by Ken Boddye
Tuesday night, the Dar Al Noor Mosque in Prince William County, VA was filled to capacity as citizens from the community came to watch the debate between Jacqueline Smith and Jackson Miller, candidates for the Prince William Clerk of the Circuity Court Special Election. The Special Election will be held on April 18th; more details about the race can be found in my previous diary about it. This is not the first time the two candidates have squared off in the same venue, either, as the Prince William NAACP hosted a Candidates Forum a few weeks ago.
The debate was sponsored by the Muslim Association of Virginia and the League of Women Voters. It was widely advertised by several groups, such as Indivisible and the Committee of 100.
Unlike the NAACP’s Candidate Forum, last night’s debate was structured with more back-and-forth in mind, and the tension between the two candidates was more pronounced as a result. Candidates were given the chance to rebut and speak to each other’s points directly. At one point, Democratic Candidate Jacqueline Smith had to invoke rules regarding rebuttal as she had been denied a chance to respond directly to a claim made by GOP Candidate Jackson Miller.
Overall, Miller — who also serves as the VA House of Delegates GOP Majority Whip — came off as self-confident and prideful about his record and his accomplishments. Most of his remarks in regards to his qualifications centered around his experience in the military, as a police officer, and as a legislator. Implicit in his comments was the allegation that his opponent did not have the managerial experience necessary to manage the office she’s seeking.
Jacqueline’s own account, however, paints a much different picture. She has practiced law for the better part of her adult life, and is also a small business owner. She has practiced pro-bono for years, and famously led a team of attorneys down to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many of the people there had to prove ownership of property in order to claim the resources necessary to get their homes rebuilt and their lives back on track, and Jacqueline’s team had to take on the challenge of the local courthouse (where many of the records were kept) being flooded.
More directly, Ms. Smith has worked intimately with the current Clerk’s office, and commanded a knowledge of its workings and interactions that Delegate Miller generally lacked. In fact, many of Delegate Miller’s talking points sounded as if they were appropriated from points made by Ms. Smith at their last showdown.
At times, Miller came off as defensive and chastising, attempting to cite an email Smith had sent to her colleagues thanking them for their support of her candidacy, and her providing flyers to her kick-off party to folks she worked with in the courthouse. These attacks became a bit more pointed after Smith illuminated the fact that Miller had been raising large amounts of money on his delegate race, donations that were mostly tied to corporate interests.
Yes, we’re in April of 2017 and still hearing about emails.
This is a big election year for Virginia, and we get the first large-scale electoral response to the Trump presidency and everything we saw last year. That response starts with our very own Clerk of the Court race.