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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Think Before You Endorse…

There is a special election coming up for School Board in Alexandria, Virginia. There are four candidates running already, and the election is literally a few weeks away from voters showing up to select the next School Board member. This seat was opened up by former School Board Chairwoman Claire Eberwein, who stepped down last month at the end of her term as chairwoman to move out of the country.

The election is for the seat that would only be valid for about 9-months, aka one school season; though it is probably an ‘in’ for someone that wants to run in May of 2009. The election will be only focused on the central part of town (District B). I live in B, with another 50,000 people or so, though only around 3,300 actually showed up to vote in the special election last summer. The election is on Tuesday, August 12th from 6am to 7pm and will be at the precincts where you would normally vote in any general election.

Because this is an election for school board, which is a non-partisan seat; and because it is a short window election (literally 45 days from kick-off to election day); I believe it is absolutely critical for our elected officials to not do any formal, or even informal, public endorsements.

The school board really should be seen as an independent body that works with the city council and is drawn away from the politics that are inherent in a city leadership role. The school board candidates should stand on their own; not based on who they know or what history they have with other elected officials, or even what money they donated to a given candidate. These are the primary reasons I believe city council, and other elected officials within Alexandria should not do any endorsements for this specific election.

Finally, the election cycle is too short. With less than 30 days left until the election, there is no time for a candidate to present themselves to all of the elected leaders in the community and ensure these leaders can make an informed decision that they would make publicly. If any current elected leader steps up for a given Alexandria School Board candidate, it would just leave the question of what really was the driving force for the support.

I know elected officials are like any other citizen and have rights to support whomever they want, but they need to do it privately for this election. There just isn’t enough time.

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