Political Analysis: Leesburg Town Elections Turn Partisan

Political Analysis: Leesburg Town Elections Turn Partisan

On Election Day this year, voters across the state and across the country will go to the polls to choose the President of the United States and the next U.S. senator from their state. But voters in the Town of Leesburg will find another, perhaps unexpected, addition to their ballots.
In the strange and bizarre world of professional political consultants, Virginia is considered a bit of a gold mine in that it is one of the few states which has an election every single year and sometimes more often than that. Last November, in one of Virginia’s trademark off-year elections, Leesburg voters who turned out to vote for county and state officials also voted to permanently move the Leesburg Town elections from May to November so as to be on the ballot with Federal elections. While this decision was chosen overwhelmingly (75% to 25%) by the voters, one cannot help but question the sensibility of placing a supposedly non-partisan election on a ballot with perhaps the most bitterly partisan and divided race in recent memory. In this context, non-partisan means that on the actual ballot, none of the candidates will have an (R) or (D) next to their name, signifying their party affiliation like on the presidential and senatorial sections of the ballot. However, this does not prevent political parties from influencing town elections. At all polling places, both parties hand out sample ballots detailing who each party supports. The federal candidates are obvious, but the entire dynamic of the town election could be changed by uneducated voters who come out to vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama and cast their votes at the town level for whoever is supported by the Republicans or Democrats, respectively.
The fact is that with most decisions made at the town level, partisan platforms and ideas don’t necessarily apply. Each candidate should be evaluated for their records and ideas, and not because a certain party has endorsed them. While candidates for town council have received partisan endorsements before, never has it meant so much as now. On the ballot this November, there are only 2 independents running for the council, incumbent Katie Hammler, and S. Anne Robinson (who was endorsed by the Democratic Party in her previous candidacy for town council and served as an officer in the local party), in addition to 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats running for 3 at-large seats, and a Republican and a Democrat fighting for the position of Mayor.