The most important election in the U.S. this year will culminate with official election day voting next Tuesday, Nov. 2, when the City of Falls Church’s three polling locations and those of all the rest in Virginia will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Virginia is one of only two states in the U.S. where major officers are up for election in 2021, and in this case the race for governor between the Democratic one-term incumbent Terry McAuliffe and Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin, polls indicate the race is currently in a dead heat.
That is vexing news for Democrats in the state who have made consistent electoral gains in Virginia since 2000 to the point they currently control the governor’s mansion and both houses in the state legislature.
Whereas McAuliffe used his first term (2014—2018) to veto over 130 bills, mostly anti-women’s rights, annually when Republicans held control of the legislature in Richmond. His vetoes were never overridden, and they haven’t been necessary with the now Democratic-controlled House of Delegates and State Senate bodies in the last two years. But that could readily change with Tuesday’s election and all the House of Delegates and a half of the State Senate on the ballot next year.
So that’s what is up for grabs in next Tuesday’s voting, particularly problematic for the Democrats since it is the first major election, nationally, in the wake of Donald Trump’s sound electoral defeat last November and his attempt to remain in office by advocating the infamous violent disruption of certification of the final vote at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
If Trump’s favored candidate in Tuesday’s election, Youngkin, wins, it is feared that it will inflame a perpetuation and escalation of the kind of Trumpian electoral disruption methods that exploded last January. The validity of all future U.S. elections should subsequently be called into question.
While this is singularly the most important issue on the ballot next week, there are also important elections for City Council and School Board posts in the City of Falls Church, as well. Four of the seven seats on each body are being contested in this election.
Already so far, according to Falls Church Registrar David Bjerke, a whopping 23 percent of eligible voters have cast their ballots as of Tuesday night with mail in or no excuse advance voting, and another 90 people had already voted as of midday yesterday.
For the City Council, while three incumbents are seeking new four-year terms— David Snyder, Marybeth Connelly and Debbie Shantz-Hiscott, in order of the length of their current terms of service on the Council— out of six total contenders, it is not the same for the School Board race, which has become the most contentious.
There are no incumbents or previous office holders among the seven candidates competing in that race.
In the Council race, Snyder has made it a point in pursuit of a seventh term on the Council that his work over the past decades has contributed to the Little City being ranked third in the entire U.S. by U.S. News and World Report for its overall quality of life. That speaks to the credit of all the incumbents, and three others— Scott Diaz, Caroline Lian and Stuart Whitaker — are essentially vying for the one open seat. (First-term incumbent Ross Litkenhous is the only member of the current Council who is not seeking re-election this fall.)
In the School Board race, where no incumbents are running this year, the seven candidates for four seats in contention have been working hard, with none among them having held public office before.
The candidates, all running fully engaged races, are (in alphabetical order) Jerrod Anderson, Coutney Mooney, David Ortiz, Ilya Shapiro, Lori Silverman and Kathleen Tysse.
All spoke extensively to the effects of the past year’s Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the schools in F.C., and have, like their Council candidate counterparts, have had extensive opportunities provided them in the News-Press to publish their views, including with a Falls Church League of Women Voters special section and an invitation by the News-Press to all to submit for publication about 500 words. Some have also chosen to take out display advertisements in this paper.
Additionally, at last Thursday’s virtual online candidate’s debate 112 citizens tuned in to the live event, according to CBC President Hal Lippman, and that event remains accessible to citizens online.
Two of the candidates—Courtney Mooney and Ilya Shapiro — were among the most vocal critics of how the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan fared through the Covid-19 crisis of the last year. (There are some yard signs around town calling for the entire School Board to be ousted.)
Shapiro included that the board’s “credibility was lost during the school name changing process.” He also criticized the board for “deferring to the superintendent too much,” adding there have been “spins to cover up” shortcomings.
Silverman said she wants to be “a reasonable, thoughtful voice, not antagonistic,” and Tysse called for “collaboration and mutual trust.” Gould added that he wants “no caustic relationships,” noting that with the pressures of the last year, that “teachers are exhausted,” while Mooney said the board “should reflect the community.”
Silverman, Tysse and Gould all spoke to the benefits for teachers of the new state law allowing for collective bargaining, while Ortiz called on a rotation of board members to visit the City’s five public schools every month.
Anderson spoke to “teacher burnout,” the bus driver shortage, the loss of enrollment down 150 relative to the average enrollment of the school years 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20. Also the low pass rate for math in the sixth grade.
Tysse said the board in the last year “made a lot of difficult decisions in good faith,” and said the issue of affordable housing and its impact on the lack of diversity in the community cannot be ignored as a School Board issue.
The final News-Press endorsements appear on Page 6 of this edition.