By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Vice Mayor and Democratic mayoral nominee Allison Silberberg seemed unfazed by the growing speculation that Mayor Bill Euille is seriously considering a write-in bid to stay in office.
Last week, a group of residents confirmed they have been meeting actively to lay the groundwork for a write-in campaign ahead of the November 3 general election. And Euille said he was contemplating a run, but that he would not make a decision until after he returns from vacation next month.
Silberberg, reached via phone Tuesday in the midst of her own vacation trekking through Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, brushed off the notion that a general election challenger — the local Republican party declined to nominate a candidate — would impact her campaign strategy.
“The mayor has been speaking about a possible write-in, but that’s for him to discuss, not me,” she said. “He has to make up his mind, but I am deeply honored by the support — I won precincts across the city.
“I’ve stated many times that we are full steam ahead as a campaign and we are going to keep going until November 3. I’ve had a lot of support come forward since that primary victory and that’s what I’m focused on.”
The vice mayor conceded that her campaign has had a self-imposed lull in fundraising, but said a renewed effort would begin in the coming weeks and months. According to state campaign finance reports released this month, Silberberg had only $1,235 remaining in her war chest at the end of June, compared with $28,800 in cash still available for Euille, should he choose to run again.
“We certainly have funding, and we will have a robust fundraising campaign that has been planned since early June, I would say,” Silberberg said. “We definitely wanted to give our donors and supporters a well deserved break. We wanted people to have a break financially, but we know a lot of good things will begin to happen in terms of fundraising [again soon].”
Despite the vice mayor’s confidence, many in the city are keeping a close eye on Euille’s camp. Former Mayor Kerry Donley, who had a policy platform similar to the incumbent and finished third in the June Democratic primary, clarified that he did not officially put his support behind Silberberg when he conceded the race on Election Night.
“I congratulated her on her win and indicated that we needed to focus on the November contested elections,” Donley said. “I’ve got a meeting scheduled with her since she’s out of town right now, so we’ll talk. But she never formally asked for my endorsement and I never formally endorsed her.
“At this point, I think I’m going to talk with Allison and I expect I’ll talk with Bill. I’m certainly keeping my options open.”
Donley said that although Alexandria politics is often quiet in the summer months as people go on vacation, Euille would need to get to work soon if he has any hopes of mounting a write-in campaign.
“The talk’s been out there, and I guess Bill has not committed one way or another at this point,” he said. “I think if he’s serious about doing it, he needs to decide sooner rather than later. He needs to start that campaign in earnest [soon] if he expects to be successful.”
Veteran political analyst Geoff Skelley of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said it is hard to even predict the likelihood of such a campaign being successful, because they are so rarely attempted.
“The first thing you can say about write-in campaigns is that they’re very hard,” he said. “Not many are even attempted because they’re known to be so difficult. The amount of voter education that has to occur by the candidate is costly in terms of time and money, and you need to have a lot of volunteers ready to help you out.”
Skelley said the lack of a Republican nominee might make things marginally easier for Euille, since getting voters to remember to actively write in a candidate becomes less of an issue when the candidate on the ballot is unopposed. But he said Euille would need a strong infrastructure and a lot of money to even begin to tackle that challenge.
“I think a really big thing for Euille is he needs the Democratic nominee, he needs her to come across as really unreasonable or non-credible to a lot of Democratic voters,” Skelley said. “And I’m not sure that condition exists.”
Silberberg said she refuses to change her approach as a reaction to anything Euille might do.
“You know, it’s a free country,” she said. “It’s his decision to make, and whether he runs or not, whatever his decision is, we have been full steam ahead.
“[If] I can sleep among the bears for three days in the Grand Tetons, I think I can mount a very robust campaign effort.”