In an election dominated in the news by national races, the hope among Leesburg officials is that voters will also be equally informed about the down-ballot races. These contests don’t draw the same level of publicity but often have the most tangible effects on the daily lives of residents.
Two candidates, incumbent Kristen C. Umstattd and newcomer Linda Shotton, are competing in the mayoral race. Eight other candidates, including incumbents Katie Sheldon Hammler, Thomas Dunn and David S. Butler and one write-in candidate, are competing to fill three seats on the Leesburg Town Council.
In the coming term, the mayor and Town Council members will oversee local traffic improvements and will weigh in on matters such as taxes, water rates, regulations for area businesses and ongoing discussions about how best to handle the expansion or possible move of the county courthouse. They will lead a town at the heart of one of the fastest-growing and increasingly diverse counties in the nation.
“We don’t have a lot of glamorous issues at this level, but sometimes the least glamorous issues are the most important,” Umstattd said.
Local media outlets have dedicated space to profiling the candidates, but inevitably, the majority of recent coverage has gone to the presidential race and other higher-profile contests: For the Senate, Timothy M. Kaine (D) vs. George Allen (R); for the House of Representatives, Frank Wolf (R) against newcomer Kristin Cabral (D).
Leesburg candidates were denied an opportunity to connect with voters when the arrival of Hurricane Sandy canceled a meet-and-greet forum scheduled for last week.
But both mayoral candidates expressed hope that Leesburg voters would familiarize themselves with the issues.
Shotton, a Leesburg resident since 1999 and a political newcomer, said she hopes to win the support of voters with her campaign promise to foster stronger ties among the town, its businesses and its neighbors.
“We have a mayor who is very good at keeping the town quaint and historic and charming, but at the expense of getting more tech industry,” Shotton said.
She cited the Town Council’s vote against a study to examine the cost of a possible water pipeline to Raspberry Falls, a community outside Leesburg that has long complained about water quality, as an example of Leesburg’s perceived unfriendliness to surrounding communities.
“There was no reason to say no to a study,” she said. “We have a cooperative relationship with our neighbors versus an adversarial relationship.”
Umstattd said that her constituents have repeatedly told her that their top concerns are affordable tax and water rates and maintaining the authentic feel of the historic district.