If Bill Euille Runs a Write-In Campaign for Alexandria Mayor, Would He Be Likely to Win?


    I was chatting with an Alexandria Democratic politico yesterday, and he strongly recommended that I read this Alexandria News article, “Euille Moves Forward With City Business; Alexandrians Plan Write-in Campaign.” The gist of the article is: 1) Euille, who lost a three-way Democratic primary to Allison Silberberg on June 9th, is sounding increasingly likely to run a write-in campaign as an Independent this fall (I was particularly struck by Euille’s “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings” comment); 2) Euille seems to believe that he would have won if not for the presence of former Mayor Kerry Donley in the race, since “Kerry and I agree on many issues and we split our base vote;” and 3) there have been successful write-in and independent campaigns in the past in Alexandria, so this would not be unprecedented by any means.

    So, if Euille does run as a write-in candidate for mayor this fall, would he be likely to win? I tend to agree with the Alexandria Democratic politico I spoke with yesterday, that Euille would benefit from two important factors: 1) Eulle would probably get most of Donley’s support, since the two of them are closer in approach, ideology, etc. than Silberberg is; 2) Euille would likely outpace Silberberg in fundraising by a wide margin (in the primary, Euille raised over $150k vs. Silberberg’s $37k+) from developers, etc. That doesn’t make Euille a lock to beat Silberberg, but it certainly does give him some serious advantages.

    This morning, I ran all this by another Alexandria Democratic politico I respect. In their view, Euille “could win, and could win easily, but he would have to get all in behind a write in campaign, which would cost…a ton.” Working against Euille would be reluctance of Democrats to openly support him, the “sore loser syndrome,” the “name-is-hard-to-spell syndrome” (although as the Alexandria News article notes, the Electoral Board mostly needs to judge the intent of the voter, so maybe “Bill” or whatever would be sufficient in a two-person race against “Allison Silberberg”?). Finally, this politico pointed to what they called the “x factor” – what would Sen. Adam Ebbin do, given that “most of the votes this November are going to come from the east end of the city,” and “Adam brings out Democratic voters who would likely go Democratic all the way down the ballot unless Ebbin tells them otherwise.” Would Sen. Ebbin endorse Euille? Silberberg? Stay neutral? Stay tuned! :)

    Finally, there’s the issue of what this might do to the Alexandria Democratic Committee (ADC). Yet another Alexandria Dem politico I spoke with worried that a Euille independent bid could “irreparably damage the ADC,” leaving a “broken party” in its wake. On the other hand, as the Alexandria News article points out, when Jim Moran ran successfully as an independent for mayor in 1985 against the Democratic nominee, he “was thrown out of ADC and, according to those who were present, took at least one third of the Committee with him.” However, once Moran was elected Mayor, “he was welcomed back into the Democratic fold with open arms because he was no longer running against the Party’s nominee.” Would history repeat itself, or at least “rhyme” in this case? I don’t know, but it will be fascinating to watch.

    P.S. If “Instant Runoff Voting” (IRV) had been allowed (and in place) for the Democratic primary, and if it’s true that Euille and Donley mostly would have been the second choices of their respective voters, then presumably either Euille or Donley would have won easily on June 9 and this wouldn’t even be an issue. So, remind me again, why won’t the Virginia General Assembly allow localities to run primaries using IRV?

