios in Del Ray, though she would not confirm what exactly she will be kicking off — a mayoral or a city council campaign. Silberberg admitted she is pondering a mayoral run.

“Alexandrians across the city, from Old Town to the West End, have been encouraging me to run,” she said. “I’m deeply honored and I am giving the race serious consideration.”

Should Silberberg run, she’ll face two individuals with mountains of mayoral experience. Bill Euille has been in office since 2003, while Democrat Kerry Donley served two terms in the top job himself before Euille.

Before becoming mayor, Donley served on city council from 1988 until 1996. Donley is a senior vice president at John Marshall Bank in Alexandria.

Donley said his biggest priorities are fostering commercial development and other fiscal issues.

“The Potomac Yard Metro station would be the biggest catalyst to boost the tax base,” he said. “I would expedite the project that is two and a half years behind schedule … The NoMa – Gallaudet U Metro station in D.C. attracted $2 billion in private investment for mixed-use and transit oriented development.”

As mayor, Donley said he can better use zoning powers to increase the number of affordable housing units in the city. In addition, he wants more funding for Alexandria City Public Schools, made possible by expanding the tax base.

But Euille said he is more than happy to run on his record in office.

“I have a proven track record that speaks for itself,” he said.

Euille said he’s brought closure to the 45-year-long discussion on redeveloping the Potomac waterfront, reached a deal with the Old Dominion Boat Club after 20 years of brinkmanship, shut down the GenOn coal-fired power plant, is working with WMATA on the Old Town bus barn property and has got the new Metro station moving forward.

Euille says his vision moving forward is to focus on education, job creation and affordable housing.

“Despite the economic challenges Alexandria and cities all over the country are facing, we’ve weathered the storm well,” he said. “I have a lot of support and people believe in my leadership direction. I hope I have their support.”

The mayor was quick to reject Donley’s criticism for the delay of the Potomac Yard Metro station.

“The project got bogged down with the National Park Service and Federal Transit Administration,” Euille said. “We’ve met with the secretary of the interior and director of the National Park Service. We’re now back on track with city council set to select a site in late April or early May.”

City Councilor Justin Wilson said so far all the drama is on the mayoral side.

“If Allison runs, things will be extremely interesting,” he said. “[If] I wasn’t running for office, this would be a good one to sit back with a bag of popcorn and watch.”

He said he was upbeat about the elections and hopeful that council will be willing to tackle difficult issues.

“It does no one any good to avoid them,” he said. “It’s not fun, but people want to see a council willing to do just that.”

The Republican field for city races is beginning to shape up as well. Chris Marston, chairman of the Alexandria Republican City Committee, said the party is in the midst of cultivating candidates for the local races. Although a potential Republican mayoral challenger is considering a run, he is not ready to announce his candidacy, Marston said.

Marston said a number of individuals are coming forward to run for city council. Unlike local Democrats, the local GOP will hold a firehouse primary to choose its slate of candidates in late May.

Among those pondering a run are former City Councilor Frank Fannon, resident and former council candidate Bob Wood, local business owner Fernando Torrez and attorney Monique Miles, Marston said.

Marston said the GOP likely will center their campaigns on a sense of dissatisfaction felt by many Alexandria residents.

“We think there is a widespread feeling that city council just is not responsive to citizens, and that’s their critical role,” he said. “We’ll be holding [the incumbents] to account for decisions they’ve made without consulting citizens or contrary to what they want.”

And political newcomer Willie Bailey announced his bid to become a Democratic candidate. A native Alexandrian, Bailey graduated from T.C. Williams in 1983 and served for 21 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a sergeant first class. Bailey currently works as a fire captain for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and has been with the department for 24 years.

Issues Bailey would like to focus on if he is elected are affordable housing and improving youth engagement, while he said it is alarming that only 11 percent of city workers live and work in Alexandria due to the high cost of living.