It’s special election season in Virginia! In addition to VA-04, two House of Delegate seats, and Jen Kiggans’s seat in the State Senate after winning election to Congress, Prince William County has an upcoming special election for Gainesville Supervisor. This was triggered by the resignation of Republican Pete Candland (more on this later).
Over 350 Gainesville Republicans turned out on short notice (on a federal holiday on January 2nd, no less) to select a nominee. Three candidates filed to run: Professional Engineer Ray Mizener, former Gainesville School Board member Alyson Satterwhite, and Haymarket Town Councilman Bob Weir. Due to the rushed timing (and during a holiday break), Republicans chose a Mass Meeting to quickly choose a nominee ahead of the January 3rd deadline set by the courts.
The rules allowed for multiple ballots if needed; however, that wasn’t necessary, as Bob Weir won more than a majority of the 363 votes on the first ballot to win outright and become the Republican nominee. Weir will face off against Democrat Kerensa Sumers in a special election on Tuesday, February 21st.
The Mass Meeting, held at Park Valley Church in Haymarket, was smoothly and efficiently run; the meeting opened at 7pm and the winner was announced just after 9pm. This is especially impressive given the last-minute nature of the meeting, as the PWCGOP had originally booked a school to hold the meeting, but due to a court moving the date for parties to declare their nominee, schools were unavailable on the 2nd due to the federal holiday. Kudos to Gainesville District Chairman and organizer Carol Fox, and the Gainesville GOP volunteers, for a well-run operation.
The meeting was a positive reflection on the entire county party, and the event reflected that. Carol Fox, who was temporary chairman, gave way to former Occoquan Supervisor Mike May, who was voted by the body to chair the meeting. Supervisors Jeanine Lawson and Yesli Vega were both present and spoke to the crowd, as did Sheriff Glen Hill; along with Jen Wall, the Gainesville School Board Member and only Republican on the Board (and currently, the only Republican elected official from Gainesville).
Photo credit: Gary Eales, PWCGOP
Bob Weir’s Impressive Victory
Weir’s victory is all-the-more impressive considering his campaign was put together in a week, overcoming a candidate in Satterwhite who had the advantage of already running an active campaign as well as a profile as a former district-wide elected official. This is a credit to Weir’s laser-focus on the most pressing issue to the electorate, as Weir is known for his opposition to the Digital Gateway, the controversial comprehensive plan amendment to allow for dozens of data centers to be built in the heart of the Rural Crescent.
The Democratic majority on the board voted 5-2 for the amendment, over the objection of the two Republicans on the Board (Lawson and Vega) and the outspoken residents of Gainesville, including Weir. Missing in action was Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland, who was conflicted out of participating in the vote due to having his house included in the proposed development. The conflict and the local opposition was likely a prominent factor in Candland’s resignation.
It was also the focus of Weir’s emails, his recruitment of voters to the Mass Meeting, and his campaign speech in front of the body. Contrasted with Satterwhite’s message of fighting for conservative values and her history on the School Board, and Mizener’s creative problem solving, Weir tapped into a potent political movement in Gainesville that bodes well for the low-turnout February special election – and beyond.
If elected, Weir would join allies Lawson and Vega in pushing back against data centers in the Rural Crescent. While a 5-3 makeup of the Board of Supervisors on its own doesn’t portend a change, the nature of Weir’s victory could: several Independents and Democrats came out to support Weir and others are backing his campaign. These aren’t infiltrators, but rather disaffected Democrats who have been betrayed by their party’s Supervisors from the Eastern part of the county and who support Weir and his approach to responsible development. Weir has shown the ability to build a consensus approach and exploit cracks in the Democratic base – something Democrats will need to reckon with as they move forward.
Photo credit: Gary Eales, PWCGOP