In it to win it: A comprehensive guide to the 2015 election

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Denise Lunsford and Robert Tracci Denise Lunsford and Robert Tracci

If you care about whether Albemarle expands its growth area or what Charlottesville does about the Belmont bridge or whether you pay more in meals tax or any other myriad local issues that directly affect your quality of life, this is the election to head to the polls. Sure it doesn’t have the star power of a presidential race, but for the day-to-day issues that hit you where you live, this is the time to exercise your power as a voter.

A total of 45 candidates are running for 21 seats in the November 3 Charlottesville and Albemarle County races. Several of those are uncontested—hello gerrymandering in the case of four General Assembly races—but don’t let that deter you.

As much as Americans love to complain about government, they’re pathetically passive about exercising the hard-won right that actually lets them have a say where it counts. If you don’t like the job current officials are doing, fire ’em. If you think someone would do a better job, hire ’em. And if you want a tiny percentage of registered voters to call the shots about what happens in your city, county and state government, sit back and watch “American Idol.” We’re kidding. Get out there and vote.

Toss-ups

We’re not Larry Sabato by any means, but according to our crystal ball experience as longtime local election watchers, of the 21 races only a handful could go either way, and all of those races are in the county.

Albemarle commonwealth’s attorney

Constitutional officers don’t operate under the glare of regular public meetings and usually fly under the radar. This year they are among the most hotly contested races, and none more so than the Albemarle commonwealth’s attorney race, which hasn’t been contested since 2007, when incumbent Denise Lunsford ousted Jim Camblos, who’d held the office for four terms.

A big factor in this race is the Mark Weiner case, which gained national attention. The former Food Lion manager spent two-and-a-half years in jail for an abduction conviction until Lunsford moved to set aside the verdict in July when the alleged victim’s credibility was further strained by an accusation of selling cocaine. “The Mark Weiner case clearly is an issue to people,” says challenger Robert Tracci. “My opponent does seem focused on a single issue that is much more involved and nuanced than he seems to understand,” responds Lunsford.

Tracci, a Republican and former federal prosecutor, claims broad bipartisan support. “When I go door to door, people say, ‘Thank God we have a choice.’” And he reiterates his motto: “integrity, judgment, fairness.”

Lunsford questions Tracci’s qualifications—in federal court, 97 percent of indictments result in plea bargains—and says she takes his challenge seriously “because I am very concerned about my opponent’s ability to do the job when he has never tried a case in state court and has very little experience at all.” She says his trial experience as a federal prosecutor “is so limited that he would only meet the requirements for an entry-level position in the office he is campaigning to lead.”

Tracci issued a press release calling for more public forums before organizations such as the League of Women Voters or the NAACP, and accuses Lunsford of ducking those to attend private fundraisers—even though those organizations haven’t scheduled such events. Lunsford, who faced Tracci at the Senior Statesmen and the Fraternal Police Order forums, replies, “To date, I have not received another invitation to participate in an open forum, which are always organized and scheduled by civic groups.”

Whoever is elected will have a lot on his or her plate: The capital murder trial of Jesse Matthew is scheduled for next summer.

Denise Lunsford-D

Age: 51

Education: BA Middle Tennessee State University, JD Washington & Lee School of Law

Legal experience: Twenty-five years as a trial attorney in local and federal courts including eight years as commonwealth’s attorney and 17 years as a defense attorney.  “I have tried thousands of cases involving virtually every type of charge from petty larceny and DUI up to and including rape, robbery and capital murder. Hundreds of these cases were jury trials where I have served as lead counsel.”

Most difficult case you’ve ever tried: My first capital case involving the murder of a local jeweler.

Skills that make you well-suited to be commonwealth’s attorney: I am a trial attorney and have been for my entire legal career. In addition, I cultivate relationships with law enforcement, community groups and others to make improvements in the criminal justice system.

Top donor: My children, who have given up family time and the privacy that others enjoy.

Legal hero: Virginia commonwealth’s attorneys. Their daily lives are dealing with the worst moments in the lives of both victims and the accused, and they are charged with making the difficult decisions on whether or not a case is pursued and to ensure that justice is served. 

What are you reading now: The World’s Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key and Sisters In Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World.

If you could change any law, which one would it be: I would allow the creation of local problem-solving courts including mental health courts so communities could better address the issue of persons with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

Robert Tracci-R

Age: 43

Education: Ohio Wesleyan, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1994; University of Illinois College of Law, 1999

Legal experience: Special assistant United States attorney, deputy assistant attorney general, U.S. Department of Justice; chief legislative counsel and parliamentarian, chief antitrust counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Skills that make you well-suited to be commonwealth’s attorney: Experienced prosecutor, sound legal judgment, a clear sense of justice and a commitment to apply the law firmly and fairly while upholding the public trust and dignity of the office. Most difficult case: Murder for hire, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, solicitation, unlawful possession of a firearm, drug distribution and conspiracy; co-counseled and authored Fourth Circuit appellate brief.

Top donor: My immediate family and I, because I would not ask anyone to support a campaign we were not fully committed to.

Legal hero: Attorney general, Supreme Court justice and United States Nuremberg tribunal prosecutor Robert H. Jackson: “The citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes and who approaches his task with humility.”

Reading now: Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Cases Go Wrong by Brandon L. Garrett.

If you could change any law, which one would it be? Support Sheriff Chip Harding’s effort to expand the DNA database to improve criminal investigations and reduce wrongful convictions.

