Remember the good ol’ days of the Cold War when the American nuclear arsenal (and later President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative) had the deterrent effect of keeping the Soviets in line? The threat of mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.) actually made the world safe in an ironic sort of way.
The same applies politically. When it is an election year and elected officials face potential primary challenges, they tend to get religion pretty quickly and try to race as fast as they can back to their party’s base in order to survive. If they do, you can count on them reverting to their old ways 9 out of 10 times as survivors of these political deathbed conversions rarely keep their newfound faith for it was merely the threat of a challenge that kept them in line.
Witness today’s vote of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to rescind $12 million previously approved by the board to bury power lines along a one mile stretch of Route 1 in Woodbridge.
For nearly two hours [Gainesville Dist. Supervisor Peter] Candland contended that defunding the power line project was the right move, and said that funding could be better spent on adding additional classrooms to crowded schools, purchasing new buses for the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, expand the county’s jail, or build six new miles of sidewalks in neighborhoods known for their incomplete pedestrian pathways, or “sidewalks to nowhere.”
“When you come up here and this Board says ‘we just don’t’ have the money,’ weight that on the burial of the power lines,” said Candland.
In the end, only Candland and newly-elected Brentsville Dist. Supervisor Jeanine Lawson voted to rescind the money so it could be put to a higher priority use. Both of the board’s Democrats and the other four Republicans – Chairman Corey Stewart and Supervisors Marty Nohe (Coles), Mike May (Occoquan) and Maureen Caddigan (Potomac) – voted to keep this spending project in place. Never mind that this is something VDOT and not the county should be paying for or the fact that the county has much greater unmet needs that they are always talking about how we do not have enough money to cover and therefore we must endure tax hike after tax hike. (At last count, the county’s 5-year plan envisioned a 25% property tax hike over that period of time.)
Now, by way of my reference of the Cold War I’m NOT calling Caddigan a communist (as that would imply that she actually held some ideological core beliefs and subscribed to a set political philosophy, things no one would ever accuse her of) or any of her colleagues on the Board. But it is interesting that for the past six months or so the Potomac Dist. Supervisor had seemed to have found the conservative religion when Virtucon’s founder and local community leader Jim Riley had been gearing up to challenge her in the 2015 Republican primary. Unfortunately, last week Riley had to take himself out of contention due to work considerations. It only took until the next Board meeting for her to revert to form.
Likewise, last week Candland decided against a run for county chairman and it is all but certain now that former Del. Jeff Frederick will also pass on a 2015 primary challenge to Stewart. Nohe dodged a bullet when D.J. Jordan decided the time was not right for him to enter the political fray (although Nohe may still be in for the fight of his political life against Paul O’Meara whose background makes him a sort of conservative doppelgänger to Nohe.) May has announced he will not seek reelection and instead will run for Commonwealth’s Attorney.
So, with Candland, Frederick, Jordan and Riley all dropping their expected primary challenges to incumbents on the Board, the deterrent factor keeping them in line has just evaporated. Prince William’s Board has returned to its free-spending ways. While no one should be shocked by this, we should all feel embarrassed that these charlatans are the best that we can do here.