Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is calling for a special election as soon as possible for a House of Delegates seat that represents residents from southeast Fairfax County, Alexandria and Arlington. But the date of the special election comes as a surprise to many.
McDonnell has called for a special election Sept. 4 to replace Del. David Englin (D), who resigned in June to tend to family issues after acknowledging he was unfaithful in his marriage.
Since Englin's resignation, many people assumed that the governor would allow the special election to coincide with the November presidential election. But instead, McDonnell is calling for a special election on the day after Labor Day.
The decision surprised many, including Alexandria Deputy Registrar Anna Lieder.
"Obviously we are going to do whatever is necessary to make sure this election runs well," she says. "But it is extra things to do at the same time we are preparing for the presidential."
Some observers speculate that McDonnell may have a political motivation for calling for a special election in September rather than November, when historic numbers of Democratic voters are expected at the polls in true blue Northern Virginia.
“It opens up the possibility that perhaps people aren't as aware of the election going on and they don’t show up at the polls and perhaps the Republicans somehow eke out a miracle win," says University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Geoff Skelly.
Not everyone is happy about the decision
“The governor forgot to check with me about that," jokes Alexandria Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman. "He forgot to call.”
Sherman's concern isn't political; it's that Tuesday, Sept. 4 is also the first day of school.
"I imagine it’s going to be a fairly light turnout, and therefore will have minimal impact," Sherman says of the special election. "It will cause us to eliminate some programs that day."
Voting often takes place in school gymnasiums, for example, so physical education classes will have to be eliminated on the first day of school and the following day, in many cases, if the voting equipment hasn't yet been hauled away.
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.