Albemarle Clerk of Court

The state audits were bad enough, then the indictment for embezzlement of a longtime staffer in the clerk’s office put a target on incumbent Debbie Shipp’s back, with challengers coming out of the woodwork to take a job that involves handling the Albemarle Circuit Court’s papers and around 800 duties from marriage licenses to property recordation to criminal records. The job’s attractiveness probably isn’t hurt by what it pays—Shipp earns nearly $139K a year—and the term is eight years. Well over a year ago, Shipp was challenged by a fellow Dem and she decided to run as an independent.

Clockwise from left: Debbie Shipp, John Zug, George Foresman and Franklin Micciche
Clockwise from left: Debbie Shipp, John Zug, George Foresman and Franklin Micciche
George Foresman-I

Age: 53

Occupation: Current business/ former government leader

Why run? To restore integrity to Albemarle’s Circuit Court Clerk’s office. The pattern of waste, financial mismanagement and criminal scandals is the reason the office has dropped from top-tier performance only eight years ago to the most problem plagued of Virginia’s 117 clerk’s offices.

Skills that make you well-suited to be clerk: The experience and skills from serving as a successful leader of small and large government organizations and businesses in Virginia for over 30 years that led to my recruitment as a top administrator and under secretary of Homeland Security.

Biggest challenge facing the clerk’s office: Lack of oversight and experienced professional leadership capable of delivering modern services to taxpayers.

Top donor: Self financing campaign.

Who inspires you? Those who place service to others above being self-serving.

What are you reading now? Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal  and The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Eradicate hunger.

Franklin Micciche-R

Age: 61

Occupation: Recently phased out of position of area manager for Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Currently helping them on an on-call basis.

Why run? To turn around an office in need of help. I’m ready for the next challenge in my life.

Skills that make you well-suited to be clerk: I have the ability to create cohesive, caring teams that are dedicated to customer service, quality and performance. I am the only private sector candidate.

Top donor: No donors. Self-funded atypical campaign.

Biggest challenge facing the clerk’s office: Restoration of customer service, efficiency and attention to detail. Creating a place where people enjoy working.

Who inspires you? Honest, hard-working public service people at all levels.

What are you reading now? War in the Pacific by General Jerome T. Hagen.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Provide people with the education and training to become self-sufficient.

Debbie Shipp-I

Age: 57

Occupation: Clerk, Albemarle County Circuit Court 

Why run? Love my job, love interaction with attorneys and public.

Skills that make you well-suited to be clerk: Experience, dedication, knowledge for needs of upcoming renovation project of the courthouse.

Biggest challenge facing the clerk’s office: Staffing, lack of space.

Top donor: Waiting to see who makes that list.

Who inspires you? Parents.

What are you reading now? Currently no time for books.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? World peace and feed the hungry.

Jon Zug-D

Age: 54

Occupation: Assistant commonwealth’s attorney

Why run? Because there is a need, and I have the leadership to turn things around for the clerk’s office.

Skills that make you well-suited to be clerk: My legal experience and organizational skills.

Biggest challenge facing the clerk’s office: Bringing it into the 21st century and establishing online records and filings.

Top donor: My parents have been my biggest donor and supporter as well as my greatest inspiration.

What are you reading now: A Street in Arnhem: The Agony of Occupation and Liberation by Robert Kershaw.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would eliminate poverty and institute equality for all genders, races and religions.

Albemarle Board of  Supervisors—Rivanna District

Ken Boyd’s decision not to seek another term has thrown the Rivanna District into a highly competitive race with three contenders who could tip the growth/no growth balance of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.

Richard Lloyd, Lawrence Gaughan and Norman Dill
Richard Lloyd, Lawrence Gaughan and Norman Dill
Norman Dill-D

Age: 61

Occupation: Business owner, Rebecca’s Natural Food

Issue that made you want to run: Protecting our county.

Skills that make you well-suited to be supervisor: People skills, finance and 30 years of working in this community.

Best decision the Board of Supervisors made in the past year: Enthusiastically protecting the Rivanna Watershed.

Worst: Not fully funding early education for children in need.

Top donor: My wife—generous with emotional and technical support.

Political hero: Creigh Deeds.

What are you reading now? Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Eradicate polio—anything too dramatic would have inevitable unintended consequences.

Lawrence Gaughan-I

Age: 48

Occupation: Founder/director of GOV360 (nonprofit, nonpartisan community/voter engagement foundation), film and TV actor/director/producer

Issue that made you want to run: Lack of voter participation (on average, only 20 percent of citizens vote in local elections), with both Democrats and Republicans pandering to developers and big business, leading to 40 years of poor planning, out-of-control growth, high taxes, looming debt, budget shortfalls (especially with our schools) and a complete lack of environmental and economic sustainability.

Skills that make you well-suited to be supervisor: Years of political experience (including the organizational capacity to win a contested congressional nominating process in 2014), a relevant advanced degree from Pepperdine University’s graduate school of education and the ability to listen to constituents and thoroughly understand their individual needs.

Best decision the Board of Supervisors made in the past year: None available.

Worst: All.

Top donor: Ludwig G. Kuttner.

Political hero: Teddy Roosevelt.

What are you reading now? Congressional Primaries and the Politics of Representation by Marni Ezra.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Fire the editor of C-VILLE and replace all forms of yellow journalism with responsible, thorough and genuinely informative election coverage that actually promotes civic engagement on a local level.

Richard Lloyd-R

Age: 64

Occupation: Retired businessman.

Issue that made you want to run: I wanted to reattach to my community where I can contribute.

Skills that make you well-suited to be supervisor: I managed sales and marketing for divisions of Fortune 500 companies. I have dual degrees in engineering. I started and ran my own manufacturing company for 12 years.

