There are a couple of contested primary elections coming up for City of Falls Church voters on June 12. U.S. Rep. Jim Moran’s secure hold on the 8th District seat is being challenged by Bruce Shuttleworth and both spent a lot of time at the annual Falls Church Memorial Day Festival and Parade Monday. For the Republican nod for the U.S. Senate, odds-on favorite George Allen faces three opponents on the ballot, inclusive of E. W. Jackson, State Del. Bob Marshall and Jamie Radke.
But while little attention has been paid by the general public to these races so far (the News-Press will cover them in more depth next week), the election that’s getting the most buzz in the politically-savvy nooks and crannies of Falls Church is one that’s a month away and that the public won’t be voting in.
It’s about who will be the mayor of Falls Church as of July 2. Current Mayor Nader Baroukh will need the votes of three others of his Falls Church City Council colleagues to hold onto his post. But in the wake of the May 1 election, when Baroukh won re-election and Phil Duncan and David Tarter won first-time seats to the seven-member body, Baroukh’s election to a second two-year term may not be a shoe-in.
In fact, an array of potential scenarios are currently in play among local activists and pundits. No one on what will be the make-up as of July 2 has, as yet, shown their hand on who they intend to support, either for mayor or vice-mayor.
The swearing in of the new and returning Council members will occur at a brief July 2 public City Council meeting (normally, such a meeting is held July 1, but that date falls on a Sunday this year).
The only order of business after the swearing in will be the nominating, seconding and voting for mayor, and then vice-mayor.
Last time, on July 1, 2010, Baroukh won the mayoral job 5-2, bumping Robin Gardner out of the job after two two-year terms. David Snyder, who has been on the Council since 1994 and served one two-year stint as mayor in the late 1990s, won by a 5-0 vote for vice-mayor after Lawrence Webb was nominated but declined.
For the last two years, intensely focused Falls Church Council watchers (yes, Virginia, they exist) have been evaluating body language and nuanced phraseology to read behind surface appearances and figure out who’s getting along and who’s actually not.
The only case that broke into the public in a serious way was an angry rift between Snyder and newly-elected Council member Ira Kaylin. Snyder took umbrage at Kaylin’s less-than-tactful criticism of Snyder’s desire to lower the tax rate by a penny last spring, and it appeared to translate into Snyder moving his seat on the dais away from being elbow-to-elbow with Kaylin all the way to the other end.
Nobody has had anything negative to say about Baroukh’s leadership, at least among Council members. In the bowels of City Hall, however, he’s been criticized by some for burdening the City staff with too much work, insisting on a level of micro-management uncommon for mayors of any Council members.
But that hasn’t tainted his public perception as a dutiful public servant, and he had no trouble winning re-election to a second four-year term on the Council last month. Given the economic and legal travails the City faced through the recent recession, that was no mean task.
Back last weekend from getting married on Maui (or, “Maui-ed” as he put it at the City Council meeting this week), he played high-profile ceremonial roles at the Memorial Day Parade and Festival, and word is that he’s actively broaching the discussion of his re-election among his Council colleagues.
Who could or would want to beat him? Counting noses on the Council, it could only happen if some as-yet-undetermined coalition of four members agreed to back someone else. That coalition would have to include a prospective alternative candidate, and probably a vice-mayoral choice, among its ranks, as well.
That’s what happened just two years ago, when Baroukh, Webb, Kaylin and Johannah Barry – two of them just elected – put together the votes to elect Baroukh. Webb was drawn into the group with the promise of being elected vice-mayor, but he decided to eschew any perception that his election was bought by a vote for Baroukh.
Now, with Webb leaving the Council on July 1, to remain mayor, Baroukh will need a new fourth vote, assuming that Kaylin and Barry will still back him.
Otherwise, few doubt that either Snyder, who as vice-mayor stood in strongly when Baroukh was away earlier this month, or Ron Peppe, who executed well as the former chair of the School Board, would like the job.
Is there a combo that could make either of those options happen, or is everyone on the Council happy with Baroukh’s performance? Stay tuned.