Friday, January 02, 2009

Sharon Bulova: Journeyman Supervisor - Not Flash In the Pan

Well, if it's already the second day of January, you know the New Year's good cheer has already gone as flat as day old champagne. And if it's Virginia, you know we're into another hotly contested campaign, a special election, and silly season is about to begin in earnest, even though the rest of the nation gets to rest on its laurels and actually get ready for an inauguration. For them, poor innocents, politics is over. Now, they just get to celebrate the victory, or rest up for the next major contests - probably two years away. But not Virginia!

Here, silly season has already kicked off in earnest by VA Blogger at Too Conservative with a post claiming that Sharon Bulova, candidate for Chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, put an ad up on Craigslist for field staff for door-to-door canvassing. VA Blogger surmises from this that Sharon doesn't have an adequate campaign staff, and that she must be hiring everything from entry level canvassers to her campaign manager from employment ads.

Not so. As I pointed out in a comment on Too Conservative, Sharon has a seasoned, competent staff and this is a non-issue. In fact, it's probably scraping the bottom of the barrel for petty nitpicking. Here's why.

In a special election, it's all about the ground game. Especially in one with a low profile like this one. And the turn around time is ridiculously short. The election will be held on February 3. That gives both sides only a month to reach voters, who are largely burned out and uninterested. Heck, even activists are tired after the intense 2008 campaign season.

The other problem is that both Herrity and Bulova have low name recogntion. In Sharon's case that's because she hasn't had a seriously contested race to compete in. She's a pro business, moderate, centrist Democrat, who is in step with her district. The GOP never had an interest in challenging her before. The upside of that was that she was able to focus on working hard for Fairfax County and she was spared from focusing on all the campaign hoopla. But the downside is that because she was a journeyman worker bee rather than a charismatic flash in the pan politician, she has quietly contributed to the success of Fairfax County, which has consistently been named the best managed county in the country by pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, VA Blogger, and no doubt he's only repeating what the Republicans hope will be their best talking point, is trying to pin the county's $650 million deficit on the Democratic management of Fairfax. But that argument failed back when the Keith Fimian camp first tried it out on Gerry Connolly, and it won't work now. Here's what The Chronicle said back then.
Blaming Connolly for the budget challenge that the county faces best illustrates Fimian’s total lack of understanding of the critical issues facing the county, state and federal governments. It would appear that he doesn’t realize that virtually every local government in metropolitan Washington is struggling with the same issue. For example, last year Fairfax County was able to close a significant budget shortfall and maintain essential programs with only a three-cent increase in the property tax rate, which, for the average taxpayer, represented no actual increase in taxes as a result of the decrease of the average assessment. By contrast, Republican-controlled Prince William County raised their tax rate by 27 percent.
What the newspaper said then is equally true now. And it is a lasting testament to not just VA Blogger but to the refusal of the Republican Party, including Herrity himself, to acknowledge facts.

The truth is Fairfax County has not been mismanaged by anybody. But this country experienced a financial meltdown that began with an unregulated mortgage industry, a series of foreclosures, and exotic mortgage based derivative investment instruments that had an international domino effect that brought economies crashing down across the globe. This was a failure at the top of the Republican administration in Washington, DC that made the financial and business world collapse like a house of cards, not just in Fairfax or in the U.S. but across the world. Just as Gerry Connolly couldn't be blamed for that, neither can Sharon Bulova. But if Republicans want to stick with that argument, ok. The more they do, the more I'll point out that with eight years of an incompetent Bush administration, seven years of a Republican dominated Congress and a conservative, anti-regulatory philosophy that dates back decades, this is their recession. Their failure. They own it. And they are not going to be able to slither out of it and blame anybody else for it. Period. End of story!

Meanwhile, all the GOP has is Pat Herrity's family name, a recycled charge about mismanagent of Fairfax that didn't work the first time around, and a silly accusation about Craigslist. It's not much to base a campaign on. But when you have an inexperienced candidate with not many accomplishments, you give it the best shot you can.


Left of the Hill said...

What intrigues me is that I've always gotten the impression that Pat was a smart enough politician that he would do more than simply repeat talking points from the Republican Party's extreme right wing. Keith Fimian and Jim Gilmore proved that those talking points don't work in Fairfax County and John McCain proved it doesn't work to continue promoting failed tactics.

I went into this race thinking that if Herrity went into this race promoting a moderate agenda he might have a chance to win in a low turn out election. The more he continues to promote the talking points that have already failed in Fairfax County, the more I am second guessing my original assumption.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I agree. I thought he was more moderate. I just did a quick perusal of his campaign website and it seems from that, and from some previous comments he made in a Washington Post article about the Fairfax BOS plan for workforce housing, that Herrity is pretty tied to free market orthodoxy.

In general, I agree that capitalism is a good system but in times of economic crisis, such as the one we are currently in, you throw orthodoxy and ideology out the window and help citizens and businesses to survive. You don't let the market crash just to maintain orthodox purity.

I don't know Herrity's position on social issues like abortion rights. If he's not pro life, he might claim to be a moderate. Too often the mainstream press reduces a candidate's position to just that issue. So, Tom Davis could vote with the Bush administration the majority of the time but because he supported a woman's right to choose, he was labeled a moderate.

I'm not sure yet how to label Pat Herrity. I need to examine his positions more carefully in the coming days. But like you, I'm rethinking original assumptions.

Anonymous said...

AIAW you have been in this game long enough to know what you have to do in a special election.

This is a base election. The moderates aren't going to be voting.

There is one big difference in this race. I am fully engaged in this one :-p

Sharon has been saying some fairly interesting things. She is claiming the crisis is a perfect time to analyze the budget. The obvious retort to that is why the heck weren't you scurtinizing the budget the past oh say 12+ years when you were budget chairman.


AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I'm pretty sure she's been analyzing it all along. She's a serious person. I think she means it has to be re-examined in view of the changing situation. One would wish, of course, that Pat Herrity was as serious and willing to re-examine old, easy and orthodox assumptions as well.

Anyway, welcome to the fray - I'm going to be fully engaged in this one too. But I have been that in other races - haven't you been? And I thought the "middle man" part of your penname implied a moderate? So many questions :)

Anonymous said...

Its an agree to disagree. I am a fiscal conservative. I am sure you are aware but there was a well thought out budget that protected education and eliminated waste authored by Herrity but unfortunately the dem majority totally ignored it

Also Fairfax has been one party rule for a while now which is never a good thing in my book regardless of which party it is.

Sharon is a nice lady but its time for a change.

Watch out for the big "weather event" hope you got your bread and toilet paper :-p