Occoquan becomes PW’s bellwether for 2015
© Prince William TimesWhile Democrats have consistently topped the Republicans Prince William in federal and state-wide elections with only one exception since 2006, the dynamics on the ground locally are much different in local elections.
At a time when the Republicans hold a 6-2 majority on the Board of County Supervisors, GOP candidates at the local level have found success in areas that should be, on paper, leaning toward the Democrats.
This November's election is no different and election observers may want to watch two magisterial districts in particular to anticipate which party will come out ahead this November.
Occoquan and Potomac are the two most competitive districts locally this year and both are in what would likely be Democratic-leaning territory during statewide election years.
However, both districts are represented by Republicans on the Board of County Supervisors.
They both also are set to feature the most competitive supervisor races this year outside of the chairmanship.
First-time candidate Andrea Bailey (D) takes on long-time incumbent Supervisor Maureen Caddigan (R) in Potomac and former Town of Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta (D) faces first-time candidate Ruth Anderson (R) for the Occoquan seat.
According to Prince William Republican Committee chairman Bill Card, what keeps Caddigan competitive in an otherwise heavily Democratic-leaning district is the old adage "all politics is local."
"Maureen Caddigan works with all the different organizations and outfits within Potomac. The people in my community... know Maureen. She shows up at HOA meetings," he said Monday, later adding, "I think that transcends any calculus someone might make with the party politics."
In Potomac, another long-time incumbent, Betty Covington, is running as a true independent without a party endorsement.
However, Card identified her as friendly toward Republicans policy positions and Democratic chairman Harry Wiggins has deemed her the de facto Republican candidate.
She faces first-time candidate Justin Wilk, who's endorsed by the Democrats.
Because of the decades-long incumbent advantages for Caddigan and Covington, Potomac won't quite be the same sort of bellwether for the county as Occoquan.
Situated on the eastern side of the middle part of the county, Occoquan has been a political launching pad locally.
Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) and Clerk of the Circuit Court Michèle McQuigg (R) both used to represent the district on the board and outgoing Occoquan Supervisor Mike May (R) is running this year for Commonwealth's Attorney.
All three candidates are on the ballot seeking election -- or re-election to their respective offices.
Anderson will also be on the ballot seeking the Occoquan supervisor's seat and her husband, state Del. Richard Anderson (R-52nd), is running unopposed.
Because so many popular Occoquan Republicans wil l be on the ballot, Porta will face a turnout headwind in a district where he would otherwise have an advantage in a one-on-one race.
He raised his name recognition through four terms as mayor and an unsuccessful 2005 race against McQuigg for the 51st House of Delegates district and had considered running for county chairman before May announced his retirement from the board.
"Certainly the fact that Corey, Mike May and Michele McQuigg all came up through Occoquan is of interest but I think it's more coincidental than anything else," said Card.
What their presence on the ballot does do, however, is give Lake Ridge-area voters familiar names.
They've also each develop base supporters beyond just their party label in the district, as in people who actually know them personally.
In local elections, it's hard to overstate the importance of relationship-building.
"These are people that we know and kind of the people we get our news about from folks like you rather than the Washington Post," said Card.
Card noted that Occoquan had the second-highest turnout during the party-run firehouse primary in April to determine the Republican nominees for county elections, "which shows the energy of the party in that particular area."
"It's an important seat for us. We don't want to lose that conservative seat," said Card.
Meanwhile at the School Board level, incumbent member Lillie Jessie, who won a special election in 2012, has the endorsement of Democrats against perennial local candidate John Gray, who the Republican committee endorsed, and Karen Boyd.
That makes Occoquan the only magisterial district with Republican and Democratic nominees for Board of County Supervisors and endorsed candidates for School Board.
The parties back candidates for chairman of both boards.
The wildcard affecting turnout down-ballot in Occoquan and Potomac are contested races in two neighboring state Senate districts.
An open seat race in the 36th district that runs along the eastern-most Potomac magisterial district pits Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman (R) against state Del. Scott Surovell (D-44th).
State Sen. George Barker (D-39th) also faces a challenge from Joe Murray (R) in the Democratic-leaning district that includes much of Occoquan.
Meanwhile, an open race for the 2nd House of Delegates district between former state Del. Mark Dudenhefer (R) and first-time candidate Joshua King (D) may also influence turnout in Potomac.
Democrats are sitting out supervisor races in Gainesville, Brentsville and Coles while the Republicans conceded Neabsco, leaving only Woodbridge and the chairmanship contested outside of Occoquan and Potomac.
In Woodbridge, Supervisor Frank Principi (D) starts out with an advantage in the long-time Democratic stronghold against 2005 House of Delegates candidate Steve Chapman (R), who lost to the late Del. Harry Parrish (R) in the primary for the 50th district, and Libertarian candidate Antonio Merrick, one of two Libertarians running in the county this year.
Republicans are not challenging Democratic-backed School Board member Loree Williams in Woodbridge.
Republican-backed School Board members Gil Trenum of Brentsville and Alyson Satterwhite (R) also face no competition.
Supervisors Mary Nohe (R-Coles), Pete Candland (R-Gainesville), Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville) and John Jenkins (D-Neabsco) are all running unopposed.