Our View: This season, the more the merrier

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It’s the most wonderful season.

Yes, the holidays are also nice, but we’re talking about the start of another local election cycle, and all of the wacky, fascinating elements entailed therein. Already in recent weeks four people have announced their candidacies for mayor and council. Are they merely the first flurries, a hint of what’s to come? As with the Farmer’s Almanac, we will have to wait and see if early predictions of a blizzard of candidates pan out.

What we know so far is that on the Democratic side we will have a contested mayoral primary just like last time: Vice Mayor Justin Wilson announced two weeks ago that he will challenge incumbent Mayor Allison Silberberg. As we remarked back in 2015, when former Mayor Kerry Donley and then Vice Mayor Silberberg decided to challenge incumbent Bill Euille, it’s unusual for an incumbent mayor to face a primary challenge.

Maybe the unusual is becoming the norm. There’s also a possibility that the 2018 Democratic mayoral primary will be a three- or even four-way race. Euille recently said he is keeping his options open, including the possibility of another run for mayor.

Maybe someone else will decide to toss his or her hat in the ring. While we wouldn’t bet on it, maybe local Republicans will even field a candidate for mayor in 2018.

What we do know is that two current members of Alexandria’s all-Democrat city council are relinquishing their seats. Wilson can’t run for council and mayor simultaneously, so he will either wield the mayoral gavel or be off of the dais come January 2019, while Councilor Tim Lovain announced earlier this fall that he won’t seek re-election next year.

So far, three Democratic newcomers have announced they are vying for those two seats. Last month, Dak Hardwick, an association vice president and past chair of both the Alexandria Democratic Party and Chamber of Commerce, announced his candidacy for council. Two weeks later, local attorney Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein, a small business owner who runs his own law firm, launched his bid for council. And as detailed in this week’s Times, former teacher Amy Jackson has also declared she will vie for a seat.

We hope many more candidates run for council, for two main reasons.

Each person who runs has a unique skill set and combination of background and passions that puts the spotlight on an array of issues. The more candidates, the more issues will be raised during the debates and election cycle.

There are also two competing visions for the Alexandria of today and tomorrow, and it’s time these visions are subjected to a clear, robust debate.

In general terms, the first advocates a more densely populated Alexandria with fewer cars and more bike lanes, while the second is concerned with livability issues and believes residents are being squeezed out of their neighborhoods by increasing property taxes, traffic and inadequate on-street parking. While there is overlap, the contest between Silberberg and Wilson boils down to a debate about prioritizing livability versus prioritizing development. We hope numerous council candidates also articulate both sides of this vision so voters can make a conscious choice.

So enjoy Christmas, Hanukkah and the attendant festivities and religious services. But when the torpor from that last holiday meal has faded and the new year arrives, it will be time to focus on the local election cycle.

It’s a season we relish every three years.

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