This primary was fascinating

This primary was fascinating
(Photo/Olivia Anderson)

Each election season is entertaining in its own way, and the just-concluded Democratic primary didn’t disappoint in that regard. We had 14 total candidates running for mayor and City Council, and unlike some years, all of those running could have ably served.

We had the intrigue of an outside organization, Unite Here and its political action committee Workers Vote, pouring well over $200,000 into supporting a slate for Council and mayor headed by mayoral candidate Alyia Gaskins. Gaskins received another $58,318 from one couple in Alexandria.

Those enormous donations were unprecedented in Alexandria’s local election history. But given Gaskins’ ultimate margin of victory – she garnered almost 60% of the vote against the sitting vice mayor – a strong argument could be made that they also weren’t necessary. Did those Unite Here placards really convince many people to support anyone they weren’t already going to vote for?

All six winners in the Council primary were current elected officeholders with significant name recognition: Council incumbents John Taylor Chapman, Sarah Bagley, Kirk McPike and Canek Aguirre, and current School Board members Abdel Elnoubi and Jacinta Greene.

Five of the six who won were endorsed by Unite Here. But the sixth, Jesse O’Connell, didn’t come close to capturing one of the slots despite raising more than $100,000 – the most of any candidate for City Council. O’Connell finished in eighth place, almost 1,000 votes behind Greene, and also trailed newcomer Charlotte Scherer.

Perhaps O’Connell’s penchant for penning snarky blogs that denigrate local residents with whom he disagrees on city issues caused those very local residents to cast their votes for others. As they say, what goes around very often comes around. Or, more simply: karma. We suggest that as the Alexandria Times quote of the week.

There are many ways to view influence. While five of the six Unite Here candidates won, so did three of the five Alexandria Times endorsed candidates – Chapman, Elnoubi and Greene – while a fourth candidate we endorsed, Scherer, fell just 319 votes short of a Council seat.

Scherer’s strong performance is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this race. It became clear as the campaign wore on that Scherer’s views on many local issues – opposing the arena, favoring keeping single-family zoning and opposing the proposed Duke Street in Motion plan – mirror those of many longtime residents who are upset about key decisions by the current Council.

Yet, rather than coming across as just a grumpy resident opposed to change, Scherer campaigned with a sunny optimism and intelligence that came through in her written responses and in her interactions with residents. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of her.

We congratulate Gaskins and the six Council candidates who prevailed in the Democratic primary. We also thank the other seven candidates who ran but fell short, for you raised issues that needed discussing and made this a truly competitive and helpful exercise in democracy.

Summer officially starts tomorrow, and just in time. After an exhausting campaign season, everyone needs a break.