Several days ago I posted an article about the election to fill the Woodbridge seat on the Prince William County School Board (see Playing Politics in Woodbridge). This seat was vacated when Denita Ramirez resigned from the School Board in November. An interim representative will be appointed to the Woodbridge seat on January 2, 2013 and will serve until a candidate is elected.
For several weeks rumors have been circulating that the election to fill the Woodbridge seat would be on April 9, 2013. It has been alleged that this date was specifically selected by Republicans on the School Board because Democratic turnout in a special election would be lower and that would increase the GOP’s chance of securing the seat for themselves. Some individuals have even gone so far as to allege that holding a special election would violate state election law.
So what’s true and what’s rumor?
To start, PWCS filed a petition with the circuit court around December 14, 2012 regarding Mrs. Ramirez’s resignation. The circuit court issued a Writ of Election (WRIT-CL12-8536) on December 16, 2012 calling for the election to be held, “on or before the general election in November 2013” . That, based on my not-a-lawyer interpretation, means the election can be held any time between now and November 2013.
I have no idea how much a special election in Woodbridge would cost, but I’ve been told that the cost will range from $15,000 to $35,000. Assuming the cost will be below $50,000, which option would be better – a special election in the Spring or the general election in November?
The interim appointee will serve from January 2013 until the election, so Woodbridge will be represented, albeit with an appointed as opposed to an elected representative. Having watched the candidates speak at the school board meeting on December 19, 2012, all of them appeared to be more than qualified.
Unfortunately, local politics being what they are, there are rumors circulating that one of the candidates was the preferred choice and that the choice of this candidate was based on political affiliation. This, as you’d expect, has people of the other political affiliation calling foul. Stuck in the middle are the poor candidates who are all extraordinarily qualified and deserving of the opportunity to serve.
The November general election is 11 months away. With the addition at Potomac High School set to open in the Fall of 2013 and some schools overcrowded while others are under capacity, it is likely that boundary changes proposed in the Spring will affect Woodbridge District students. Boundary changes are one of the more controversial and heated issues school board members consider. Nothing gets people more riled up than boundary changes, and nothing jeopardizes a representatives political longevity more than boundary changes.
Assuming the cost of a special election is below $50,000, do the citizens of Woodbridge District deserve to be represented by someone they elected rather than someone that was appointed?
You can argue it both ways and unfortunately politics, and which party you lean towards, taints that debate. If the appointed representative is someone whose politics you agree with, you’re likely to want that person to serve as long as possible and probably support holding the election in November. If the appointed representative is someone you disagree with, you’re likely to support a special election as soon as possible. Special elections tend to have lower voter turnout and that generally favors Republican candidates. Based on that alone, if you’re a Republican you probably leans toward a special election in the Spring and if you’re a Democrat you probably lean towards the election in November.
I have no idea who the School Board has selected, assuming they’ve already made their decision. Woodbridge, as far as I can tell, is strongly Democratic and I can’t imagine a scenario where turnout in special election there would favor a Republican backed candidate.
I’m going to refrain from posting my opinion on the issue at this time. The only thing I’ll say is this, and it’s advice my Mother always gives. As you form your opinion try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Assume you’ve had someone appointed to represent you on the school board and you don’t agree with that person. Imagine that your child is about to be redistricted to a different school away from his / her friends and the only recourse you have is to appeal to your appointed school board representative. Would you be comfortable trusting that the person you think is a dingle-berry-pie will do what’s best for your child and for the children who live in your area?
Yes, you can just as easily be represented by an elected dingle-berry-pie as you can be by an appointed dingle-berry-pie. So ask yourself whether you think there’s a difference between an elected and an appointed representative. The answer to that question should guide your opinion on whether you believe PWC should hold a special election to elect someone to the Woodbridge seat or wait until the general election in November.