Best decision the Board of Supervisors made in the past year: To hire Faith McClintic as director of the Office of Economic Development.

Worst: To build the grade-separated interchange at 29 and Rio.

Top donor: Support has come from a wide assortment of individuals and community businesses.

Political hero: Ronald Reagan.

What are you reading now? I am wading through the Comprehensive Plan.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Give me some time to contact the Miss Universe Pageant for ideas.

Albemarle Board of Supervisors—Scottsville District

The Scottsville District has seen tumultuous turnover since it elected in 2011 Dem rising star Chris Dumler, who was convicted of sexual battery barely a year into his term. One of the men running for the seat, Earl Smith, is the guy who petitioned the court for Dumler’s ouster; the other, Rick Randolph, was appointed to the Planning Commission by Dumler and sought appointment to fill his seat when Dumler finally resigned, but bowed out in the 2013 special election won by current chair Jane Dittmar.

Rick Randolph and Earl Smith
Rick Randolph and Earl Smith
Rick Randolph-D

Age: 68

Occupation: Owner of Keswick Home Services, planning commissioner, Scottsville District

Issue that made you want to run: The need to develop more sustainable, measurable, long-term financial health for Albemarle County.

Skills that make you well-suited to be supervisor: Problem-solver, consensus-builder, committed to transparency in government, strategic thinker.

Best decision the Board of Supervisors made in the past year: Tie: 1) To create committees to research policies regarding proffers, stormwater management and fiscal health of county; 2) To not make the decision on the Sweetspot Comprehensive Plan amendment without Planning Commission oversight first.

Worst: To not undertake more of a publicly visible, unified effort with other counties to increase pressure on state legislators to fulfill their obligations to fund public schools at levels beyond the current near 2007 levels.

Top donor: Sonjia Smith.

Political hero: Martin Luther King Jr.

What are you reading now? James Tobin’s To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Arrest and send to The Hague the following: Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and North Korea’s Kim Jung-un; persuade four high-tech companies to locate in Albemarle County, two of which will be in Scottsville; and convince the General Assembly that they should increase funding of public schools.

Earl Smith-R

Age: 51

Occupation: District manager

Issue that made you want to run: The encouragement and support I’ve received the past two years from folks here in the county to be the voice needed for the Scottsville District.

Skills that make you well-suited to be a supervisor: Common sense, problem-solver, open-minded, tenacious, smarter than the average bear.

Best decision the Board of Supervisors made in the past year: Hiring [director of economic development] Faith McClintic. 

Worst: Increasing property taxes.

Top donor: CAAR.

Political hero: George Washington.

What are you reading now: Comprehensive Plan.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Ban GMOs.

Wild card

Charlottesville City Council 

Oddsmakers will say the race is a given for the three Democratic candidates in the Dem majority city. If—and only if—Republicans, independents and disenfranchised Democrats single-shot Anson Parker, there’s a remote chance that he could get a seat on council. But single-shotting is tricky because people don’t understand that if they vote for even one other majority-favored candidate, they further sink the chances of their favorite. And people don’t like to not use votes. It’s a long shot but it happened before when Republican Rob Schilling won a seat in 2002.

Alvin Scott Brandy, Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin, Anson Parker and Wes Bellamy
Alvin Scott Brandy, Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin, Anson Parker and Wes Bellamy
Wes Bellamy-D

Age: 28

Occupation: High school teacher

Issue that made you want to run: Community engagement, increase in diversity on Council. I lost the last election by five votes, and I couldn’t give up that easily. Besides, I knew I couldn’t let all of the kids who were looking up to me see me quit just because I didn’t get my way.

Skills that make you well-suited to be a councilor: Proven leader, community connector, internal optimism, decision-maker and energy.

Best decision City Council made in the past year: Approve the changes to the ground lease for the YMCA.

Worst: Not enough decisions made to answer this question. We need more action.

Top donor: Roberta Williamson.

Political hero: President Barack Obama, John Lewis.

What are you reading now? Soar: How Boys Learn, Succeed, and Develop Character by David C. Banks.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? 1. Create a system in which everyone was treated fairly in the justice system regardless of race, color, religion, age or sexual orientation 2. Allow everyone who lives in poverty to experience what it feels like to be wealthy. 3. Magically instill the confidence in every child under 18 so that they know what it feels like to chase your dreams without fear.

Kathy Galvin-D

Age: 59

Occupation: Architect and urban designer

Issue that made you want to run: While on the school board, I saw poverty impact student achievement. We need healthy neighborhoods where all children (and parents) thrive, and meeting that need is the responsibility of a city council.

Skills that make you well-suited to be a councilor: Getting different people to the table to solve complicated problems, a skill honed by being an architect. 

Best decision City Council made in the past year: Buying the Hope Community Center for the School Division (now the Lugo-McGinness Academy) to provide a better alternative learning environment than Henry Avenue.

Worst: Allowing the former director of Neighborhood Services, Jim Tolbert, to continue work on the Belmont Bridge with his preferred engineering and design firm with no timeline for work products. That engineering firm went out of business a few months later and the Belmont Bridge still does not have a replacement firm under contract. The project was a campaign issue four years ago and it still is.

Top donor: Richard M. Hewitt ($2,000) and William A. Edgerton ($1,000).

Political hero: Abraham Lincoln.

What are you reading now? In between books as I just finished Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and The Great Debate by Yuval Levin.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Stop the carnage in Syria.

Mike Signer-D

Age: 42

Occupation: Attorney and author

Issue that made you want to run: A range of experiences made me want to serve the city, from working with local tech companies in my law practice to serving as president of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association, to serving as chair of the Emergency Food Bank.

