Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)’s decision to call special elections in September to fill two vacant General Assembly seats isn’t sitting well with some Democrats, who say it would have made more sense to do it in conjunction with the presidential election in November.
McDonnell announced this week that the state will hold elections Sept. 4 to replace Sen. Yvonne Miller (D-Norfolk), who died earlier this month, and Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria), who in the wake of an extramarital affair will resign Aug. 31.
That puts the elections on the first day of school in both jurisdictions and smack in the middle of the Democratic National Convention.
“The chosen date ... is a small minded political triumph for this so-called fiscally conservative Governor,” Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax) said via e-mail. “One would think it would have been the easiest decision he’s ever had to make. Instead, the Governor abandons common sense, and spends other people’s money, to ensure these two Special Elections do not contribute to an increased Democratic turnout on November 6.”
Dak Hardwick, chairman of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, said it “truly boggles the mind” that McDonnell scheduled the election for what he called “one of the most challenging days of the year”
“September 4th is the first Tuesday after Labor Day and, typically, is a chaotic experience for all, since it’s the first day back to school and most citizens are back from summer vacation,” he said via e-mail. “Roads are jammed, schools are buzzing and citizens are just trying to settle into new routines. ... . Instead of having the election on November 6th, when voter participation will be at its peak, Governor McDonnell has selected a date that requires the City of Alexandria to run a completely separate election. This additional election will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars and is an expense that could have been avoided entirely by having the special election added to the November 6th ballot.”
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor felt it was important to move quickly, particularly since the outcome could result in another vacancy in the General Assembly. Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk) announced this week that he will seek Miller’s seat. Should he win, another special election would be needed to fill his House seat.
“The Governor chose September 4th for these special elections in order to get both seats filled as quickly as possible,” Martin said via e-mail. “He was also cognizant of the fact that, events depending, we may very well need to hold another special election prior to the General Assembly session.”
Martin dismissed suggestions that McDonnell opted against Nov. 6 out of concern that the House and Senate races would drive more voters to the polls in those heavily Democratic districts in November.
“[I]s there really an argument being made that a pool of voters exists who wouldn’t vote in one of the most important presidential elections in modern Virginia history, but would change everything and rush to the polls that day if the ballot included a special off-year election for state delegate or state senator,” Martin wrote. “Really?”