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Updated: Incumbents Return but Cunningham Ousted from Herndon Town Council

 

(Editor’s note: This story was updated Thursday at 7:30 a.m. to reflection official results). 

Incumbent Grace Wolf Cunningham, a four-term councilwoman, lost her seat on the Herndon Town Council following a narrow and highly charged election.

Cunningham was replaced by newcomers Cesar Del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal. Incumbents Jennifer Baker, Sheila Olem, Bill McKenna and Signe Friedrichs were also elected to the council, maintaining much of the composition of the board. After official results were certified, Dhakal came in fifth place, moving McKenna to the sixth spot and booting Joe Plummer, another candidate who was previously projected to win, off the council.

Ten candidates ran for six open seats and margins between candidates remained characteristically narrow, as in previous years. Although Olem, Aguila and Friedrichs were separated by relatively comfortable margins, votes separating other candidates were minimal. Plummer lost to McKenna by 22 votes.

At around 11:30 p.m. on election night, it appeared the newcomer would secure the final seat on the board and that McKenna, a one-term councilman, was off.

Internal conflict that boiled over in the public arena was common in this year’s election. Olem, Friedrichs and Del Aguila — who ran a unified campaign — filed a lawsuit against Cunningham alleging she engaging in malicious prosecution over when the four-term councilwoman filed campaign law violations against the trio. The violations were squarely dismissed by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

The lawsuit is pending a decision following the election. The judge in the case rejected Cunningham’s attempt to dismiss the case.

Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel was re-elected as mayor, continuing a position she has held since 2012. The election was not contested. New council members will assume office on Jan. 1.

In Focus: Fairfax County

In other local and county election news, Fairfax County voters approved a $182 million bond to fund public safety improvements for a number of facilities, including fire stations, police training buildings and the renovation of civil and criminal justice facilities.

The measure was approved with just under 70 percent of total votes. As of 9:45 a.m., one precinct has not reported results, but the absence of that data will not alter results.

Meanwhile, voter turnout was high this year in Fairfax County. The Fairfax County Office of Elections estimated a voter turnout of nearly 70 percent, including absentee ballots. That number is up from nearly 46 percent in 2014.

This story has been updated.

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Poll: Should Voters Select Six Candidates for the Herndon Town Council Race?

Town of Herndon residents will be asked to select candidates for the Herndon Town Council on the ballot tomorrow. But language on the ballot states that voters are only required to select up to six candidates, leaving voters with the option to select candidates they feel particularly passionate about without filling out all available slots.

The option, which has garnered questions from voters, prompted Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel to address the issue earlier today. Merkel, who is running unopposed, is backing only four candidates: Jennifer Baker, Bill McKenna, Grace Wolf Cunningham and Joseph Plummer.

There are several ways to look at that. Voting for just the candidates you believe in may make sense in this kind of election when the top six vote getters are the winners. Recent elections have been very close. (Even the Virginia House of Delegates was essentially decided by one vote in one house district!) At times in the past Council seats have been decided by as few as 4 votes. What if you voted for the four or five candidates you really believe in, but then felt like you had to use up your last vote or two, and cast votes for candidates that you weren’t 100% behind? And then one of the “second choices” manages to beat one of your top choices by a vote or two? In essence you contributed to your favorite actually losing the seat. Sounds crazy, but it could happen. Food for thought, I guess.

Town of Herndon residents, take the following poll to indicate how you plan to handle the issue on Election Day. 

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Town of Herndon Candidates Gear Up for Final Stretch Ahead of Council, Mayoral Election

Candidates for the Herndon Town Council are gearing up for election day on Nov. 6.  Over the last month, fundraising totals for Grace Wolf Cunningham, a current councilwoman running for reelection, surpassed her opponents who are also vying for seats on the Council.

Cunningham reeled in nearly $7,000, moving her ahead of funds raised by other candidates — even after factoring in a $3,000 loan she took from herself. Ten candidates are vying for six town council seats: Cunningham, Jennifer Baker, Cesar Del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, Signe Friedrichs, W.J. Sean Kenis Jr., Bill McKenna, Sheila Olem, Joe Plummer and Roland Taylor. Baker, Cunningham, Friedrichs, McKenna and Olem are incumbents.