Skills that make you well-suited to be a councilor: My experience in nonprofits and government leadership will help me bring collegiality, professionalism and strategic vision to council; as an attorney, I also will bring attention to research and detail.

Best decision City Council made in the past year: I support the continued implementation of the Growing Opportunity program, which develops apprenticeships and hiring programs with local employers for low-income residents.

Worst decision City Council made in the past year: I’m not interested in spending time criticizing City Council, particularly as we’ll be colleagues going forward.

Top donor: New Dominion Project PAC

Political hero: Fellow UVA Law alum Robert F. Kennedy, for his courage, compassion and concern about the future.

What are you reading now? For pleasure, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner; for the seminar I’m teaching at UVA now, Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.

Anson Parker-R

Age: 37

Occupation: Web developer

Issues that made you want to run: Transparency is a global issue, so work done in Charlottesville may help other municipalities and countries.

Best decision City Council made last year: Fixing the bathrooms in the public library, feeding kids before and after school.

Worst: Continued inability to handle Halsey Minor’s failed erection on the mall (while authorizing several other hotels).

Top donor: $300 from my mom … really didn’t want anyone’s cash … hard to say no to the madre.

Political hero: TJ. Who else has the guts to edit the Bible to 15 pages?

What are you reading now? Tech support manuals.

If you were ruler for a day what would you do? Release nonviolent drug offenders, implement a clear-cut path for legal immigration, go inner-tubing at Goshen.

Alvin Scott Bandy-I

Age: 54

Occupation: Retired/hobbyist photographer

Issue that made you want to run: Employment (whether with or without the career ladder and bell-whistle attached status advances) the holder can rely upon to sustain his or her family’s livelihood.

Skills that make you well-suited to be a councilor: My warped sense of humor.

Best decision City Council made in the past year: To advance transient lodging (homestay) ordinance amendments.

Worst: Raising the meals tax to supplement funding allocation.

Top donor: The Libertarian Party.

Political hero: Political? No comment.

What are you reading now? When it isn’t C-VILLE Weekly, The Essential Lincoln: Speeches and Correspondence.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Abdicate.

Toss-ups

Albemarle School Board

Three of the county’s races are contested, while unchallenged incumbents Jason Buyaki and Steve Koleszar cruise to re-election.

Michael Basile, Jonno Alcaro, Dolly Joseph, Brain Vanyo, Catherine Lochner and Graham Paige
Michael Basile, Jonno Alcaro, Dolly Joseph, Brain Vanyo, Catherine Lochner and Graham Paige

At Large

Jonno Alcaro

Age: 62

Occupation: Product development—financial services

Skills that make you well-suited to be on the school board: Taking complex projects from concept to fruition; listening to all interested parties and asking clarifying questions; thoughtful deliberation; decision-making; budgeting; planning.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Commonwealth funding has remained flat since 2008 even though we have added close to 500 students during that time.

What are you reading now? Go Set a Watchman.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? If I only had one day, then I couldn’t make lasting changes. So…I’d like to buy the world a Coke! And three good meals.

Dolly Joseph

Age: 41

Occupation: Chief facilitator, Building Experiences

Skills: I’ve been an educator in the Albemarle County area for 15 years. I’m a keen observer, able to identify root problems and key issues and a creative problem-solver who can connect people and resources in novel ways.

Biggest challenge facing schools: How to create and maintain excellent education experiences when there is less money flowing to the schools and enormous pressure to measure all student outcomes in short-term quantifiable ways.

What are you reading now? Ms. Marvel, a comic book series about a Pakistani Muslim teen superhero.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Make sure I had a really good vice president in place.

Catherine Lochner

Age: 53

Occupation: Family support for children and youth with special health care and special education needs.

Skills: Mentoring parents to be advocates, educating parents of their need to make informed choices through advocacy training. Connecting parents to local resources.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Growth, seat capacity, program efficacy, maintaining high-quality teacher staff, appropriate positive interventions and differentiated teaching techniques with modern tools.

What are you reading now? Algebra for the Utterly Confused, Larry Stephens, On Their Own, Anne Ford.

If you were ruler of the world for a day: There would be a sharing of ideas, acceptance of diversity.

Samuel Miller District

Michael Basile

Age: 49

Occupation: Electronics production

Skills that make you well-suited to be on the school board: I taught student aviators for eight years, started a nonprofit to fight child abuse, am tenacious, motivated, hardworking and great at finding solutions in the community to problems we face.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Getting our school board to direct county public schools to teach our kids responsible personal finance, inspire them to build wealth for their lifetime and cut wasteful spending.

What are you reading now? Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, and Bryan Vanyo’s The American Ideology.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Take the day off, add to my website votemikebasile.com, then cook out with my kids.

Graham Paige

Age: 69

Occupation: Retired

Skills: I taught for 30 years in Virginia public schools—25 of those in Albemarle at Western Albemarle and Jack Jouett. Serving on the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee provided me with insight on budgeting issues and other needs within the system.

Biggest challenge facing schools: 1) Finding the funds for renovation and modernization of facilities. 2) Redistricting. 3) Improving/developing pre-K programs.

What are you reading now? Edward Coles, Pioneer of Freedom by Leichtle and Carveth.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would eliminate the political, racial and cultural issues that divide the peoples of the world.

Brian Vanyo

Age: 39

Occupation: Intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency

Skills: In many respects, I’m paid to be a critical thinker. I’ll bring that same disciplined, unbiased analysis to every issue before the board.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Efficiently managing the budget. In the last decade, the school’s inflation-adjusted budget has remained flat while enrollment has increased by 800. The board will face similar challenges in the future.

