No rush to the races: A look at this year’s county contests

Ann Mallek and Lawrence Gaughan were the first contenders in the Board of Supervisors race. Photos: John Robinson, Jackson Smith Ann Mallek and Lawrence Gaughan were the first contenders in the Board of Supervisors race. Photos: John Robinson, Jackson Smith

In Charlottesville, five candidates had tossed their hats into the ring by February for three open City Council seats. In Albemarle, which has open seats for constitutional offices as well as the Board of Supervisors, it’s April, and candidates don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to declare they’re running. Only two races are contested—so far.

On the Board of Supervisors, where Republican and Rivanna District representative Ken Boyd announced he would not seek reelection back in January, three seats are open.

Democrat Lawrence Gaughan, last seen challenging Robert Hurt for the 5th District congressional seat, is now making a bid to replace Boyd on the BOS. “Such a breath of fresh air running for an open seat rather than against an entrenched Republican incumbent,” said Gaughan. An actor and the founder and CEO of GOV360, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing participation in government, he graduated from Albemarle High and said his priorities are fiscal responsibility, education and sustainability.

Challenging Gaughan for the Democratic nomination is Rebecca’s Natural Foods owner Norman Dill, who has also owned antique and auction businesses in the past, most recently Harlowe Powell. “The Board of Supervisors make a lot of important decisions,” said Dill, who will officially announce April 21. “I’ve been thinking about it for awhile.”

Incumbent Ann Mallek from the White Hall District said she’s seeking a third term. Nominated by the Democrats in the past, she said she really wishes people would leave political parties out of the county race. Despite eight years of serving in county government, “I get a lot of positive energy out of small successes,” she said. And she loves going door to door.

Board chair Jane Dittmar, D-Scottsville, was elected two years ago to finish the term of convicted sexual batterer Chris Dumler. She said she won’t decide if she’s running until she’s done wrestling with the budget. “After I finish with this, I will have some time to properly reflect on this decision,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Sheriff Chip Harding announced he was running for his third and final term in January. The Republican probably has the highest profile of any elected county official. As sheriff, he’s taken a job that entails transporting prisoners to and from court and serving subpoenas, and expanded it, recruiting the largest cadre of volunteer reserve deputies in the state, raising money for a search-and-rescue command trailer and truck and getting inmates out of jail and into the workplace.

Harding also has taken a stand about the importance of not convicting innocent people after he helped investigate the Michael Hash case, which a federal judge blasted for both prosecutorial and police misconduct that put Hash in prison for nearly 12 years. He wants to expand DNA collection to include all misdemeanors, and he’s pushing for a justice commission to standardize the police procedures that can lead to wrongful convictions.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jon Zug was the first to announce his candidacy more than a year ago on March 7 as a Democrat challenging incumbent Clerk of Court Debbie Shipp.

“There’s a need for a change and I don’t believe it’s appropriate to run to take away from someone doing good work,” he said. Zug pointed out that Shipp’s office has been audited multiple times by state officials who repeatedly found major problems with how records and funds are managed, and said lawyers and the public rely on “an effective and accurate clerk of court.”

Also a potential campaign hurdle for Shipp: A deputy clerk in her office, Dayna Awkard, pleaded guilty last year to embezzling nearly $14,000 on Shipp’s watch.

Shipp said she’s definitely running again—as an independent. She was elected to the eight-year term in 2007 as a Democrat, but now said the clerk’s job “should not be a political office.”

She concedes she’s had a “few bad audits,” but also notes that she’s been asking for additional staff since 2008 and finally got it in 2014. “We’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go,” she said. And she cautions challengers: “It’s not just a job you walk into. It’s not just one you read a manual for. It’s on-the-job training.”

Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford has not announced whether she’ll be seeking a third term, and she did not respond to an inquiry from C-VILLE. Luns-ford has filed paperwork with the county, according to Registrar Jake Washburne, as have Gaughan, Zug and Scottsville School Board rep Steve Koleszar, who is seeking a sixth term.

Jason Buyaki said he’ll run again for school board in the Rivanna District. Also up for grabs are the White Hall seat, now held by Barbara Massie Mouly, and the at-large seat held by Ned Gallaway. Neither have announced their plans for November.

There will be no primary June 9 in Albemarle, said Washburne, because both parties said they’d have caucuses or conventions to nominate their candidates.

Dems will hold their caucus May 18.

Cindi Burkett, Republican chair in Albemarle, said her party’s deadline to file is May 22. And while Harding is the lone Republican currently running for any county office, “I’m certain others will file by that date,” she said. If more than one GOPer wants to run for the same seat, the party will hold a mass meeting June 1.

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