    • boydwalker

      I do not think Bill Euille would be likely to win a write-in campaign, as it quite an uphill battle to go from a primary with %13 turnout to a general election where turnout might be up to %50 and a plurality of over %50 percent would be needed to win.  So Bill Euille got 4737 votes in the primary but he would need to more than 4 or 5 times that number to get %50 in a write in race. That means convincing a lot of people to vote in a way they are not used to doing, even though we all have the right to write in whomever we want.  I helped count votes as a kid at City Hall Precinct on the old voting machines and saw that someone had written in Beetle Bailey, the cartoon character. Sure, Frank Mann won a contest for Mayor with a write in campaign when we had May Elections, and won with only 4122 votes.  The bar is quite a bit higher now.  Allison Silberberg will be the only candidate on the ballot and even though if she is challenged she will now need to reach a plurality as opposed to convincing only a third of the voters in a 3 way race, she has the advantage of being the Democratic Nominee in a heavily Democratic City.  Bill Euille would likely have to resign from the committee, and so he would not have the support of the party. If any current city council members running for re-election (all Democrats)decide to support a write-in campaign or do not endorse the nominee of the party, they may also be asked to resign from the Democratic committee. Euille, in just entertaining the idea, is doing damage to the party, and many people will not want to reward him for that. It is also possible that he will damage his own reputation, especially as he tries to complete any unfinished business he might have on his agenda, like a lighted football stadium behind TC Williams.  If his write-in campaign is funded by developers who have skin-in-the game, I believe this will also damage reputations, his, and the Democratic party’s.  Democrats are quite vocal in their opposition to the Citizen’s United ruling but seem to have little problem accepting money from corporations doing business with the city. This is widely known as the concept of “pay-to-play”, and I think it does damage to the reputation of municipal governments everywhere. There were a lot of very negative comments on election night coverage to the affect that this culture exists, in the Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/… So even if voters disagree with Allison Silberberg’s positions one of her strengths is her integrity in that she did not take money from Developers and in fact returned money she did receive. So if Euille runs this will continue to be a big difference.  Lastly, it is doubtful that Ebbin will endorse anyone if Euille runs, as he stayed neutral in the 45th Delegate race and the Mayoral Primary.  I think he is less likely to endorse a Euille write in campaign otherwise he too might be asked to resign from the party, and more likely to support the nominee of the Democratic Party, who he endorsed for council in 2012. Lastly, Donley voters, who voted against Euille having a 5th term in the primary, are not all going to support a Euille write-in campaign.  Some will support the Democratic process and the nominee of the party.

    • hokieguru

      Lowell – I think Donley would have to be all-in for a Euille Write-in.  By all-in, I mean he’d actually have to campaign for him grass-roots style (and encourage his own supporters to get out for Euille) – I watched this mayoral race closely and I really don’t see that happening.   It would a costly sort of race – and I think the more likely prospect is that the council leads its own way over the next four years (sans Silberberg).  There’s going to be a lot of unanimous votes – and the council will forge its way ahead with or without her (and I think very little of her – this isn’t someone who was a serious candidate – her best business idea was to reduce the number of parking hours at a meter).  Damn – I sound cynical.

    • pvogel

      In her    campaign  for  council  3  years ago,  Allison   did  better than expected  (   becoming vice mayor)    She  did  better than  expected  in the race  for mayor.  so In my opinion, Allison silverberg   may just be the real deal.  Tred very carefully  when    talking about  subverting the will of the people

    • alexdemprim

      I’m not overwhelmed by Silberberg’s populism/anti-development agenda – but I also think that Euille is a buffoon and a failure, so my prior support for Donley wouldn’t translate into a write-in for Euille.  (And the fact that Euille thinks that I would reaffirms my belief that he is a buffoon and a failure.)

    • arldem78

      I don’t see much of a path to victory for Euille. Not a very impressive candidate, mediocre record, general will of the party was expressed when 2/3 of voters voted against the incumbent. Yea, you can twist it other ways, but there wasn’t some crazy anomaly or outcry that would suggest a strong opportunity for a write-in, other than from Euille supporters who are still trying to digest the loss. And while Silberberg is being painted in some unflattering ways, there’s no urgent concern among most Democrats that they need to replace the party nominee.

      As someone pointed out he’d have to raise an unbelievable amount of money and gain a lot of attention while not appearing to be a sore loser, which i’d kinda say he is. And to overcome the structural advantages, Euille would have to sharpen the knives, which i think would make him appear to be even more of a sore loser.

      Silberberg should go out and raise 100k in the next few weeks showing some fundraising prowess and put this flirtation from the Euille camp to bed. Now it’s tough given where Euille’s money came from, but she should hit some Euille supporters, make them decide to play ball or risk being shut out by betting on the potential of a high risk campaign.