What are you reading now? What does an intelligence officer read? It’s classified. Actually, I read many policy and opinion articles, and I’m reading The American Ideology again as I work on an updated edition.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? After first achieving world peace, I’d throw a big party and give VIP access to everyone who votes for me for school board (wink, wink).

White Hall District

Steve Koleszar, "C.J." Carroll Jordan Hatcher, Jason Buyaki and David Oberg
Steve Koleszar, “C.J.” Carroll Jordan Hatcher, Jason Buyaki and David Oberg
“C.J.” Carroll Jordan Hatcher

Age: 64

Occupation: Educator 

Skills: Administrator, educator, business owner, leader, author of 33 educational books, education policy adviser to Nevada governor, member Albemarle Long Range Planning Advisory Committee.

Biggest challenge facing schools: In 1983, the Department of Education issued a report titled “A Nation at Risk” that determined we had fallen behind other nations in terms of educating children. Three decades later, statistics show our children are hardly, if at all, better off today.

What are you reading now? The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would rid the world of terrorism and those with evil intentions, so that we have a safer world for future generations.

David Oberg

Age: 46

Occupation: Attorney

Skills: I am a team-builder and leader who possesses a combination of intelligence/strategic thinking, exceptional communication skills (including being a great listener) and a fundamental courtesy and respect for others.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Providing a top-quality education to each and every student.  As a public school system, we must welcome all students, meet their needs and help them to achieve.

What are you reading now? My daughter and I are reading Lord of the Rings together, and I am reading The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Public Schools.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Resign—I am woefully unqualified for such a position.

Rivanna District

Jason W. Buyaki

Age: 42

Occupation: Model maker, sculptor, artist

Skills: I am a creative problem-solver who seeks alternate, economically viable solutions for education.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Enrollment growth coupled with lack of strong future economic growth in Albemarle.

What are you reading now? 1491 by Mann, Day of Wrath by Forstchen, Envy by Schoeck.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would shame journalists who ask inane and irrelevant questions and would encourage deep, thoughtful, neutral reporting on the issues of our day, written at a high cognitive level.

Scottsville District

Steve Koleszar

Age: 68

Occupation: Retired accountant

Skills: My 20 years on the board give me a wealth of experience, which enables me to effectively lead the system to new heights. 

Biggest challenge facing schools: Preparing our children for their future. The education of even 10 years ago is completely inadequate for the challenges our students will face in their futures.

What are you reading now? Mostly U.S. history.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Nothing. Top down leadership never works. A leader inspires people to be their best.

Wild card

These are the races in which we’d pretty much give it to the incumbent, only one never knows. Perhaps something extraordinary could happen and shake up the predestination.

17th Senate District

This district includes all of Fredericksburg and Orange County, much of Louisa and a weird eastern swath of Albemarle that snakes around Charlottesville to jump west of the U.S. 29 Bypass near Barracks Road. Albemarle School Board member and Democrat Ned Gallaway takes the leap to challenge Spotsylvanian Republican Bryce Reeves, who’s seeking a second term. The seat is not totally a given—it was previously held for seven terms by Dem Edd Houck, who lost to Reeves by 226 votes in 2011.

 

 

Ned Gallaway
Ned Gallaway-D

Age: 41

Occupation: Sales manager, Brown Automotive Group

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: Father, former teacher, Albemarle County School Board member, doctorate in education, small business sales and management experience.

Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: The effort to enhance mental health services in Virginia.

Worst: Constitutional amendment on charter schools grants the Board of Education authority to establish them, which is currently held by locally elected school boards.

What will you do to address gerrymandering? I support an independent, nonpartisan commission to oversee redistricting and will work to achieve the formation of such a commission.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: I will work to build on this milestone moment to continue to provide equal rights in all contexts.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: Positive impacts from allowing production of industrial hemp and authorizing medical marijuana have broad public support. Virginians should be open to discuss the social and economic impacts behind decriminalization and legalization.

Top donor: Joe Daniel.

Political hero: Abraham Lincoln.

What are you reading now? Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson; Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Protect all children from violence and abuse and then provide each child with food, a home and a quality education.

 

Bryce ReevesBryce Reeves-R

Age: 48

Occupation: Senator, small business owner

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: Through my experience in the Army Rangers, as a police officer and as a small business owner, I understand how to take the initiative and become a leader in a variety of situations. I have experience serving a constituency from my time as chairman of the Spotsylvania County Republican Committee, and I have a heart for service and a constant desire to continue my education and understanding of the world.

Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: The General Assembly was able to pass a balanced budget again this year, demonstrating responsible governance and fiscal conservatism. By working effectively and efficiently, we were able to adjourn sine die one day early.

Worst: The strong partisanship that often served as a barrier to common sense legislation or even rational debate of important issues.

What will you do to address gerrymandering? I believe that natural boundaries and population densities should determine legislative districts. As a legislator, I have supported Virginia2021 initiatives. It’s up to every elected official in Virginia to work towards making redistricting a free and fair process.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: As a legislator, it is my duty and responsibility to uphold the Virginia Constitution, and the rule of law.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: As a former narcotics detective, I have seen firsthand the difficulties associated with marijuana. It would be an incredibly difficult drug to regulate, meaning that it could be potentially very dangerous for users. Options should be available for individuals needing medicine, which is why I advocated for “Right to Try” legislation, opening up medications awaiting approval by the USDA to terminally ill patients.

Top donor: GOPAC.

