Last year when David Englin resigned from the House of Delegates a special election was needed to fill his seat. Under State Democratic Party rules, a legislative committee is formed with one member per locality and their votes are weighted by the locality's population in the district. In Englin's seat, that meant Alexandria's appointee had over 50% of the vote on the committee and could outvote the Arlington and Fairfax County appointees on any process questions. While tradition dictates that each locality would have a voting location, the Alexandria rep on this committee, DPVA Vice Chair Craig Fifer decided that Arlington and Fairfax wouldn't need a voting location. Over the objections of the Fairfax Chair- rules were passed that did not allow them to have a polling place and Rob Krupicka went on to easily defeat Karen Gautney for the nomination and then was elected. If the other localities had been given a polling place, Krupicka would have still won in a landslide- even if they had voted for Gautney with huge margins.
So why does this matter if it didn't impact the outcome? Because these types of decisions set precedent and are dangerous to democracy. If one person can change rules and cancel things like the ability for another county to have a polling place then they could decide a nominee by skewing the process in a more closely divided contest.
This week we once again saw party rules being abused in a legislative contest, this time in a different way.
In the June 11th primary David LaRock unseated longtime GOP Delegate Joe May. Even though the 33rd district is strongly Republican, this type of upset of an incumbent has provided Democrats with some great pickup opportunities in strongly GOP areas in the past. In other words- the value of the Democratic nomination for House- usually almost nothing in the 33rd- is now suddenly worth a lot.
Kathee Myers was the only person to file for the Democratic nomination this spring, so the process was cancelled and she was the nominee of the party. But after LaRock won, she was asked to step aside for a stronger candidate by state leadership. She agreed and the state leadership lined up behind Mary Daniel, an attorney from Berryville.
Here's where things got interesting. Instead of announcing the vacancy and having people line up behind Daniel- the legislative district committee just decided to nominate Daniel directly without ever notifying the public of a vacancy or giving anyone else the chance to run against LaRock. Click here to see the press release from Loudoun Democrats announcing this switch.
This is perfectly legal, but again sets a dangerous precedent. Daniel should decline this nomination by 3 people- and ask the process be opened up for a week for other candidates to file. Most likely she will still be unopposed and won't have this kind of cloud over her candidacy any longer. If someone else does want to run- her backing from state and local leadership should be enough for her to win the nomination anyway. So it's a no lose situation for her.
What we see in both of these situations is the party leadership not respecting voters and not respecting democracy. Anyone in the party who thinks voters should still be deciding nominations- and not secret committees- should speak out loudly now. If you don't- these types of games may be coming to your district next.