By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Updated Thursday, September 10
Mayor Bill Euille announced Sunday he is launching a write-in campaign for re-election in front of a crowd of residents and supporters at Waterfront Park.
In June, Euille lost the Democratic primary for mayor to Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg by 312 votes, while former Mayor Kerry Donley finished third. The four-term mayor said he did not plan on a write-in effort initially, but came to the decision after numerous supporters encouraged him over the last two months.
“Yeah, I lost a primary,” Euille said. “And I tried to put a new life before me. I got job offers, I travelled and I thought a lot about it. But every time, I would come home to Alexandria, and people would run up to me at the grocery store or on the Metro and encourage me to run.
“This city is worth fighting for. I was born and raised here, and I will not go quietly into the night; not when the jobs, decent paychecks and the lifestyles of the people I love the most are at stake.”
Euille said he is taking a leave of absence from the Alexandria Democratic Committee, which prohibits its members from running against or supporting candidates not on the local party slate. He cited a number of the city’s recent achievements, from its unemployment rate of less than 4 percent and the increase in parklands over the last decade, to a recent report ranking Alexandria in the top 10 cities of its size for economic success.
The mayor then launched a scathing attack on Silberberg’s record.
“[Her] view of public policy is to just say ‘No,’” Euille said. “I will not sit back and watch as a tide of naysayers take over the city. I will not watch our triple-A bond rating be jeopardized. I am energized and I will spread that energy to make sure everybody gets involved.
“We must stop this epidemic of naysaying before it spreads.”
Silberberg said in an interview that she had known a write-in challenge from Euille was a possibility and is prepared for it.
“It’s not a surprise,” she said. “It is his right to run, although he and Mr. Donley and I did sign a pledge at the [city] Registrar of Voters saying that we would honor the outcome of the primary and not run for another party. But regardless of the mayor’s announcement on Sunday, my campaign has been and will continue to be full steam ahead.”
Before Euille spoke on Sunday, former City Councilor Lonnie Rich announced that he and Donley are endorsing the write-in effort, and will offer support both in campaigning and fundraising.
“[In the spring], I had a choice between two mayors with long careers to support, and I supported Kerry because that’s who I served under,” Rich said. “But today, both Kerry Donley and I endorse and support Mayor Bill Euille’s write-in campaign.”
Rich cited his own experience on city council as part of the reason he believes Silberberg is not ready to be mayor. He said he found himself still learning the intricacies of Alexandria’s various policies a full six years into his tenure.
“She lacks the understanding and the balance of our fiscal policy,” he said. “[Silberberg] is seriously misguided if she believes she can severely limit growth while still maintaining key services. … We all want neighborhood preservation, particularly our historic districts, but we can grow as well.
“To keep everything the same is to stagnate. It’s not easy to achieve the right balance, so we need experienced, proven leaders.”
Donley was unable to attend Sunday’s announcement, but said Tuesday that he came to his endorsement decision following meetings with both Silberberg and Euille.
“I think [Euille] does have the experience and the record that you can point to and you know,” Donley said. “Allison is a good Democrat and a really nice person, but I think her campaign lacks a fair amount of specificity.
“For example, she talks about how she’s concerned about the debt, but she has always supported bond issues [while on city council]. The Potomac Yard Metro station, school capacity issues and the combined sewer maintenance issues — she supports all of those, but doesn’t seem to have a tangible plan about how to reduce the debt.”
Silberberg dismissed common refrains from Euille and his supporters, that her victory was purely a function of low turnout and strong Republican support, as unsupported by the facts.
“By all accounts, the Registrar of Voters predicted what the turnout would be on June 9, and it ended up being much, much higher than they had predicted,” she said. “It was very good turnout for an off-year primary election and that is a fact. The other thing, regarding Republican support, while it is true that I did receive some Republican votes, so did Mr. Donley and Mr. Euille.
“All three of us received not only support from [Republican] voters, but generosity as well. Not any one candidate had a corner on that market.”
Euille told reporters that he knows the immense difficulty of running a write-in campaign, but he feels he is ready for them.
“Of course I’m concerned — we have 58 days to make this campaign successful,” he said. “We need everyone to join this effort. This will be just as challenging as the primary, and we have to do a lot of field and groundwork to ensure we have grassroots support.
“But the real challenge will be to get people to spell my name correctly.”