Political hero: John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

What are you reading now? Killing Reagan and Exceptional

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I do not have aspirations to be a dictator at any level. I believe that government works best when it is limited and representative of the people it serves.

House of Delegates 25th District

Conventional wisdom says Democratic newcomer Angela Lynn doesn’t have a chance to unseat Republican incumbent Steve Landes, who’s seeking his 11th term, in the heavily gerrymandered Augusta/ Rockingham-centric district, with a western chunk of Albemarle thrown in. But Lynn says she’s finding in her door-to-door campaigning, which focuses on new subdivisions with younger voters, that people “are not happy with career politicians and they’re not happy with not having options.” The fact that Crozet is represented by a resident of Weyers Cave is a sore point for many on this side of the mountain, and Lynn says Landes voting down an independent commission for redistricting is “not fiscally responsible.” Landes told C-VILLE a few weeks ago that in  going door to door, “People haven’t seen [Lynn] much in the Shenandoah Valley.”

 

Steve LandesSteve Landes-R

Age: 55

Occupation: Public relations consultant

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: I am a thoughtful and principled legislator who is committed to serving my constituents to the best of my ability and always doing so while remaining faithful to the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions.

Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: Passing a responsible, conservative budget that addressed the needs of Virginians, while ending the year with a $553 million budget surplus.

Worst: [no response]

What will you do to address gerrymandering? I would introduce legislation which would codify criteria for the General Assembly to observe in drawing districts, including respect for political boundaries, equal population, racial and ethnic fairness, contiguity, compactness and communities of interest.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: Continue to advocate for policies that respect traditional family values and work to ensure that individuals’ religious liberties are not infringed upon.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and Virginia law reflects that fact. I would be willing to look at possible changes to the law, for use for legitimate medical purposes in Virginia, as federal requirements will allow.

Top donor: Nova Technology Council & Virginia Bankers Association.

Political hero: President Ronald Reagan.

What are you reading now? The Rough Riders by Theodore Roosevelt

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Ensure that all enacted legislation was well thought out, fully funded, and its potential impacts thoroughly explored before being implemented.

Angela Lynn
Angela Lynn-D

Age: Why does it matter?

Occupation: Retired

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: Master’s in higher education from William & Mary. Certificates from the Sorensen Institute, U.S. Institute of Peace and the Emergency Management Institute. I serve on the Department of Social Services Advisory Board and the Public Recreational Facility Authority, which governs easements. 

Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: Reforming sexual abuse and assault.

Worst: The continued decision to reject Medicaid expansion for partisan reasons.

What will you do to address gerrymandering? I support an independent redistricting commission to restore faith, trust and transparency back into the process. Legislation like this was proposed to the General Assembly, but my opponent struck it down in subcommittee.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: Continue to work to ensure that every Virginian, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or other reason, is fully protected and represented.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: Look more into the issue and facts. If states like Colorado and Washington seem to have success in this process, the General Assembly should commission a study assessing the effects in Virginia and if the outcome seems positive, vote on the issue.

Top donor: My husband, not a PAC or special interest.

Political hero: John Kennedy.

What are you reading now? Gray Mountain by John Grisham.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would outlaw anyone being able to rule the world.

Shoo-ins

These are the races in which voters have only one option.

25th Senate District

Creigh Deeds
Creigh Deeds-D

Age: 57

Occupation: Lawyer

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: I listen and am accessible to constituents, and I use the legislative process to solve problems.

Best decision the General Assembly made this year: Modernizing and streamlining the transportation funding allocation process.

Worst: Continuing to refuse to expand Medicaid.

What will you do to address gerrymandering? Since at least 2003, I have introduced bills and resolutions any number of times to put redistricting in the hands of a bipartisan commission precisely because I believe that the General Assembly has an inherent conflict of interest in drawing lines. Litigation, such as is occurring in Virginia right now, might be the answer.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: Adhere to the law and support changes to Virginia law that remove anachronisms.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: Watch carefully what is happening in both Colorado and Washington. Early reports suggest that the number of young users in Colorado has not increased, but the revenue figures from both states are disappointing. Ultimately, this is going to require change at the federal level. As long as marijuana is a Schedule I drug, banks and other financial institutions will be wary to invest in or service companies that deal in marijuana.

Top donor: Sarah H. McWilliams of Millboro, Edward Hart Rice of Vienna.

Political hero: Former governor Gerald Baliles.

What are you reading now? Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis and Sycamore Row by John Grisham.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Decree that peace shall exist forever more in the Middle East.

57th District

David Toscano
David Toscano-D

Age: As old or as young as I feel on any particular day

Occupation: Small-town country lawyer

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: Thick skin and good heart.

Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: Pass a budget.

Worst: Failed to address climate change.

What will you do to address gerrymandering? Continue to push for an independent redistricting commission that is charged with drawing the voting district lines and address requests for “fixes” in between the constitutionally required decennial redistricting.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: Continue to argue for nondiscrimination in employment and housing and ensure that same sex couples have equal rights.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: Cautiously review the evidence and move first to permit medical uses of marijuana.

Top donor: My wife and son.

Political hero: Abraham Lincoln.

What are you reading now? The Impossible Will Take a Little While.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Eliminate nuclear weapons and the ability to make them.

58th District

Rob Bell
Rob Bell-R

Age: 48

Occupation: Lawyer

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: Live here, work here, have two kids in school here. My past work as a prosecutor helps me understand how bills will function if passed.

Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: Passed campus sexual assault bills, with work and input of dozens of students, law enforcement, advocates and interested citizens. Members of our community were especially helpful in this effort.

Worst: Wish we could have overridden Governor McAuliffe’s veto of the Tebow Bill.

