The PJ Tatler

How Deep is Voter Discontent?

How badly do voters want to throw out entrenched unresponsive elected officials?  Next week, an election in Alexandria, Virginia may provide some answers. 

Enter Chris Marston who is running for Court Clerk in Alexandria Virginia.  Marston is running against a man who has been unopposed for thirty-two years.  You read that right, in thirty-two years, Alexandria Clerk of Court Ed Semonian has never had an opponent.  Talk about one-party, one-person rule!  How does someone get elected to office in the first place with no opponent? The Alexandria Gazette:

Semonian’s first election began with the unexpected death of 55-year-old Freddie Jackson, who died during a reelection campaign in 1979. Because Jackson died in late August, the deadline had expired for Republicans or independent to file to be on the ballot in November. That meant that Democrats would have a lock on the election, although it was unclear who would rise to claim the title. Republicans were shut out of the process because the deadline had already passed for the party to put a candidate on the ballot.

Semonian has won reelection every eight years since 1979 because nobody has filed to run against him.  This isn’t how the democratic process is supposed to work.  Marston is making a point that the technology in Semonian’s office has changed little since 1979, the year the Pittsburgh Pirates won their last World Series.  Marston vows to modernize the office.

Sometimes local races can reveal as much about the mood of the country as do big national elections.  When incumbents face no opposition for 32 years, the taxpayers and government efficiency are bound to suffer.  Will voters care enough in very-blue Alexandria to turn out an elected official who has never had to listen to the voice of the voters?  Or, will partisan loyalty overcome a challenger promising to modernize an office?  Next week, a tiny local race inside the beltway may reveal the depths of voter discontent with the status quo.