Mayor Lisa Merkel is running unopposed and reeled in $4,374 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 25, including donations from Cunningham, and State House Rep. Jennifer Boysko, Fairfax County Board of Director John Foust. She had roughly $2,345 cash on hand.

Most other Council candidates brought in roughly $1,000 in contributions over the past month. Baker raised around $2,519 and was left with $1,542. Dhakal received more than $4,000 over the last reporting period through 51 contributions, largely from the Indian community.

Del Aguila raised nearly $900 and was left with $677 in his campaign coffers, a number similar to Kenis Jr. who raised nearly $2,000 but was left with around $692. Friedrichs received nearly $610 and was had roughly $1,200 in his coffers. McKenna received around $1,528 and was left with a little over $1,000. Olem held on to most contributions, with around $1,015 raised and $3,682 in the bank. Plummer raised $1,161 and had just $390 remaining.

Data for Taylor was not available because he is a self-funded candidate and is only required to file campaign finance reports at the conclusion of his campaign.

Donations across campaigns were common. For example, Merkel donated to the several council candidate committees, including that of Cunningham, McKenna, and Plummer. 

Alliances have also emerged during a recent civil suit filed by Olem, Del Aguila and Friedrichs against Cunningham alleging she engaged in the malicious prosecution against them. A judge is likely to make a decision on the civil suit following the election.

Cunningham’s legal representative, State Sen. Chap Peterson, called the lawsuit a “distraction.”

 “My client, the Honorable Grace Wolf Cunningham looks forward to Election Day and continuing to represent her constituents and achieving results. Once Election Day is over we will deal with whatever legal issues remain,” Peterson wrote in a statement.

File photo

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‘Meet the Candidates’ Night Set for Town of Herndon Race

On Nov. 6, Town of Herndon voters will cast their ballots for the Herndon Mayoral and Herndon Town Council candidates.

A few days prior to the vote, town residents can chat with candidates on Oct. 22 from 6-8 p.m. in the lobby of the Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street).

Each candidate will have a display table on-site and will be available to answer questions.

Lisa Merkel, the town’s current mayor, is running for reelection. No other candidates are running.

Five incumbents are running for six seats on the Town Council for one-year terms. Those candidates are Jennifer Baker, Grace Cunningham, Signe Friedrichs, William McKenna and Sheila Olem.

In the race, five newcomers are hoping to challenge incumbents for their seats: Cesar Del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, W.J. Kenis, Jr., Joseph Plummer and Roland Taylor.

The event is sponsored by the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Photo via Facebook

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Friday Morning Notes

Absentee voting begins today — Voting begins today at the Fairfax County government center and ends on Oct. 13 at nine additional locations. Absentee votes can also be cast by mail. The ballots for Town of Herndon residents will include options for mayor and town council members. [Fairfax County Government]

How about some hairspray — Reston Community Players will kick off its 52nd season with the musical Hairspray. It opens on October 19 and runs through November 10 at Reston Community Center. [Reston Community Players]

Missing endangered man found — Patrick Brown, 74, an endangered man who went missing yesterday, was found and is safe. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Photo by Kit Allgaier

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Five Candidates Seek Seats on Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors

Five candidates are running for three seats on Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors. This year’s candidates are incumbents William Bouie, Gerald Zavala, and Lisa Sechrest-Ehrhardt, along with Richard Stillson and April Tan.

Voting — known as the preference poll — will begin on September 7. Each property in Small District 5 will receive mail ballots, which must be submitted by Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. Walk-in and online ballots must be received by 5 p.m. the next day.

Candidates will hold a candidates forum on September 10 at 6:30 p.m. at RCC Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road).

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will appoint members to the three three-year positions based on preferences stated by participants in the poll. RCC’s board is designed to bring social, recreational, cultural and educational activities throughout the district.

