By Randy Arrington
LURAY, June 11 — Less than a week before the filing deadline, it seemed as if there would be no contested races in this fall’s municipal elections in Page County.
Three candidates were on file for three open seats on the Luray Council, and only one person had filed to run for mayor. In Stanley and Shenandoah, there were fewer candidates than open seats, and that still holds true for the Stanley Council after the filing deadline expired on Tuesday. (See related story.)
Now that the local ballot is set for this November’s elections, two races have emerged as contested events in the county’s three towns — the mayor and council of Luray.
Last week, Luray resident Darryl Haley picked up paperwork from the county registrar, but he never filed his declaration of candidacy prior to the 7 p.m. deadline on Tuesday. Instead, he opted to launch a write-in campaign for mayor.
“As a write-in, I have to convince you why I am the candidate and why I can get the job done,” Haley said Thursday morning.
The 20-year resident of Luray has operated a bed and breakfast just off Route 211 since 2000. He played in the NFL with the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers from 1981 to 1988. Haley believes a write-in campaign will demand more personal interactions.
“I’m not from here; I get that,” Haley said. “But I have spent a lot of time in the last few years meeting people in the community that I live in, just having conversations, getting to know people… and it amazes me how much talent, skill sets and interesting people we have here in this town.”
At age 59, he says his key reason for running for public office is “community unification” — but Haley, an African-American, denies that this goal or late entry into the race as a write-in, is based on the current events surrounding the public murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
To someone who believes that recent protests prompted his candidacy, Haley responds: “I would say go talk to your neighbors that know me, or speak with someone who has worked with me in some way over the last 20 years I’ve been here. Ask about the things that I have done in our schools. My efforts and intentions have been clear well before all of this.
“I just think that there is so much talent in Luray,” Haley continued, “I think if we can work together, it will be very sustainable and beneficial to all.”
Luray Councilman Jerry Dofflemyer filed his paperwork early and his intentions to run for mayor have been known for some time. He’s served on the Luray Council since 2015, when he was appointed to fill Pam Flasch’s unexpired term. After winning a special election to fill the remainder of that term, he won election to a full four-year term in 2018.
“I thought it was a lateral move, and it seemed like a natural thing to do,” Dofflemyer said of his decision to run for mayor. “I have had experience in local government, and I thought I was very well qualified.”
If Dofflemyer wins the mayoral race, it would open up an additional seat on the council. The potential vacancy would be filled by appointment through the end of 2021, and then at the polls during a special election next November to fill the remainder of the term through Dec. 31, 2022.
Dofflemyer, age 66, served as a seasonal ranger in Shenandoah National Park from 2000 to 2019. Prior to that he worked with two family businesses at E.N. Hershberger — an energy company that his family sold to Holtzman in 1999 — and Luray Motor Co. He has also owned two car washes in town and has several rental cabins.
“I have knowledge of this town and its people… there is a lot of potential here,” Dofflemyer said. “I want to make this a better community.”
Luray Councilman Leah Pence proved to be a late surprise as well. Her candidacy now creates a five-way race for three seats on the Luray Council.
Pence had given no indication that she would run for another four-year term, while three other candidates had filed with the county registrar much earlier. A job in Charlottesville has kept Pence from attending a number of meetings, as her attendance at council meetings fell off after the first year of her first term following the 2016 election. In addition, the building on West Main Street housing her business “The Chapman House” — which never officially opened — was listed for sale in February.
Four days prior to the filing deadline, Pence made her candidacy public on Facebook by asking supporters to drop by her Main Street home so she could collect the 50 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
“I went door to door a few hours this week, and people were hesitant to open the door due to COVID-19,” the June 5 Facebook post reads. “Thank you for tagging friends in this post, sharing and for those who will sign. You all know a lot more Town of Luray residents than I.”
Pence filed the required paperwork with the county registrar on Monday.
“I decided a month ago,” Pence said on Wednesday of her decision to run for a second four-year term on the Luray Council. She added that she had waited until a few days before the filing deadline because, “I was in Florida for the last 25 days visiting my mom.”
Pence joins Councilman Joey Sours as the only two incumbents in the field of five candidates. The three challengers are Judy Peabody, Jason Pettit and Ligon Webb.
The only other contested race in the county on this fall’s ballot is for chairman of the Page County School Board. That race features two candidates.
PVN will be providing profiles of all nine candidates in contested races in the coming weeks.