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November 2, 2011 Published in Editorials

Making Our Choices

Tuesday November 8 is Election Day in Virginia. This year most of the races are for the state legislature. However, in Alexandria the local office of Clerk of the Court is also on the ballot.

We have examined the campaign materials of the candidates, reviewed their websites and talked to those who made themselves available. We are fortunate to have choices in many races. We present our views on the contests below. Whether or not you agree with them we urge you to get out and vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8 if you have not voted by absentee ballot already.

The races for the House of Delegates in Alexandria are uncontested. Delegate Charniele Herring in the 46th district and Delegate David Englin in the 45th district do not have opponents. We are comfortable with these representatives who have served the City over a period of years but competitive races with qualified challengers are more useful for debating the issues.

There are three seats in the State Senate that include parts of Alexandria. Virginia Senate District 30 is the seat held by retiring Senator Patsy Ticer. Former Delegate Adam Ebbin won a hard fought 3 way primary to become the Democratic candidate. He is opposed by Alexandria west end resident Timothy McGhee, a Republican.

Adam Ebbin has had 8 years of service in the House of Delegates and several years of service in Virginia State Government as Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. Tim McGhee has had no government experience, elected or appointed. He has worked in the private sector in a variety of positions and is now on the administrative staff of the Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia.

While McGhee appears to have good intentions, there is no substitute for experience. Adam Ebbin has proved that he can work well with Democrats and Republicans in Richmond and that even in difficult financial times he can mobilize votes on both sides of the aisle to make improvements in our Commonwealth. The State Senate should not be an entry level position for political newcomers. We recommend a vote for Adam Ebbin for State Senate in the 30th District.

Senator Richard Saslaw, a Democrat, has represented the 35th District in the Virginia Senate for the past 35 years where he is the Majority Leader. This seat includes 4 precincts in the west end of our city. He is opposed by Republican Robert Sarvis and by Green Party candidate Katherine Pettigrew.

Katherine Pettigrew, a member of the faculty at George Mason University, has stated that she believes in trains not cars but beyond that there is little available in the public record on her views.

Robert Sarvis has deep roots in Northern Virginia and an extensive web site which offers issue discussion. He owns and operates a technology company. Neither challenger appears to have government experience.

It is difficult not to endorse Senator Saslaw which we do. Having the Senate Democratic leader as a representative from Northern Virginia is a clear advantage for the region. He also has a strong record as a legislator. On the other hand, the recent experience of the Senate with redistricting was not viewed positively by many. Given the national situation, many voters are attracted by term limits to avoid a permanent legislative "class". Robert Sarvis, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, has caught our interest. We hope he will pursue politics and seek to gain experience at the local level before he runs again for a higher statewide office.

The third Senate race pits incumbent Democratic Senator George Lincoln Barker against Republican challenger Miller Baker in the 39th Senatorial District. This District was changed significantly in the redistricting process and now contains 6 west end Alexandria precincts along with large portions of Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Both men have significant government experience, have fine educational backgrounds and have conducted hard fought campaigns. Miller Baker, however, has not been much in evidence in Alexandria and his business friendly campaign, which calls for lower personal and corporate taxes, and unequivocal support of the Right to Life Movement will not play well with the majority of our citizens.

Finally we elect a Clerk of the Circuit Court for an 8 year term. Incumbent Democrat Edward Semonian has held the position since 1980 He is opposed by Chris Marston, a Republican. Both men have law degrees and backgrounds that serve them well in this race. They have both been active in the City.

Chris Marston has promised to introduce technology in a widespread manner in the Clerk's office. Ed Semonian was one of the first Clerk's to computerize record keeping and began that effort in 1984. The questions are can more be done and who will pay.

Clearly more can be done and there are pilot programs in various parts of the state introducing technology in various ways. It is not clear that Alexandria would be better served by going ahead unilaterally rather than waiting until the statewide system moves together. Alexandria does not exist in a vacuum. In many situations, our records system must be compatible with those of other jurisdictions.

In one respect, however, waiting may be the only reasonable approach. Introducing technology always comes at a price. The City is facing yet another large budget gap and further computerizing the Office of the Clerk may not be a priority at this stage. Who would put it ahead of public safety, education or transportation? The Clerk's office receives high marks from attorneys in the City who are in the best position to judge its performance. The system is clearly not broken.

We support Ed Semonian for an additional term. We commend Chris Marston for his campaign and urge him to continue to be active in Alexandria's political life.

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