The silly season is upon us.
It is that season that arrives every four years in Loudoun County, when all nine seats on the Board of Supervisors are up for grabs, along with at least four of the five constitutional offices – Sheriff, Treasurer, Commissioner of the Revenue and Commonwealth’s Attorney. The fifth, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, serves an eight-year term and is thus spared from any election madness this year.
Also up for grabs are seats in the Virginia General Assembly – the state senators and delegates – a good number of whom will represent portions of Loudoun in the newly redrawn districts.
In the early stages of the 2011 election season, there are already two obvious questions:
- What is going on with Scott York?
- Will the Democratic Party field a full slate of candidates?
York is now serving his 16th year on the Board of Supervisors, so we should have a pretty good idea as to how he will govern if elected to another term. But some of his recent moves have raised eyebrows, and may give pause to moderates and liberals who have voted for him in the past.
During most of York’s political career, the defining issue in Loudoun County for members of the Board of Supervisors has been their position on growth and development.
In his first term, he served as the Sterling District representative on the Board chaired by Dale Polen Myers. A Republican, York joined in a bipartisan coalition with four other supervisors who were able to thwart many of the efforts of Myers and her pro-development allies.
In 1999, again running as a Republican, he challenged Myers (who was running as an independent) and won the chairmanship. Again he led a bipartisan coalition of Supervisors that favored controls on development.
By 2003, York had fallen away from the Republican Party. He won the chairmanship again, running as an independent. However, a pro-growth coalition of five Republican Supervisors took control of the Board. This group, led by Vice-Chairman Bruce Tulloch, stripped York of some of his powers as chairman, leading him to jokingly refer to himself as the “assistant vice-chairman.”
In 2007, York apparently decided that he did not want to see a repeat of 2003. He actively supported and campaigned for several candidates, mostly Democrats, with whom York publicly said he could work well. Notably, York’s support was not extended to Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, a conservative Republican who often feuded loudly with York on the dais.
That year, York ran again as an independent, with the tacit support of the local Democratic Party, which did not field a candidate. He again won the chairmanship, as did most of the other candidates whom he supported.
This year, York surprised many observers by announcing his decision to run for the chairmanship as a Republican, which means that he will first have to defeat conservative Steve Stockman at the Republican convention to receive the party’s nomination. Another surprise came when York and Delgaudio expressed support for one another and literally embraced one another. Strange bedfellows, indeed!
York has now publicly endorsed Dick Black for the Virginia State Senate. When serving in the House of Delegates, Black was regarded as one of the most conservative members of the General Assembly, known mostly for his crusades and political stunts in opposition to abortion, gay rights, and “pornography” in the libraries.
York also recently secured the endorsement of Black’s son-in-law, Mick Staton, who served on the Board from 2004-2007, and who was a member of the coalition that stripped York of some of his powers.
Throughout his career, York has shown himself to be a fiscal and social conservative, but one who governs pragmatically. This differentiates him from more ideological politicians such as Delgaudio, Black and Stockman. Unlike Delgaudio, for example, York has demonstrated a willingness to vote for tax increases in the past. It will be telling if he feels compelled to take some form of “no new taxes” pledge this year.
It also appears that York has turned against some of the incumbent Board members whom he has supported in the past, including Independent Jim Burton and Democrat Andrea McGimsey, and that he is working for their defeat this year.
Since York has a record of almost 20 years of public service, including his term on the Planning Commission, that record should be the best indicator of how he would govern if re-elected. It would therefore be easy to write off his surprising maneuvers this year as strategic moves that are calculated to give him the best shot of defeating Stockman for the Republication nomination.
But I also can’t help but wonder if his endorsements of Delgaudio, Black and others will be hard to digest for independents and Democrats who have supported York in the past, but who may find Democrat Tom Bellanca to be the more appealing candidate in the general election this fall.
As for the incomplete slate of Democratic candidates, that question will have to wait for another column. I hope that they will have a few more candidates in the field by then.