With city and county elections only a week away, anything is fair game, even endorsing your opponent. Last week, Independent candidate for City Council Bob Fenwick did the unthinkable and publicly supported Democratic candidate Dede Smith.
He did it in an attempt to break up the “old line party” majority currently held by outgoing Councilor David Brown and Councilors Kristin Szakos and incumbent Satyendra Huja.
Fenwick said if he and Smith were elected, and only one of Smith’s Democratic running mates, Norris would have the support he needed to advance issues like dredging and transparency in government, among other things.
“The whole point of the endorsement is the realization that if Dave doesn’t get a working majority, then it’s going to be the same old stuff we have been running into for the last three years,” said Fenwick.
Although Fenwick said he and Smith agree on a variety of issues that go beyond dredging, the community water supply plan played an important role in the election.
Bob Fenwick said he has “changed the political landscape” by taking strong stances on certain issues, something nobody outside of the Democratic Party has done in a while.
Dede Smith says that her priorities are very similar to her Democratic running mates: transportation, housing and education.
Both are members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan and have been vocal supporters, like Norris, of dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to meet future water demands. Brown, Huja and Szakos voted in February to construct a 30′ earthen dam at Ragged Mountain, something Fenwick said is expensive and not a priority.
Fenwick thinks his chances to win one of the three Council seats this year are better than during his 2009 attempt. He believes a new majority on the Council, one that includes him and Smith, is in the city’s best interest.
“Dede is a details person who can get in the weeds and I think I’m more of a generalist,” said Fenwick. “On the dredging-damming issue, to me, it’s a no brainer. You take care of what you have before you go and build something new. Dede is more interested in stream flows, monitors on the rivers. I think we’d make a good team.”
Smith, who made headlines for not reciprocating Fenwick’s endorsement, said that in the event of a new majority, the balance of power would “sway toward a different perspective.” But she has committed herself to running as a ticket with two other Democrats and isn’t sure issues she and Fenwick agree on, such as the water plan and the Meadow Creek Parkway, will still be up for a new vote if they are elected.
“It’s really an unknown,” she said.
When Smith won the Democratic nomination along with Huja and Kathy Galvin, critics of the so-called “establishment” looked to her as an alternative. In fact, in a press conference before the primary, Galvin denounced some candidates, read Smith, as having adopted a “bunker mentality about a particular issue or set of issues,” presumably the water supply plan and the parkway. Now, Smith, Huja and Galvin are running a “unified” campaign.
When asked how the three Democrats, who have such different stances on certain issues, will move forward on Council, Smith pointed to the current elected officials.
“This is what the current Council looks like, so it’s nothing new for the Democratic party,” said Smith. “If anything, given that Council is usually all within the Democratic Party, it’s a good thing, it provides some different perspectives and will provoke some great discussion, should we all get in.”
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