The partner of the most well-funded Democrat running for Alexandria City Council in Tuesday’s primary paid $3,000 to a political action committee that mailed an attack ad targeting another candidate.
Danny Barefoot, the partner of Sean Holihan, said Sunday that he donated the money to Alexandria Democrats for Responsible Government from his personal funds. He said he didn’t pre-approve the ad.
Asked whether the money came from Holihan or his campaign, Barefoot said: “That’s ridiculous. Sean and I are separate people. He didn’t even know about it until [Sunday] morning.”
The four-color ad caricatured Boyd Walker as a gambler spinning a roulette wheel that displayed panels alleging that he doesn’t pay his bills, would overspend taxpayers’ money and is disrespectful to women. Walker said the accusations either overstate the facts or are wrong. The ad was mailed to several thousand Alexandria residents.
Walker last year co-founded a citizens’ group that opposes the city’s waterfront plans. The ad correctly pointed out that he fell $16,000 behind on paying property taxes and that he received one of the largest fines ever imposed for destruction of a historic property while rebuilding the Old Town Ice House into a gelato shop. He has since come up to date on his the taxes, and the $25,000 fine was reduced to $6,500, which he paid.
The controversy highlights the competitive nature of Alexandria’s primary race as well as the layers of Alexandria’s political culture. Fourteen Democrats are vying for six nominations in Tuesday’s election. The winners will face three Republicans and two independents in the November general election.
Barefoot — who works for the consulting company owned by the wife of Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria) and who has donated to Alexandria council candidate Melissa Feld — was the only donor who contributed more than $100 to Alexandria Democrats for Responsible Government, said Gail Gordon, treasurer of the now-defunct PAC.
Gordon was campaign treasurer for John Taylor Chapman, another Democratic candidate, until Saturday, when she was fired after Chapman learned of her role with the PAC and the ad.
Walker absolved Chapman of involvement, but in an e-mail he accused Holihan of coordinating with the PAC.
“I hope [the money] didn’t come from the Holihan campaign, but it’s a very well-financed campaign,” Walker said. “I’d also like to know where they got the mailing list.”
Holihan, who has raised $49,750 to Walker’s $4,942, said Sunday that he had “no idea” that Barefoot had donated money to the PAC that put out the mailing.
“I’m more than a little angry that we’re ending the campaign on a sour note rather than the positive campaign I’ve been running all along,” Holihan said.