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Alexandria Primary Election Heats Up

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Campaign signs for candidates running in Tuesday's primary fill a median in Alexandria's Del Ray neighborhood. 
Rebecca Cooper
Campaign signs for candidates running in Tuesday's primary fill a median in Alexandria's Del Ray neighborhood. 

Fourteen candidates are seeking six slots in Alexandria's hotly contested Democratic primary for City Council. Alexandria Democratic Committee Chairman Dak Hardwick says it's the most competitive race in recent memory.

"I'm seeing people that would have never participated in a local government election out knocking doors, out putting signs up, out talking to their neighbors," he says. "That's the kind of civic engagement that we are trying to get to."

People here are certainly engaged. A number of political action committees have formed to endorse rival slates of candidates. One is Virginia New Majority, headed by John Liss.

"Development is probably one of the biggest issues that is sort of a dividing line," says Liss. "There are four major development issues in the last year. A number of candidates support all four, and a number of other candidates oppose all four."

Many voters are opposed to recent development decisions, including the controversial waterfront plan and other proposals to increase density. Others, such as the political action committee formed by Lynn Hampton and others, support recent development decisions as a way to raise revenues for city government.

"Democracy is well and alive in Alexandria with 14 candidates willing to serve," he says. "That's very exciting."

Many Democrats say it's the most unpredictable election anyone can remember. With more than a dozen candidates seeking half as many seats, means more than half of the candidates will be unsuccessful.

"I can't make predictions," says Democratic voter Paul Friedman. "This is 14 people fighting for six seats and we have excellent candidates. So this will be very difficult to make any predictions about."

Turnout for the citywide primary is expected to be about six times higher than the traditional firehouse caucuses the party has traditionally used to select its slate. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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