Candidate statements are available online.

Photo via Reston Community Center

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Del. Ken Plum: In-Service Training

This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The only common requirement for holding elective office is that one be a registered voter in the state meaning then of course that you must be at least 18 years of age.

You do not need to be a resident of the district you hope to represent although you will have to move into the district if you win. The concept of a citizen legislature is that it is made up of people from all walks of life in the community who can collectively speak for the community at large.
Supposedly there would be no professional politicians–just regular every-day folks. Such an approach should work out well to have the community broadly represented.

In the past, because of laws and practices, most legislatures have been filled mostly with old white men. Recent years have seen a shift including in Virginia as more women are running for office and getting elected. This year has more women, young people, and people of color running than ever before.

With the diversification of who sits in the legislature the challenge becomes taking people of many different backgrounds, perspectives and constituencies and bringing them together to work for consensus on legislation to get a majority vote. While skills acquired in business and civic activities teach many of the soft skills of interpersonal relationships and team building that are transferable to a legislative body, there are unique differences that are important to recognize.

Most legislatures with whom I am familiar have orientation programs to acquaint new members with where the bathrooms are, rules of order in committee meetings and on the floor, and operating procedures around the capitol. Putting legislation together, developing a strategy for its passage, and keeping constituents back home happy are most often handled by the political party caucuses or helpful mentors.

Another source of in-service training I have found invaluable are conferences put together by professional associations, specifically the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). I am at their national conference this week. NCSL keeps up with what is happening in state capitols around the country and through publications, conferences and consultancy keeps legislators informed. The association is truly non-partisan, although its leadership–chosen from among state legislators across the country–maintain their party allegiance while the staff is able to stay out of the partisanship.

Virginia of course had the first representative legislature in the western world beginning in 1619. Not everyone followed the Virginia model however in writing their constitution of organizing their legislatures. I continue to be amazed as I work with colleagues from around the country as to the number of different ways that legislative bodies can organize themselves and do their business. No one has a corner on the best way to do the people’s business, but we can learn from taking a look at how other states conduct their business.

NCSL refers to the states as the laboratories of democracy. The description is appropriate as we all face mostly the same challenges. Our responses are different, however. By getting together for what some would call a conference, but what I think is more appropriately called in-service training, we can do a better job for the people we represent.

File photo

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Cast your vote — Primary elections in Virginia and Fairfax County are today. The county’s 243 precincts will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters are encouraged to cast their ballot before or after school hours, if possible, as schools are still in session. [Fairfax County Government]

Junior day camp — School is almost out and Reston Association is offering four-week camps this summer for kids between the ages of 5 and 7. Several sessions for the Junior Day Camp are open. [Reston Association]

Settling a new score — ComScore, Inc, an audience measurement company that faced recent leadership challenges and investigations, is now under the leadership of Bryan Wiener. The new CEO lays out strategies for the coming year. [Washington Business Journal]

Family history research this afternoon — Research your family history with a library staff member using local history and genealogy resources. The event is geared towards adults and teenagers. [Reston Regional Library]

Photo by Wade Gilley, Sr. 

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Under the Cover of Rain, Reston Residents Head to Polls in Statewide Election


Despite the downpour of rain on Tuesday, a steady stream of voters cast their votes at Armstrong Elementary School in Reston. As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 209,223 residents of Fairfax County voted in Virginia’s election.

The state is only of of two in the United States with statewide elections this year. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam are vying for governor in what is expected to be a narrow contest, according to The New York Times. Libertarian Cliff Hyra is also running.

In the last election in 2013, turnout rested at 46.8 percent. With a little more than four hours before polls close, turnout this year sits at 30.6 percent, according to the county.

A record number of absentee ballots were cast this year, according to Fairfax County officials. More than 41,000 Virginians participated in early voting, up by roughly 61 percent from voting in 2013. Absentee voting was up in every jurisdictions in Virginia, except three, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-profit organization that provides information about local politics.

