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Virginia Democrats Angered By Special Election Timing

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Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has drawn criticism for calling for special elections two months ahead of scheduled elections in November.
Gage Skidmore: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/4379673749/
Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has drawn criticism for calling for special elections two months ahead of scheduled elections in November.

Virginia Democrats are criticizing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to hold a special election for the House of Delegates in September rather than November.

For more than three weeks, Democrats and Republicans in Northern Virginia had been waiting for McDonnell to determine when to hold a special election to fill the seat vacated by Del. David Englin. He resigned in June after acknowledging being unfaithful in his marriage. Last week, the governor has called a special election in September, dashing the hopes of many Democrats who were expecting to merge that contest with the November general election.

"What we now have is an election on the day after Labor Day on the first day of school that is going to cost the combined jurisdictions of Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria around $50,000," says Dak Hardwick, chairman of the Alexandria Democratic Committee. "That just boggles the mind."

The governor felt the need to call a special election as soon as possible to fill this seat and another seat in Hampton Roads, says Tucker Martin, the governor's press secretary. Martin says the criticism of the decision is based on partisan politics rather than the best interest of constituents.

"If we didn't hold them quick enough, they'd be putting out press releases saying why is Bob McDonnell dragging his heels, and if we do hold it quickly they put out a press release saying he's moving too quickly," says Martin. "And the reason they say these things is because these are Democrats in an election year trying to get a couple little points."

But there may be a good reason why Republicans prefer the dynamics of a special election in true blue Northern Virginia, says Geoff Skelly, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics .

"When Brian Moran ran for governor and resigned his seat back in 2009, the special election that followed there was in a safe Democratic seat and then the Democrats nearly lost it," says Skelly. "So they think maybe it could happen again, except this time, they would be on the right side of things."

So far, Republicans have yet to announce any candidate for the seat. Democrats, however, already have two candidates.

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Michael Pope is also a reporter with the Connection Newspapers who provides special coverage of Northern Virginia for WAMU 88.5. His coverage for the Connection can be found at Alexandriagazette.com.  

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