Editor’s Notebook: What third-party and independent candidates need to do
by SCOTT McCAFFREY of Sun Gazette Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2015 7:00 am
About 20 intrepid souls gathered at Shirlington Library amid last evening’s darkening skies for a forum put on by the Arlington Green Party, discussing ways that independents and third-party candidates could find success in running for local office.
(For the purposes of this discussion, which will focus on Arlington, I’ll include the Republicans as a third party. Not intended as a slight, just a reflection of the difficulties the GOP faces in an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning community.)
At the event, there was a fair amount of bash-the-media for failing to give alternative candidates equal coverage with the major-party contenders. It is a familiar refrain.
But the reality is this: While there is a relatively low bar set to get on the ballot in local elections in Virginia (just 125 petition signatures will land you on the Arlington County Board ballot, for instance), we in media-land tend to set a far higher bar for considering a candidacy worth covering in a more substantial way.
I think I said it last year, when John Vihstadt was embarking on his candidacy to topple the Democratic County Board monopoly: Candidates who aren’t Democrats and want to have a chance on Election Day in A-town would need to raise at least $100,000 during campaign season before I’d be particularly inclined to give them a shot at winning, and providing a commensurate level of coverage.
Why? Two reasons:
• Raising that much money is necessary to get the word out about a candidacy, and to build the campaign infrastructure needed to compete against the extensive Democratic precinct-operations efforts.
• Raising that amount of campaign cash would show that a candidate has a network of supporters willing to, literally, put their money where their mouth is.
Vihstadt was very competitive in his fundraising efforts, picking up as much, and I think more, campaign cash than his Democratic opponent, Alan Howze.
But it’s been a vicious cycle for other candidates taking on Democrats: They say they can’t get traction because their candidacies aren’t publicized, but the media isn’t likely to take seriously a candidate unwilling to do the grunt work of raising cash. It’s a necessary evil in the political arena.
I stayed for the first 75 minutes of the program before having to head out into the night. Was an interesting and informative discussion. We’ll see if the Greens field a candidate this year, and time will tell the fate of independents who plan on running in November.
Goes to Show My Prognosticating Skills Are Worthy Zip
Yesterday also brought a drawing to determine ballot order among the first four candidates to file for the Democratic primary for County Board. As they all got their paperwork in on the first day (March 9) of filing, they were deemed by Democratic leaders to have filed simultaneously, and the elections office held a drawing to determine who would go where on the ballot.
Earlier in the day, for funsies, I guessed that the ballot order would be Katie Cristol/Andrew Schneider/Peter Fallon/Christian Dorsey.
I got the No. 2 and No. 3 slots correct, but flipped No. 1 and No. 2. The order, drawn from a bowler hat provided by Electoral Board secretary Allen Harrison Jr., was Dorsey/Schneider/Fallon/Cristol.
James Lander and Bruce Wiljanen, who filed their paperwork later in the filing season, will round out the six-person ballot in the June 9 primary.
Sometimes Police Chases Should Come with Soundtracks
Ay-yay-yay: Yesterday brought not only the prisoner that a security contractor let escape (as Maxwell Smart would have said, “sorry about that, Chief”), but also that wild police chase on the Beltway, one that in retrospect seems a bit, mmmm, ill-advised on the part of law enforcement.
The only thing missing was the chase music from Benny Hill’s old British TV show playing in the background. Would have been fitting, given the Keystone Kops-esque performance.