There are more than 684,041 active registered voters in Fairfax County. Throughout the day, voters trickled in at various polling sites throughout Reston and Fairfax County. By 10 a.m., nearly 16 percent or roughly 109,000 of registered voters already casted their ballot.

All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are up for election. Fifty-five of those seats are contested.

Reston’s current Delegate, Democrat Ken Plum, is running without opposition in this election. Plum is currently serving his 36th year as the local Delegate for the 36th District, which includes Reston. Prior to his political appointment, he served for roughly 20 years as a public school teacher and administrator. Plum recently commented on his unopposed race for re-election in his weekly commentary.

Two candidates, Republican Jill Vogel and Justin Fairfax are running to replace Ralph Northam as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, a role which often presides over the State Senate, and has the power to break tie votes. The race for attorney general is between the current attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring, and his opponent, Republican John Adams.

The Board of Supervisors has asked residents to approve the sale of $315 million in bonds. If approved, the county has published a list of school improvement projects they would use the money to pay for.

The American Civil Liberties Union received multiple reports from Virginia voters who said that they received calls falsely saying their polling place had changed. The civil liberties organization advised voters to confirm polling locations at elections.virginia.gov and report any issues by calling the organization at 804-644-8080.

Polling stations are open through 7 p.m. Results can be viewed live at VPAP’s website or on the Fairfax County Government website.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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New Name for South Reston Polling Place

Hughes district/Credit: Fairfax County

Reston voters who previously voted at Terraset Elementary will now be part of the Hughes Precinct.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the name change at Tuesday’s meeting. That procedure must be followed under Virginia voting laws.

Voters had been casting ballots at Terraset since 1976, but their polling place was moved next door to Hughes Middle School in 2014 to make way for construction at Terraset.

Even though the extensive renovations are expected to be completed soon, it looks as though the voting at Hughes, 11401 Ridge Heights Rd., is there to stay.

The name change does not alter the precinct boundaries (see map above) or the voting representation (it is still the 11th Congressional District; 32nd Virginia House District; and 36th Virginia Senate District).

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Virginia Primary is March 1: Who is Your Candidate?

"I voted" sticker. (Photo via Flickr/vox efx)The Virginia Presidential Primary is a little more than two weeks away.

Registered voters in the Commonwealth go to the polls March 1, along with 111 other states.

Have you decided who gets your vote? Take our poll and let’s see which way Reston is leaning. Don’t worry, it’s confidential. No one is selling any info to campaigns. Also, candidate names were generated in random order by the polling software and show no bias on the part of Reston Now.

Also, check out this info from Fairfax County about Primary Day and to locate your polling place.

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Fearing Chaos, Officials Ask Supervisors to Close FCPS on Primary Day

Katherine Hanley/File photoFairfax County election officials are concerned that fights and other chaos may ensue when state officials demand Republicans pledge their support in Virginia’s March 1 primaries.

Fairfax County Electoral Board Secretary Katherine K. Hanley, a Reston resident and the former county supervisor chair (1995-2003), asked the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to ask the Fairfax County Public School board to close schools on primary day.

“That’s about as contentious as anything we can possibly be doing in a polling place on Election Day,” she told the supervisors. She said she is concerned about backlash from Donald Trump supporters — and opponents — that could occur at polling places.

The Virginia Republican Party said it will require voters to affirm that they are Republicans before they get a ballot for that primary. Trump, the Republican frontrunner, has said he opposes the demand.

Virginia voters do not register by party. Republican leaders have said the pledge will keep Democrats from casting ballots.

The school board voted in October to have a two-hour delay on March 1 — “Super Tuesday” — in order to accommodate voters at county polling places, which include 167 schools. Fairfax County Schools are always closed in November for the general election.

Hanley said Tuesday she believes the risk of arguments or fights over the pledge is large enough to justify canceling classes.

The supervisors voted 9 to 1 Tuesday to ask the school system to cancel classes. Kathy Smith (Sully) was the lone dissent.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza said “at this time, there are no plans to close schools for the entire day on March 1.”

