THIS ARTICLE IS COMMENTARY AND PUBLISHED IN OUR EDITORIAL SECTION.
By Randy Arrington, publisher
Political stripes show strongest every four years. Presidential elections are like the playoffs for political junkies in America. Everyone is trying to figure out which horse to bet on, and they watch the process with both enthusiasm and distaste. Cheers for our guys, jeers for theirs. Us versus them.
In a two-party system, such is the dynamics of U.S. politics and they remain that way in state houses across the country. The flow of federal funds to state legislatures propels the downward flow of political pressure at the state level. Despite the inevitable trickle of funds down to the local level, the political lines should blur more with folks we see at the local ball fields and at the grocery store than it does with those we only experience through a screen.
There have been efforts in years past by the local Republican Committee to endorse candidates for the school board and town councils, who typically do not run under the banner of any political party. We believe that the lower the level of politics, the less it should be about politics. Candidates for all elected county and town positions should run under the banner of being an independent — a recent trend actually — that serves all of its constituency and not just favors those who voted for the same Presidential candidate.
While seats on town councils and the school board are still filled by unaffiliated candidates, we believe the same should be true for constitutional offices as well. If justice is truly blind, then the top law enforcement officer, the top prosecutor, and the clerk of the court should in no way be influenced by political pressure. If all taxpayers are treated equal, then what does the party affiliation matter for those who collect taxes and pay the county’s bills? How does (or should) their “red” or “blue” status affect their job? Their qualifications?
They say all politics are local, meaning that we fight for the things that will truly impact our lives — and local politics certainly have the most direct impact. However, in a community that is overwhelmingly conservative — previously voting 70-percent or more for the Republican candidate for President — it is inevitable that there will be fractions within the masses of the majority.
On Tuesday night, the Page County Republican Committee chose to endorse Shirron Ballard as their candidate for clerk of the court by a vote of 119-91. Current clerk Grayson Markowitz, a life-long supporter of the local GOP, missed a second endorsement of his party by 28 votes in a local party committee meeting that drew just over 200 attendees. He intends to remain on the November ballot as an independent when more than 8,000 ballots could be cast in the race.
A key reason that Markowitz lost his own party’s endorsement was the fact that he — God forbid — interacts with Democrats. After running an appliance store in Luray for decades, Markowitz knows everyone — even a few Democrats. He is clearly still a strong conservative despite doubts about his party loyalty. As the incumbent, he stands a decent chance of being re-elected in a countywide election as an independent. The introduction of more candidates before the June filing deadline could muddy the waters.
This is not meant as an endorsement of Markowitz or a condemnation of his opponent. Ballard has run for public office several times with little success, including a bid for this same office in 2015 in which she earned only 10 percent of the vote. There’s nothing apparent that would lead anyone to think it will go differently this time in a countywide election…except maybe that “R” by her name. In 2015, Markowitz only won 24.7 percent of the vote among a field of nine candidates.
There were no challenges to the endorsements of Sheriff Chad Cubbage, Commissioner of the Revenue Becky Smith and Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Cave — all incumbents who previously received support from the local Republican Committee. As of now, Cave may enjoy a free ride in an unopposed race, but the other two have valid opponents.
Independent challenger Tom Bauserman will have an uphill battle trying to unseat longtime Commissioner of the Revenue Becky Smith, and he knows it. Bauserman has turned to social media to tout his platform of change, but Smith will carry a lot of experience and local ties into the polls as well. However, this race is yet another example of how party affiliation may not carry as much weight as it does in bigger, broader races…some Republicans in Page County will vote for Smith, and some Republicans in Page County will vote for Bauserman. They are both conservatives, although only one carries the team’s banner.
The same holds true in the sheriff’s race as well. Not only are Chad and Aaron Cubbage cousins, but they are both conservatives, they are both Republicans…although only one will carry the team’s banner. One has been criticized for interacting with Democrats…how odd is it for a candidate to reach across both aisles when trying to win a countywide race? Chad’s margin of victory has decreased over the last two election cycles, and with a strong base publicly supporting an independent challenger — everyone knows this will be a close race. We project both candidates will receive more than 3,000 votes and the final tally will come down to a difference of less than 500 votes. The race seems almost a coin flip, with the usual slight advantage given to the incumbent. And forget about a debate…it’s never going to happen, for obvious reasons.
While the local GOP did not endorse any supervisor candidates at the May 16 meeting, District 2 representative Allen Louderback is a Republican that is anticipated to run again for the Page County Board of Supervisors. However, he may face competition from a fellow conservative. That has not been made official yet, so we will withhold a name at this point…about one month from the filing deadline. District 4 supervisor Larry Foltz is not expected to run again, although that is not official, and no candidates have stepped forward at this time.
Ryan Cubbage is currently seeking the District 3 supervisor seat to replace Mark Stroupe, who is stepping down and will not seek another four-year term. Cubbage is running as an independent.
Political parties should not play a part in local politics. It makes perfect sense at the state and federal level, but much less sense at the local level. Just look at Page County Treasurer Penny Gray. She’s one of the most popular and trusted constitutional officers in the county, who is rarely (if ever) challenged for her seat…and she’s a Democrat in a heavily “red” county. Voters voted for the person, not the party.
On the local level, that should be the theme of the local election cycle every four years when we put people in local office to literally serve our local needs. Enjoy the rush during the presidential cycle, but when local elections roll around…throw politics out the window.
None of what appears here is meant as any endorsement for any particular candidate — or, God forbid, any particular political party. The idea being to simply remove political jargon and confusion from the ranks of local races for public office. Get away from the “us versus them” mentality that only limits us as a small, rural community, and just embrace the “us” that drives local politics to work more efficiently than the big boys.
Keep party politics out of local politics — it can do much more harm than good.
Save it for the next Presidential race.
For those still contemplating a run for public office this November, about one month remains before the deadline for candidates to file by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20. All candidates must secure 125 signatures from registered voters in Page County (except for soil and water district seats) and complete other candidacy paperwork, which can be requested from Page County Voter Registrar Carol Gaunt.
Early voting begins Friday, September 22 — just over four months away.
Page County Voter Registrar’s office is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located in the Page County Government Center, 103 South Court Street, Suite D, Luray.
For more information, call (540) 743-3986.
Nine weeks left to file candidacy for local races on November ballot, some races shaping up early
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Recreational plans slow down as ARPA funds dwindle and budget cycles tighten for FY24
Public Notice amendment provides for more awareness, financial savings and fairness
Bauserman announces bid to become Page County’s next Commissioner of the Revenue
Cubbage announces bid for District 3 supervisor seat
Gray announces re-election bid for Page County Treasurer
Markowitz seeks second term as clerk of the court
Smith seeks third term as Page County’s commissioner of the revenue
Stanley Police Captain announces 2023 bid for sheriff of Page County
I know there are many opinions out there … so I encourage everyone to weigh-in on the upcoming election …
Our apologies to Stephanie Breeden, who has recently filed her candidacy for clerk of the court…as an independent candidate. Look for a profile of Breeden late next week on PVN.