Local officials, candidates vow unity after tough Alexandria primary race

Local officials, candidates vow unity after tough Alexandria primary race

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

In the days immediately following last week’s landmark Democratic primary election, where Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg beat four-term incumbent Bill Euille for the nomination for Alexandria’s top elected position, the city was rampant with rumors.

Euille did not initially concede, suggesting he and his team would look at what additional steps might be available to him after a margin of around 300 votes. A few residents talked of starting a write-in campaign for the incumbent. And media reports speculated that aspects of the controversial waterfront plan could be scaled back under the next regime.

But this week, local Democrats have put forth a concerted effort to assure residents that the party is united behind Silberberg, despite a campaign that was acerbic at times. The Alexandria Democratic Committee put out a press release Tuesday morning announcing its nominees for mayor and city council that included statements from both Silberberg and Euille.

“It would be unreasonable to expect that everyone have their ‘Kumbaya’ moment overnight, but it’ll happen in the coming weeks and I think it’ll happen pretty soon,” said ADC chairman Clarence Tong. “That’s why we made sure to issue that particular statement today.”

And in an interview Tuesday, Euille appeared to walk back comments made last week about “possible next steps.” The mayor also said last week that he would not personally support a write-in bid.

“No, I’m still the mayor until January 1,” he said. “I’m not going to be doing anything other than doing my job as mayor.”

Boyd Walker, a longtime Democratic activist and a Silberberg supporter, said the long gap between the June primary and the inauguration of the next mayor in January leaves plenty of time for mending fences. Since there is no Republican candidate for mayor, Silberberg is presumed by many to be the de-facto mayor-elect.

“It’s kind of a long lameduck period, because we already know the outcome of the November election if there’s no write-in campaign,” Walker said. “That’s a lot of time for Allison and Bill to work together and there’s a lot of experience he can share with Ms. Silberberg and hopefully will, and [former Mayor] Kerry [Donley] as well.

“All three want the city to move forward, and it’s obviously what the people want to do.”

And Walker dismissed arguments he has heard from some residents both about the size of Silberberg’s mandate to govern and the idea that she might have courted Republicans in her campaign.

“There’s a lot going around about the fact that 62 percent of voters didn’t support her [by voting for other candidates], but by the same token, 64 percent didn’t support Bill Euille having a fifth term,” Walker said. “And to the criticism for supposedly courting Republicans: I never heard her publically court them, and it’s an open primary.

“I’ve been accused of that in the past and Andrew MacDonald was accused of that, but all candidates would welcome all and any votes no matter where they come from. As a candidate, your interest is in winning.”

After some speculation about the future of waterfront redevelopment efforts in local media outlets, city officials likewise have looked to tamp down on rumors. City Planning Director Karl Moritz said that although the waterfront plan can be rolled back by a majority vote of city council, it likely wouldn’t have any effect on the projects at the heart of the plan’s controversy.

“With the Carr hotel, there’s no legislative action left to take — they just need building permits, so there’s no opportunity or action left for council to take,” he said.

Moritz said Robinson Terminal South still needs certificates of appropriateness from the city board of architectural review and can be appealed to city council, but those likely would be finished this fall. And the Old Dominion Boat Club already has its certificate of appropriateness, meaning the only hurdles left for its new clubhouse are administrative in nature.

The only project still needing preliminary council approval is Robinson Terminal North, Moritz said.

“Robinson Terminal North hasn’t gone to council for a hearing yet, but that would likely happen in September,” he said. “And if it is approved, it doesn’t need certificates of appropriateness because it’s not in the Old and Historic District. If the council action in September is approval, there wouldn’t be another council action needed.”

Although City Councilor John Chapman supported Euille during the campaign, he said he understands why many residents might be unhappy with city government.

“I think there is a certain amount of folks who do want to see something change in how government operates,” he said. “It’s not even always the decisions. It’s the processes we use to get people engaged. We need to look at some of those and find out: Are they working? And if not, why not and what do we need to do to get them working?

“One of the things that stuck out to me is why do so few people vote? I’ve never seen — outside of a presidential election — an election, whether in May or November, where percentages of turnout have gotten above 20 percent.”

And he warned those who do not support Silberberg not to dismiss last week’s win.

“I don’t want to reflect poorly on anyone, and I can’t speak to whether [the election] constitutes a mandate or not, but the bigger issue is folks don’t come out and vote,” Chapman said. “It says something about Allison that she’s able to get that many folks out regardless of percentages or people’s thoughts about what party they came from.

“Don’t think it’s a fluke or anything like that. If there are folks who do think that, I would remind them she was the top vote getter in 2012. Even in a presidential year she reached out to folks and connected with them.”