Alexandria Democrats, angered by a recent judicial appointment to the City Council, are seeking a change in the city's charter that, under some circumstances, would strip the circuit court's power to fill council vacancies.
The Alexandria Democratic Committee plans to ask the City Council to petition the Virginia General Assembly to approve legislation granting local political parties the right to fill vacancies when their candidates leave or are removed from office before the end of their terms. Judges would retain authority to appoint if the departing council member is an independent.
If approved, the charter change would be effective only in Alexandria and only in situations where a vacancy is created less than 180 days before the next council election. Otherwise, a special election is generally required.
Some Democratic leaders were outraged last week when Circuit Judge Donald H. Kent selected Scott C. Humphrey, a political unknown, to fill a vacancy created when Mayor James P. Moran Jr. was elected to Congress. A real estate broker and longtime city businessman, Humphrey had not been recommended by either Republicans or leaders in the dominant Democratic Party.
Although Humphrey, 58, has said he is a Democrat, some Democrats have expressed concern that he had not been active in local party politics and that they were unsure of his positions on issues facing the city.
Myke Reid, chairman of the city's Democratic Party, said he was indignant about Humphrey's selection. Reid said the judge should respect the sentiment of Alexandria's citizens.
But Michael Holm, city Republican Party chairman, called the proposal "another example of arrogance on the part of city Democrats." "Appointments by the court have only been made maybe three times in the last 30 years," Holm said. "It's a raw attempt to grasp more political power."
If the City Council backs the request, Del. Marian Van Landingham (D-Alexandria) said she likely would introduce the legislation. "I can't predict what the outcome of this might be," Van Landingham said. She said it was too late for the General Assembly to consider the matter during the current session.