November ballot set as filing deadline passes with only 1 local race contested

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, June 9 — Statewide ballots are now set for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General following the Republican Convention in May and yesterday’s Democratic Primary. Tuesday also marked the filing deadline for local candidates, and the local ballot in November will only offer one choice for Page County voters.

Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe won every city and county in yesterday’s primary to secure the Democratic nomination among four challengers to run for a second, four-year term against Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin. Del. Hala Ayala won a plurality of the vote among a field of six candidates to win the Democratic nod for Lt. Governor. She will face GOP candidate Winsome Sears, which means the Old Dominion will elect its first female to the position this fall. Mark Herring won by a narrow margin in the primary for Attorney General to represent the Democratic ticket for a third term. He will face-off with Republican Del. Jason Miyares.

Tuesday’s Democratic primary only drew 220 voters to the polls in Page County. Combined with 156 early ballots cast, the local primary drew an overall turnout of 376 — and that’s among 16,806 registered voters (2.2 percent). At an overall cost of about $7,000 — about half in expenses before the election and about half to run the polls the day of the primary — the Democratic primary in Page cost about $18.62 per vote.

One late filing on Monday ensures that Page County voters will have at least one local decision to make on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Jason Breeden had initially filed his candidacy to retain his seat as chairman of the Page County School Board late last week. However, the county registrar’s office discovered that several signatures on his petition for candidacy were not registered voters in the county. So, new signatures were secured and Breeden officially qualified as a candidate on Monday.

“Yes, I plan on running for school board chair again,” Breeden told PVN earlier this spring in response to an inquiry about his intentions this fall, “because I want to continue to help with advancing the students’ best interests.”

After entering last fall’s special election late as a write-in candidate and coming up short in the final tally, Megan Gordon got her signatures together early for the 2021 election. The program director for the Page Alliance for Community Action filed her candidacy on March 12.

“I knew it was going to be difficult to run as a write in, and I had decided during the election process in November that I was going to run again on the ballot this year,” Gordon told PVN earlier this spring. “I have a desire to serve Page County and believe the position would allow me to utilize my skills to foster relationships within the school division and the community, so together we can maximize our resources to serve the interests of all our children.”

The two other school board seats open in this fall’s election will go down as “no contests,” as incumbents Tommy Lansberry (Dist. 1) and Jackie Sullivan-Smoot (Dist. 5) will be unopposed for another four-year term. Lansberry is completing his first term after being elected in 2017. Sullivan-Smoot is the longest-serving member of the school board after first being elected in 2009. After winning re-election in 2013 and 2017, she will be seeking her fourth term this fall.

The Page County Board of Supervisors has three seats open this fall, and only three candidates. Incumbents Keith Guzy (Dist. 1) and Jeff Vaughan (Dist. 5) will retain their respective seats in uncontested races. Guzy has served on the board since winning his first race in 2013 and now seeks a third, four-year term this fall. Vaughan has served two nonconsecutive terms on the board after being elected in 2009 and 2017.

Keith Weakley, a member of the Page County Planning Commission, stands as the only candidate to file for the at-large chair of the board of supervisors. Incumbent Morgan Phenix stated four years ago when he was elected in 2017 that he did not intend to run for a second term. Weakley made his intentions known earlier this spring.

“Personally, I have never aspired to serve in an elected office. However, recent happenings on the Board of Supervisors have urged me to reconsider that position and seek that office to affect change,” Weakley told PVN in an earlier response. “I have also been approached by numerous members of our community to run for this office; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. This has strengthened my resolve to run. I am running so that the county can benefit from someone with a business acumen in the role of chairman, and to restore integrity and transparency to the Page County Board of Supervisors.”

“As both a small business owner in Page County, as well as being involved in larger business ventures, and a lifelong resident of Page County, I feel I will make decisions that are in the best interest of the county, and its residents,” Weakley continued. “As an engineer with experience in both the public sector and the private sector, I will bring a perspective that is unique and currently lacking.”

No candidates have officially filed for the special election to fill the remainder of a term on the Luray Council. However, the deadline for candidates to file for that seat — because it’s a special election — is 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13.

In February, the Luray Council appointed Stephanie Lilliard to fill the seat vacated by Jerry Dofflemyer through Dec. 31, 2021. The special election on Nov. 2 will fill the seat through the remainder of Dofflemyer’s term, which extends through Dec. 31, 2022. Dofflemyer vacated the council seat when he was sworn-in as mayor in January.

“Yes, I plan to seek election for my current seat on the Luray Town Council,” Lilliard told PVN. “When asked ‘why do I want to be on the town council?’ — the answer is quite simple — it’s opportunity! An opportunity to serve, an opportunity to make a positive impact, an opportunity to give back — and all for a place that I get to call home.”

“Luray and Page County are full of potential,” Lillard continued. “Being a public servant to our community is a privilege. It is a privilege that presents exciting opportunities to be a part of the critical decision making which helps to shape our community. Particularly speaking as a native, property owner, and a parent, I am an advocate for fostering economic growth that is feasible, and sustainable. Lastly, I believe my career experience lends to my ability to serve well in the position. I am hopeful the Town’s constituents will vote in confidence for me to act on their behalf, championing intentional and proactive effort for ensuring our Town realizes its fullest potential.”

Early voting for the Nov. 2 general election will begin 45 days prior to Election Day.

“That would be Sept. 18, but because that falls on a weekend we will start on Friday, Sept. 17,” Page County Registrar Carol Gaunt said on Wednesday. The registrar noted that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes that expanded early voting is now here to stay.

“As far as early voting…for primaries, there is no turnout for it [at the polls, with many voting early], and we still have to staff the polls and it’s a very costly proposition,” Gaunt said. “But for the fall election, it’s a great idea.”

Page County voters may cast their ballots in-person early at the county government building or request a mail-in ballot. While early in-person voting will be allowed 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning Sept. 17, it will also be allowed on the two Saturdays prior to Election Day.

The last day to register to cast a ballot in this fall’s general election is Tuesday, Oct. 12 (right after Columbus Day).

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