Garza sent an email to FCPS families Tuesday night:

FCPS is obligated by law to have a 180-day calendar, and if FCPS is closed for primary day, another student holiday would need to be used as school day.

For many years, schools have been open and serving as polling locations without incident.  The safety of our students, staff and visitors is always our priority and we work closely with election officials, our security team and law enforcement to ensure the safety of all.  On election day,  all school staff and voting officials at each site are asked to remain vigilant and quickly report any suspicious or inappropriate activity. Extra security patrols are added to address any concerns the schools may have and parent volunteers often assist by walking hallways and monitoring public areas.

Today’s suggestion to close schools on March 1 came as a complete surprise to both FCPS staff and the School Board.  FCPS will be reaching out to the Elections Office to learn more about the new security concerns that have been raised. FCPS will continue to keep the community informed regarding any new developments.

Katherine Hanleyfile photo

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North Reston Voters May Get a New Polling Place

North Reston proposed precinct map/Credit: Fairfax COuntyNorth Reston voters may soon find themselves voting in a new precinct beginning with the March 1 “Super Tuesday” presidential primaries.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on Dec. 8 to consider changes to the election precincts and polling places.

Fairfax County staff is making the recommendation that Aldrin and North Point precincts, which currently have a combined roster of nearly 9,000 registered voters, divide to create a new precinct to redistribute the voters in this area.

The proposal will create a new precinct from the southern portion of North Point to be named “Armstrong,” and its polling place will be established at Armstrong Elementary School (11900 Lake Newport Road, Reston).

The northern portion of North Point combined with the northern portion of Aldrin will retain the name “North Point” and its polling place will be St. Thomas à Becket Catholic Church (1421 Wiehle Avenue, Reston).

The southern portion of Aldrin will retain the name “Aldrin” and its polling place
will remain at the Aldrin Elementary School (11375 Center Harbor Road,
Reston).

The additional polling place would cut down on lines in busy election years. Aldrin would have 2,892 registered voters; Armstrong, 3,376; and  Northpoint , 2,998, county officials said.

See attached map for suggested boundaries.

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Super Tuesday May Affect FCPS Calendar

fcps logoMarch 1, 2016, is “Super Tuesday,” when Virginia and 12 other states will hold primaries or caucuses for the 2016 Presidential election.

The Fairfax County Board of Elections would like to get optimal turnout for the primary, so it has asked the Fairfax County Public Schools board if there can be a delayed start to the school day that day, FCPS said in a statement.

Based on the anticipated numbers of voters who are expected to participate in the presidential primary, and to avoid congestion at the schools during arrival times, the board says it is is considering the delayed opening.

The school calendar cannot change without a school board vote, so the school board will discuss and vote on it at its Oct. 22 business meeting. If the Board does vote for the delayed opening, it will reduce the number of built-in snow days from 13 to 12.7 for the 2015-16 school year.

In Fairfax County, 165 of the 196 schools and centers are used as polling places. FCPS policies and regulations require that parking spaces are to be reserved for voters.

Other states holding primaries on March 1 include Alabama, Alaska (GOP), Arkansas,
Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee,
Texas, Vermont, Virginia.

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Reston Community Center Board Members Elected

Reston Community Center logo Election results for the Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors are in: voters selected former RCC board member William Keefe and incumbents William Penniman and Vicky Wingert.

According to results published Tuesday, Wingert, a former Reston Association CEO, commanded 1,241 votes in the race to help lead the Colts Neck Road activity and educational center.

Keefe, a former RCC board member who was not re-elected in 2013, came in second with 1,119 votes. Penniman, who has served on the board for eight years, received 1,103 votes. And candidate Linda Singer, who has been involved in many local groups, came in fourth with 984 votes.

The newly elected board members discussed the RCC’s future at a community meeting last month. They weighed in how the center can accommodate growth, and a proposal to build a new pool.

Penniman said then that he’ll work to improve the center.

“No other community center has this kind of energy — it is important we preserve it,” he said. “It is important we continue to strengthen and rise to meet needs that will grow.”

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