Alexandria council candidates raise more than $137,000 for competitive race

Correction: An earlier version of this article about campaign contributions to Alexandria City Council candidates contained incorrect numbers. Incumbent Redella “Del” Pepper raised $10,361 in the first quarter, not $250. Challenger Michael Hepburn raised $2,686, not $192. The incorrect information came from the Virginia Public Access Project. This version has been corrected.

The primary for Alexandria City Council, the first in at least 50 years, is shaping up to be one of the most competitive.

Fourteen Alexandria Democrats are competing for their party’s six nominations to the City Council, and they have raised more than $137,000 through March 31. A little more than a third of all the money donated to candidates has been taken in by self-described progressive Sean T. Holihan.

“Money doesn’t win elections, but it helps,” said Dak Hardwick, chair of the Alexandria Democratic Party, who described the campaign as “a shoe-leather race.”

“Unless the candidates are doing all the things they can to win, [the money] may not matter,” Hardwick said.

With just over seven weeks before the June 12 primary, Hardwick said most of the contributions and spending are probably still to come.

Holihan counts $37,906 in contributions so far. His biggest cash donations were $3,500 from the war chest of state Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria); followed by $2,500 from William C. Hall Jr., a communications executive for Dominion Resources Inc., who Holihan knew from his work with the gay rights group Equality Virginia.

Holihan, who started running for the council in December, said most of the money will be spent on mailings and phone calls because many large apartment and condominium buildings, particularly in the West End, are inaccessible to unannounced candidates knocking on doors. The money, he said, will help him reach that portion of Alexandria’s 96,545 registered voters.

“I’d say it certainly helps me . . . compete with people who’ve been in office before,” he said Friday.

Holihan is running against two incumbents, two former council members, a School Board member, a planning commissioner and the chair of the Economic Opportunities Commission, as well as civic activists. Council seats are at large and citywide.

The winners of the primary will face Republican opponents in the Nov. 6 general election. Republican incumbents Frank Fannon IV and Alicia Hughes are the only announced candidates so far. The GOP will make its nominations at a June  2 party canvass.

Timothy Lovain and Justin M. Wilson, two Democrats who lost their council seats in 2009 and are running again, came in second and third in fundraising. Lovain, a transportation policy professional,collected $23,418. His biggest contribution was $3,000, from Wa Atch, a seafood processor from Neah Bay, Wash.

Wilson, an Amtrak principal systems engineer, raised $21,202. All his cash contributions were less than $500.

Allison Silberberg, a communications consultant who has served as chair of the city’s economic opportunities commission, raised $15,811, mostly in-kind contributions.

Rounding out the top six fundraisers were incumbent Del Pepper, who raised $10,361; John Chapman, past president of the local NAACP and a Fairfax County educator, who raised $9,588, all in donations of less than $500; and Melissa Feld, a communications and research consultant, who raised $8,959, mostly in in-kind donations.

Other campaign fundraising totals, as reported by the Virginia Public Access Project, were : Donna Fossum, $7,804; Arthur E. Peabody, $7,500; Michael Hepburn, $2,686; Boyd Walker, $2,029; incumbent Paul Smedberg, $1,175; Sammie Moshenberg, $662; Vicky Menjivar, $550.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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