What will you do to address gerrymandering? Review all proposals and suggestions from my constituents regarding districts and district boundaries, both here and elsewhere.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: We will continue to review the impact of the Obergefell decision on Virginia citizens and on existing Virginia laws.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: Last year we changed laws for medical use of marijuana for Virginians with intractable epilepsy. We will continue to review changes to medical marijuana laws.

Top donor: Richard Gilliam.

Political hero: Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill.

What are you reading now? Just finished Pegasus Bridge by Stephen Ambrose.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Resign immediately. I don’t trust anyone with that much power.

59th District

Matt Fariss
Matt Fariss-R

Age: 47

Occupation: Farmer and livestock market operator

Skills that make you well-suited to be a legislator: I am a small business owner and that has taught me how to negotiate and make a win/win for everyone. I am also a seventh-generation native of my district and plan to help maintain the commonwealth as a great place to live and do business for my children and generations to come.

Best decision the General Assembly made in the past year: Defeating Medicaid expansion. That system is ridiculous and it will break this country. I believe we need to fix Medicaid before expansion.

Worst: Not defending the state constitution on same-sex marriage.

What will you do to address gerrymandering: I must say that I love my all-rural district.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal, in the General Assembly you’re going to: I plan to vote for legislation to make it official.

Many states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Virginia’s response to that trend should be: I believe this needs to be studied more. There is a huge problem with how we will regulate testing of people who will be driving, etc.

Top donor: Local small businesses.

Political hero: Ronald Reagan.

What are you reading now? Outdoor Life and Working Ranch [magazines].

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would stop the fighting in third-world countries and change the way women, children and the weak are treated in these areas. I would try to feed all of the starving children in the world and tell them about Jesus.

Albemarle Sheriff

Chip Harding
Chip Harding-R

Age: 64

Occupation: Sheriff, Albemarle County

Skills that make you well-suited to be sheriff: Forty-five years of experience working in the criminal justice system using my social work background and communication skills—helping people while holding them accountable.

Accomplishment of which you’re proudest: Continued expansion [of the] DNA databank.

What you’d still like to accomplish: Expand databank further and see law enforcement and prosecutorial practices improved by lessons learned from DNA exonerations.

Top donor: I did not solicit any donations because no opposition and have no plans to run for public office again in four years.

Law enforcement hero: Frank Serpico, who fought corruption; Brandon Garrett and John Grisham for bringing attention to wrongful convictions and the need for criminal justice reform.

What are you reading now? True Stories of False Confessions and Fly Fishing for Permit.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Heck of a question. You cannot accomplish much in a day—guess I would order a day of complete peace worldwide and have leaders of all cultures meet at my house for dinner so we could share a drink and have a discussion about why Jesus Christ was the greatest leader that ever lived and why we all learn from his example.

White Hall District, Albemarle Board of Supervisors

Ann Huckle Mallek
Ann Huckle Mallek

Age: 65

Occupation: Natural history educator, grass-fed beef farmer and supervisor

Issue that made you want to run: In 2007, the county was changing so fast that many did not recognize the place in which they lived a few years earlier. I ran because I hoped to get a better discussion at the BOS on land use issues. I never expected to win.

Skills that make you well-suited to be supervisor: I listen very actively and carefully to constituents and to colleagues. I have strong opinions about many issues yet try to build consensus. If we dream big and are very careful, we can achieve great things.

Best decision the Board of Supervisors made in the past year: Supporting the concept that improvements needed to be made in our county effort for solid waste and also to control stormwater.

Worst: The board did not complete the light industrial land evaluation begun in 2012 during the completion of the Comprehensive Plan.

Top donor: Richard Hewitt, Leo Mallek, my spouse of 44 years, who pays the bills for the family so I may do this fascinating job.

Political hero: Emily Couric. She listened to people of all viewpoints, had a long-range optimistic view that we could always do a little better than we are today.

What are you reading now? A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden by Peter J. Hatch

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Stop the spread of wireless antennae to every nook and cranny in our urban and rural environments. There are many more…but this is why I am best at the local level, where decisions are about our neighbors, our resources, our scenery and our local future.

Little-known races

Whether you’re a farmer, interested property owner or just frankly agree that conserving natural resources in the city and county is important, soil and water conservation
districts provide a local voice for the 1935 federally created service. This year, Albemarle’s race is uncontested while three candidates are vying for two spots in Charlottesville.

Albemarle Soil & Water Conservation District

Steven G. Meeks
Steven G. Meeks

Age: 55

Occupation: Historian, author, conservationist, builder

Why run? A lifelong resident of Albemarle County, I have a vested interest in the conservation and preservation of all aspects of our community.

Skills that make you well-suited: As a district director since 1991, I have the institutional memory and relationships to help continue the successes of our district in providing technical help and educational programs to all citizens.

Who inspires you? My parents.

What are you reading now? National Geographic.

Lonnie M. Murray
Lonnie M. Murray

Age: 41

Occupation: Applications programmer

Why run? I played a role in the district’s development of urban programs like Turf to Natives that incentivize homeowners to adopt practices that prevent stormwater runoff, benefit pollinators and help conserve water, and feel there is more work left to do.

Skills that make you well-suited: I’ve served many years locally working on conservation issues, including being a founding organizer of Charlottesville Earth Week and the chair of the Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee.

Who inspires you? Lorrie Otto, who helped organize scientists to ban DDT and who started the natural landscaping movement. Also, Lady Bird Johnson who played a big role in conservation of native wildflowers and protection of wild places.

