You may have seen the article in this morning’s Washington Post about the Prince William County Republicans’ failure in court Friday to convince a judge “to overturn a decision by the Prince William County Electoral Board that blocked Republican efforts to hold primary nominating contests for several local GOP incumbents who are running for another term.” As the Post reports, the decision “angered [Prince William County Board Chair Corey] Stewart and his colleagues [Supervisors Martin Nohe, Maureen Caddigan and Sheriff Glen Hill], although they said they’re unlikely to file an appeal.” The reason they’re “angered” is obvious: because the Republican incumbents stand a far greater chance of losing to a Tea Partier in a smaller nomninating process, such as a “firehouse primary” or convention, then in a much larger primary.
I’ve been following this story in the papers and on the blogs, and have been wondering how it would play out. I was super busy late last week and had very little time to follow up with my sources in Prince William County about this, but I’ve been eager to do so, as it seemed like such a juicy story. So, earlier this morning, I emailed Prince William County Democratic Committee Chair Harry Wiggins, asking him specifically about this post on the right-wing, Prince William County political blog, “Sheriff of Nottingham”, which basically gloats/celebrates the fact that Stewart et al. lost in court, and that “they will now be forced to account to a group of fiscally Republican voters for their horrendous voting records on taxes and spending.” (gotta laugh at that claim, but whatever…have at it, Teapublicans, I’ll sit back and make some more hot-buttered popcorn! LOL)
By the way, I’ve heard from multiple sources (including Harry Wiggins; see below) that the “Sheriff of Nottingham” blog is written by Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland (R)’s top political aide, Mac Haddow (you can read more about Haddow in the Washington Post, including that Haddow “pleaded guilty to an unrelated conflict-of-interest charge while at HHS and was sentenced to several months in prison for launching a nonprofit foundation with ties to HHS that employed his wife”). I asked Prince William County Dems’ Chair Harry Wiggins about this, and about the PW County GOP meltdown generally, and he responded:
The convicted felon, Mac Haddow is the puppeteer for the two puppets, [Gainesville District Supervisor] Pete Candland and [Brentsville District Supervisor] Jeanine Lawson, while Haddow denies [it], there is no doubt he is the “Sheriff.” By the way, Haddow’s wife – who was the recipient of Haddow funnelling money to her non-profit and resulted in Mac going to prison – is on Candland’s staff.Haddow is trying to take out Stewart, Nohe and Caddigan and replace them with nut jobs, nuttier than Stewart.
I talked to Wiggins over the phone a little while ago, and he had a lot to say. Here are some highlights.
1. Despite attempts by Corey Stewart and other Republicans to somehow blame the Democrats for their own mess, there’s absolutely no truth to that. According to Wiggins, “I didn’t do a damn thing…This is a Republican issue, I have stayed out of this whole thing [and told other Prince William County Democrats] to stay out of it…and to the best of my knowledge, they have stayed out of it.”
2. The Inside NOVA report about Corey Stewart issuing a “tirade of expletives” against Harry Wiggins “on the sidewalk outside the Old Manassas Courthouse after the electoral board’s emergency meeting March 11” most definitely accurate, and came as a huge surprise to Wiggins, who says he has had a cordial relationship with Stewart and also, again, had absolutely nothing to do with the Republicans’ self-created mess. In other words, Corey Stewart’s allegation that Wiggins “has perverted the electoral process of Prince William County” is simply a wild, baseless, crazy conspiracy theory, without any merit whatsoever.
3. In fact, what really happened, to the best of Wiggins’ knowledge, is that there were no conspiracies at all – by anyone, certainly not by the Prince William County Democrats, but also probably not by Mac Haddow, Pete Candland or other Prince William County Republicans – but simply a screwup by Prince William County GOP Chair Bill Card, who honestly forgot to file on time the required paperwork to hold a primary.
4. Why would Stewart get into crazy conspiracy theories and expletive-laced tirades? In Wiggins’ view, one possible reason is that “Corey doesn’t have any integrity himself, so he is assuming nobody else does.” Another is that “Corey’s strategy is to make this inot a partisan issue,” even though Democrats had nothing to do with it, to distract from his own party’s, and his own, ineptitude and infighting.
5. With regard to Stewart’s charge that “alternatives to primaries, such as party-run canvasses and conventions, disenfranchise voters because absentee ballots can’t be cast by those unable to vote because of military deployments, old age or chronic illness,” Wiggins noted that the Prince William County GOP, “with Corey Stewart’s blessing,” “approved a ‘firehouse primary’ for Clerk of Circuit Court and Occoquan District Supervisor.” In other words, Wiggins said, it’s apparently fine in Corey Stewart’s eyes to have a “firehouse primary” and apparently “disenfranchise” military member and others in those two elections, but not in the ones he cares about (e.g., his own). Fascinating.
6. With regard to Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland, according to Wiggins he “couldn’t find his way to the bathroom if he didn’t have Mac Haddow telling him what to do.”
7. Finally, on a more positive note, Wiggins is upbeat about Democrats’ electoral chances in Prince William County this year, in part due to the Republican ineptitude, infighting and turmooil described above, but also because Democrats will be running strong, diverse candidates for many offices. The key, as always, is turnout: the more people turn out, the more Democrats win in a county that went for Barack Obama (57%-41%) and Tim Kaine (58%-42%) in 2012, and for Terry McAuliffe (52%-44%) in 2013, but which tends to see a disproportionate dropoff in Democratic voters in off/odd-year elections like 2015. Harry and I discussed how it should be the opposite, how the levels of government closest to us should be the ones where turnout is highest, since they have so much impact on our day-to-day lives, and since we have so much more proportional impact on those elections. We’ll see what happens this year in Prince William County and across Virginia with regard to Democratic turnout…and ultimately Democratic success or failure. The bottom line, though, is that we can’t and shouldn’t count on Republican ineptitude, infighting, incompetence or out-of-the-mainstream candidates to save us; we’ve got to get out to the polls in large numbers, end of story.