By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, Aug. 11 — What is sure to be the most talked about and closest watched political race of the next 15 months in Page County, began today.
Earlier this afternoon, Stanley Police Captain Aaron Cubbage officially announced his 2023 bid for sheriff of Page County on social media. The Facebook post includes a YouTube video (seen below) announcing the unofficial candidacy of the longtime student of law enforcement.
While neither candidate will officially file their candidacy with Page County Registrar Carol Gaunt until 2023 — and incumbent Sheriff Chad Cubbage has not officially announced his intentions to seek a third term or the continued support of the local Republican Committee — this is the race that many have already been speaking about in whispers around the county for more than a year.
And yes — the “elephant in the room” — it pits two first cousins (Cubbage v. Cubbage) vying for the support of the same community they have shared their entire lives.
“Yes, my opponent and I are related, however I want to bring the best law enforcement services to the community where I live,” Aaron Cubbage told Page Valley News during a scheduled interview on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for Thursday’s announcement. “Our community has given so much to me throughout my personal and professional life…I view this opportunity as a way to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”
Aaron, 44, has served with the Stanley Police Department for the past three years. Prior to that, he spent 17 years with the Page County Sheriff’s Office — through the ups and downs of three different administrations — and on Oct. 21, he will mark 20 years in law enforcement.
“About two years ago, I decided…well I sat down with a group of friends and family, people close to me…we sat down and we decided this is something we need to do,” Aaron said. “It’s definitely a team effort…I sat down with my wife and son and we talked about the stress of pursuing the sheriff position…It was a good talk, we’re on the same page, and we’re in agreement.”
Aaron is a 1996 graduate of Mount Carmel Christian Academy and resides in the Town of Stanley with his wife Melinda of 14 years, and their son Gavin, 12.
In the next few months, Aaron will be completing a doctorate (PhD) in Criminal Justice at Liberty University. He earned a Masters in the same subject at Liberty in 2019, after securing a Bachelors in Government/Pre-Law from the university in 2001.
For the last 15 years, Aaron has served as a Field Training Officer (FTO) and instructed training sessions at the Central Shenandoah Justice Training Academy in Weyers Cave. He was a 2016 graduate of the Virginia Forensic Science Academy (90th session) and has served as an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Laurel Ridge Community College for the last three years (minus time to pursue his doctorate).
If elected the next sheriff of Page County, Aaron Cubbage hopes to implement annual training for things like active shooter drills — something he recently received specific training on.
“One platform goal is enhancing public safety in our schools and training law enforcement, community members and school staff to properly respond to active threats,” the Stanley Police Captain stated. “I have lived in Page County my entire life, and I have served the people here my entire law enforcement career. I want to bring efficient law enforcement services to our county that are fiscally sound and focused on meeting the needs of those we serve.”
With unanticipated expenses — such as medical costs at the jail, long transports of inmates kept at other facilities, and handling mentally ill inmates under state requirements — plaguing several recent administrations, next year’s challenger feels his previous budgeting and management experience may help him mitigate some of the reoccurring annual overages.
“I’ve had hands-on experience in running the sheriff’s office budget and managing it [as head of investigations]…and we looked at the budget as a whole,” Aaron said. “In my experience, there are managerial decisions that can be made to save money and work to balance the budget. Granted, unexpected expenses do occur, but through planning and focusing on the details of the budget…many of those can be anticipated.”
In addition, the longtime law enforcement officer knows the problems that drugs create in our community and he plans to take a two-ended approach to addressing the ongoing problem.
“Obviously, we have a drug problem in Page County, and we’ve had it for a long period of time,” Aaron said. “I feel its law enforcement’s responsibility on the front end to ensure public safety, and on the back end to work with community members to help families and our citizens that are impacted by addiction.”
Aaron Cubbage has decided he will enter next year’s race for sheriff of Page County as an Independent. While acknowledging that he “leans conservative,” the Stanley Police Captain doesn’t want politics to dictate law enforcement.
“To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re an ‘R’, a ‘D’ or an ‘I’… I have to serve everyone the same,” he said.
Incumbent Sheriff Chad Cubbage earned the Republican nomination in both 2015 and 2019, and is generally expected to carry the same party support into the fall of 2023.
Chad first won the role of top law enforcement officer by only 687 votes over then-incumbent Sheriff John Thomas in 2015 — with 3,389 votes, compared to 2,702 for Thomas. Former Luray Police Chief Page Campbel came in a distant third with 978 votes.
Four years later, Chad’s margin of victory shrank to 517 votes — claiming victory for a second, four-year term over Chris Stoneberger, who “resigned” from the Luray Police Department not long after the 2019 election. The vote count was 3,656 to 3,139. David Conley — a former police officer in Shenandoah and Elkton, former deputy with the sheriff’s office, and longtime campus police officer at JMU — came in a distant third, with 746 votes.
Despite facing an incumbent — and the possibility of a late third entry — Aaron Cubbage feels his 20 years of experience, extensive training and broad educational background will be things that set him apart from the field on Nov. 7, 2023.
“First, I’ve dedicated my life to serving in our community. Second, I have the on-the-job experience and qualifications to serve our community in a competent manner. Third, I want to be involved in the community, and that will require me to be in the office,” he said. “This position will require me to be involved with the community, and I look forward to those experiences and interactions.”
Although he’s currently finishing up his doctorate degree, Aaron plans to hit the campaign trail hard after the first of the year. He, and his team, simply wanted to get the word out early…even though many already knew his intentions for ’23.
“It’s all about connecting with people, and my goal is to hit as many doors as possible,” Aaron said. “I’m just excited to get out there and share my vision with my community to make our county a better place to live, and that comes down to service.”
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