‘Past Blasts,’ Newbies & Incumbents Pile Onto F.C. Ballot for November

Officially reappointed by the F.C. Electoral Board for another four year term as Falls Church’s Registrar of Voters, David Bjerke was ready when the clock struck seven Tuesday marking the filing deadline. He had in hand the final official print out of candidates who filed and qualified for the November ballot running for three open slots on the City Council and three on the School Board. All the candidates who filed were certified before that deadline, and by Falls Church standards, the number who filed is staggering

So, the line up is set for the election. Running for City Council are Johannah Barry, Philip Duncan, Letty Hardi, Samuel Mabry and P. David Tarter. Running for School Board are Justin Castillo, Erin Gill, Margaret Kajeckas, Mark Kaye, Alison Kutchma, Jacob Radcliff, Philip Reitinger, Kieran Sharpe and Becky Smerdon.

Unlike years past in Falls Church, where citizen activist groups held conventions and nominated slates, there is no such thing any more, and with the elections supposed to be non-partisan, it will be a challenge for all the candidates to distinguish themselves to blocks of the electorate.

But in general, what will be involved are three groups – incumbents, candidates longer in the tooth (politically speaking) and young citizens diving into the political fray for the first time.

The incumbents will be, for the City Council, current Mayor David Tarter and Council member Phil Duncan, and for the School Board, current chair Justin Castillo and Kieran Sharpe. Two incumbents, therefore, are running for the three seats for both the Council and School Board, with former Mayor Nader Baroukh on the Council and former Chair Susan Kearney choosing not to run for additional four year terms.

Baroukh issued a statement Monday night indicating his choice not to run for a third term was due to a diagnosis of thyroid cancer (see his Letter to the Editor, page 6). That news drew out a strong sentiment of support from all corners of the Falls Church community, including on line in comments from Councilman Duncan, for example, who was often at odds with Baroukh on Council matters but wrote, “Fight it. Conquer it. The whole community is pulling for you, Nader.” (Duncan made public his own diagnosis of prostate cancer last year).

Kearney said simply that it was “time” for her to step aside, and Sharpe made his decision at the veritable last minute to run again.

Candidates running as challengers with past experience in Falls Church politics include former Vice Mayor Sam Mabry and former Council member Johannah Barry. Mabry held City Council office on two occasions in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, leaving office in 2006. He’d qualified for the ballot in 2008, but then withdrew his name, raising speculation among some that he might to that again. Barry ran and won in 2008, but did not seek re-election in 2012.

Candidates diving into byzantine Falls Church politics for the first time include one for the City Council: Letty Hardi, with deep ties to Falls Church if not her own, through her husband Lucas, and with three children in or preparing to enter the Falls Church School System. She was outspoken in numerous hearings on the City budget this spring in support of the schools and of commercial development necessary to fund them (such as the Mason Row proposal).

The other newcomers are all running for the School Board. Divisions among citizens during the spring budget negotiations were aired extensively on local blogs and in the commentary spaces on the News-Press website, and most of the fervor of the new candidates is someway in association with various sides of the issues that drew the most attention.

The newcomers running School Board for the first time, then, are Gill, Kajeckas, Kaye, Kutchma, Radcliff, Reitinger and Smerdon.

While the report of this formidable field of certified candidates had already engendered considerable comments online as of the News-Press press time, it is expected that these candidates will self-identify sooner rather than later with their motives for seeking election in November. Stay tuned.