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After A Stunning Alexandria Primary, What's Next For The Waterfront?

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Former Alexandria Mayor and state Sen. Patsy Ticer, left, leaves City Hall with Silberberg on June 9, the day of the Democratic primary. Ticer and Silberberg have been an outspoken opponents of the waterfront plan.
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Former Alexandria Mayor and state Sen. Patsy Ticer, left, leaves City Hall with Silberberg on June 9, the day of the Democratic primary. Ticer and Silberberg have been an outspoken opponents of the waterfront plan.

As a first-time candidate in November 2012, Allison Silberberg campaigned hard against Alexandria's waterfront plan. That's how she won more votes than any other member of the City Council, earning her title of vice mayor. Silberberg took that same message to voters this year in a race that culminated in a stunning defeat of longtime incumbent Mayor Bill Euille.

It was also a stunning defeat for the waterfront plan.

"It would allow more building on these little streets that we can't enlarge," said Silberberg at her victory party, a loud party at Red Rocks pizzeria in Old Town. "We wouldn't want to enlarge Union Street or King Street. So we need to safeguard the historic district for generations to come."

The controversial waterfront plan is a series of development proposals for three sites on the waterfront. The old warehouses on those sites will be torn down and the properties will be redeveloped. Euille and his allies want a scale that's more than double the size of the buildings there now.

Although some zoning decisions have already been made, a future Council would be able to scale back the size and scope of the development projects.

"I think that Allison is very respectful of decisions that have been made," said former School Board member Eileen Cassidy Rivera, one of Silberberg's key supporters. "But I do think that she has some great ideas for a compromise that I think there's still a possibility for a compromise."

North Old Town resident Ernie Lehman says he expects the Silberberg will have more allies after the November election, when six Democrats will face four Republicans for the Council's six at-large seats.

"I think it's stage one," says Lehman. "Stage two is going to be when the election is for the City Council in November."

Because Democrats have held power in the city, some of the politics seem upside down.

"You've got big-business Democrats in Alexandria," says Quentin Kidd a political analyst at Christopher Newport University. "To the extent that there is an organized Republican Party and a Republican presence, the anti-establishment grassroots tends to be where it is."

Euille says he has no intention of launching a campaign to run as a write-in candidate in November. But others might launch one on his behalf. And there is precedent for success: Back in 1961, former Mayor Frank Mann made a surprise comeback in a write-in campaign against incumbent Mayor Leroy Bendheim.

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