What are you reading now? I’m reading Lord of the Rings again with my oldest daughter.

Charlottesville Soil & Water District (vote for two)

William H. Lucy
William H. Lucy

Age: 76

Occupation: Professor emeritus, urban and environmental planning, University of Virginia

Why run? Water pollution is a significant problem within the Central Virginia area and an enormous problem by extension as pollution from this area and other parts of Virginia and nearby states damage the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. I would like to work on reducing these problems.

Skills that make you well-suited: I have many years of experience advising elected officials about policy and planning problems, and I have devised methods of analyzing several problems that provide more useful information to facilitate policy choices.

Who inspires you? Sylvia Earle, deep-sea explorer.

What are you reading now? Jonathan Cannon, Environment in the Balance: The Green Movement and the Supreme Court.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would make dramatic increases in solar, wind and geothermal energy production and distribution capacity.

Joseph Thompson
Joseph Thompson

Age: 66

Occupation: Environmental and agricultural consultant

Why run? I believe that soil and water conservation districts provide a great opportunity for a locally elected board to identify the most critical natural resource issues in our area, and to obtain and direct appropriate resources to address them.

Skills that make you well-suited: Thirty-five years of professional experience in conservation and environmental restoration programs in rural and urban environments including soil and water conservation project planning, facilitating conservation easements, wildlife habitat improvement and organic crop production and marketing. I have served on natural resource boards and technical advisory committees in Virginia.

Who inspires you? Aldo Leopold, Pope Francis, Dalai Lama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo da Vinci

What are you reading now? The Tao of Leadership, The Lacuna, A Sand County Almanac

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Follow the leadership of Bhutan and establish Gross National Happiness index in place of Gross National Product.

Clement “Kim” Tingley​
Clement “Kim” Tingley

Age: ​70

Occupation: Engineer and developer​

Why run? I would like to assist in the development of techniques that are both effective and easily integrated into new construction to help make implementation of the Chesapeake Bay regulations better and more cost-effective.

Skills that make you well-suited: As a developer, engineer and former government official, I am uniquely suited to make a significant contribution to effective implementation of the new regulatory process.

Who inspires you? Jim Hanson—he has been sounding the alarm about climate change for years.​

What are you reading now? The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Create a unified, effective, implementable world response to the causes of climate change.

Charlottesville School Board

City residents, your school board representatives are pretty much set. Incumbents Amy Laufer and Jennifer McKeever are joined by two newcomers for the four open seats on the city school board.

Adam Hastings
Adam Hastings

Age: 34

Occupation: Education administrator; dean of business, mathematics and technologies at PVCC

Skills that make you well-suited to be on the school board: Broad K-12 background; in-depth understanding of the issues of and realities facing K-12 education; effective and efficient with processes and systems related to K-12 and board leadership

Biggest challenge facing schools: Funding at a level that ensures highest quality teaching and learning for all students in all schools all of the time.

Who inspires you? My wife, my family, my colleagues, my friends; those who serve our community and country in the military and/or as police/fire/rescue workers; anyone who lends a helping hand.

What are you reading now? The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to find out.

Sherry Kraft
Sherry Kraft

Age: 67

Occupation: Clinical psychologist (semi-retired)

Skills that make you well-suited for the school board: Thirty-five years working with children, families and community agencies, understanding of mental health issues, handling conflict, working collaboratively, experience with my two children in the Charlottesville School System.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Achieving sustained success for all students in a diverse school population.

Who inspires you: People who are genuinely motivated by enhancing the well-being of others; artists/musicians/writers who pursue the creative process to produce works of extraordinary beauty.

What are you reading now: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink; Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Okay—I also listened to Girl on the Train as an audiobook while driving).

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do: Start with a breakfast—the best coffee—with advisers, staff and supporters to gather ideas. End with an elegant dinner to thank these same people for their support and wish my successor all the best.

Amy Laufer
Amy Laufer

Age: 43

Occupation: Chair Charlottesville City School Board, cofounder of Women Leaders of Virginia, former middle school math and science teacher

Skills that make you well-suited to be on the school board: Great listener, team player, enjoy reading reports and analyzing information and have knowledge of schools.

Biggest challenge facing schools: Maintaining and increasing student achievement and engagement at all levels.

Who inspires you? The teachers, staff and students of our school division.

What are you reading now? Starting & Building a Non-Profit, Helping Children Learn and The Astronauts Wives Club.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? I would declare a truce in all regions of the world. I would ask all families to reunite with their loved ones and grant everyone enough food to sustain themselves for at least a year.

Jennifer L. McKeever
Jennifer L. McKeever

Age: 43

Occupation: Attorney/mother

Skills that make you well-suited to be on the school board: Leadership—determination to use a fair/transparent process for decisions and willingness to make difficult decisions. Problem solving—look for solutions that balance the myriad of challenges/concerns.

Biggest challenge facing schools: The decrease in literacy and math achievement when transitioning from one school to another school (fourth to fifth grade, sixth to seventh grade and eighth to ninth grade).

Who inspires you? I am inspired by stories of strength and grace.

What are you reading now? Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and listening to Brene Brown’s Rising Strong.

If you were ruler of the world for a day, what would you do? Pray for wisdom and guidance.

Election 2015 facts

Election Day: Tuesday, November 3

Polls open: 6am to 7pm

What to bring: A photo ID

Last day to register: October 13

Number of registered voters in Albemarle County: 71,572

Turnout in 2014: 46 percent

Number of registered voters in Charlottesville: 32,122

Turnout in 2014: 33 percent

–Lisa Provence and Samantha Baars, Photography Courtesy of Subjects