Dems. Mull Over Loss

In the wake of Republican Rob Schilling’s narrow victory over Democrat Alexandria Searls for City Council on Tuesday, the Democratic Party is trying to figure out what went wrong. Party co-chair Lloyd Snook says that the party has “gotten lazy.” Mayor Blake Caravati feels that they “didn’t get energized as a party.” But Councilor Maurice Cox believes that the party is at fault for failing to run an issues-oriented campaign, and suggested that Democrats for Change should have “a chance at the leadership. We talk a very good talk about getting the young generation, and we saw that kind of enthusiasm during our nominating convention, but if you look, they’re not leading the party…there is a younger group that are hard workers, that have brought new energy and ideas.” Says Snook of stepping down from his position, “If somebody else wants to take the headaches, I�m not likely to arm wrestle them for it.” Jake Mooney has the story in today’s Progress.

11 thoughts on “Dems. Mull Over Loss”

  1. Kudos to Lloyd Snook for doing the honorable thing. Hopefully we’ll have a new chairman within the week with some new vision that knows how to manage campaigns.

    Josh Chernilla, Dem head of the Clark district comes to mind. For anyone living in a cave for the last few months, Chernilla was Waldo’s campaign manager and a fast-rising star. To all those who have been frustrated by Waldo’s resistance to take the call for the Chairmanship, Chernilla is the next best thing and possibly a better one.


    Daily Progress staff writer

    In the aftermath of their surprising defeat in this week’s City Council election, Charlottesville Democrats spent Wednesday mulling over what went wrong, with some calling for a change in party leadership.

    In part because of the Democrats’ recent dominance of city politics, Tuesday’s result — a first-place finish for party member Mayor Blake Caravati and a narrow loss for his running mate, Alexandria Searls — hit party officials hard.

    The Democrats had not lost a precinct in a council election since 1994, and the last Republican to win a council seat before Rob Schilling’s victory was the late Darden Towe in 1986. Democratic co-chairman J. Lloyd Snook III, whose mother, Sandy, lost to Towe in that election, found fault throughout the party Wednesday.

    “There are a lot of things that we did or didn’t do that are the hallmarks of folks who have gotten lazy,” Snook said. “We all know what we have to do. It’s just a matter of getting people motivated to do it, and for whatever reason, people didn’t get motivated this time.”

    Caravati agreed. “We didn’t, first of all, get people energized as a party, particularly at the precinct level,” he said. “You’ve got to have that little cadre of people, five to 10 in each precinct, knocking on doors, putting up signs — all the little things.”

    But Councilor Maurice Cox, who led all candidates in votes in the 2000 election and who is the leading candidate to succeed Caravati as mayor when the new council term starts in July, sees deeper problems with the Snook-led election drive.

    “I think that, ultimately, the Democratic Party can only take responsibility for deciding not to run an issue-oriented campaign,” he said.

    For example, Cox and Councilor Kevin Lynch both had strong showings in 2000 based in part on their opposition to the proposed Meadowcreek Parkway — a position that Searls shares.

    Though he acknowledged that focusing the party’s efforts on the issue would have been difficult because Caravati supports the road, Cox added, “They ran a campaign that was based on keeping a good thing going. Well, that’s a fine message for an incumbent, not one to get the vote out for a newcomer.”

    “Alex ran the best campaign she could, given her experience, given the advice she was following and given the competition she was up against,” Cox said.

    As she has since making a brief concession speech on election night, Searls declined to comment.

    Though he stopped short of calling for Snook’s ouster, Cox expressed admiration for the Democrats for Change, the progressive wing of the party that supported him in large numbers in 2000.

    “I think that this party would do well by giving them a chance at the leadership,” Cox said.

    “We talk a very good talk about getting the young generation, and we saw that kind of enthusiasm during our nominating convention, but if you look, they’re not leading the party,” he added. “That’s not an indictment on Lloyd, but there is a younger group that are hard workers, that have brought new energy and ideas.”

    For his part, Snook said no one has approached him about stepping down, adding, “If somebody else wants to take the headaches, I’m not likely to arm wrestle them for it.”

    One of the most damaging developments for the Democrats in Tuesday’s election was low turnout in the Venable and Tonsler precincts, where many traditionally Democratic voters live. About 14 percent of registered voters there cast ballots — among the lowest numbers for any precinct in the city.

    The more conservative Recreation and Walker precincts, meanwhile, saw 28 percent and 38 percent turnout numbers, respectively.

    “It means,” Caravati said, “that we’re not on a daily or annual basis reinvigorating the party enough so that the energy levels necessary for a campaign are there to call on.”

    One missed opportunity, he said, was the strong showing of 23-year-old Waldo Jaquith at the party’s nominating convention. “We, as a party, didn’t mine that,” he said.

    Jaquith said Wednesday that he, too, had noticed a lack of substantive issues during the campaign.

    “There was certainly nothing for my generation to get excited about,” he said. “I think the same thing goes for volunteers as goes for voters: There has to be something to get excited about. Politics for politics’ sake is not exciting.”

  3. This is interesting in that Councilman Maurice Cox and even Mayor Caravati seem to be tacitly endorsing new leadership from the moderate Waldo camp.

    If the party misses this opportunity and puts an old-liner in there, they’ll be pelted with ‘I-told-you-so’s’ from every direction for years.

    Of course, the Republicans would be grateful.

  4. I don’t want to sound like an “old-liner” here – I think the worst thing the dems could do is to ignore the fact that the leadership is stale and needs new blood. But I also hope that whatever comes out of the Shilling-shelling on Tuesday includes a voice for both dems-for-change AND more “establishment” voices within the party. The old guard may have stumbled badly this year, but the party shouldn’t forget that the powers-that-be (were?) not only bring their own talents and skills (political and otherwise), but also have money. There needs to be a place for LOTS of different voices at the table, and the dems would be foolish to alienate anyone. Democrats are supposed to be the party of inclusion, after all…

  5. The old Democrats are old Democrats for a reason — they’ve shown a long-time die-hard committment to the party, and we must be very careful not to alienate them. Just DFCing the place up would result in an exit en masse, I assume. And while most of us DFCers are eager and interested right now, who’s to say that half of us won’t get bored in a few years and move to Ithaca? ;)

  6. As far as money is concerned, I direct your attention to the campaign finance reports recently made public. Waldo’s campaign raised more money than any other candidate in the primary and they drew from a wider pool of sources than any other campaign in either the primary or the general election. Camp Waldo is apparantly able to make money appear without any help from the old-line powers. And that was as an underdog- as a ruling force they may well be able to raise more money for the party than the outgoing leadership did.

    I agree that it would be foolish for them to alienate anybody. But there haven’t been any signs of that happening yet.

  7. Josh Chernilla of The Hook’s “Blind Date Challenge?” Yes! I want him to be the next Democratic Party Chair of Charlottesville.

  8. He did run a really amazing campaign and showed he can raise a lot of money. And I think he’s head of Clark district for the party. Plus he knows the right people and plays well with others. I think he’d do a pretty good job.

    It was damn funny seeing him do that blind date thing though…

  9. Yes, let’s not have him — he dates people sometimes! Also, he appears to have a life outside of politics, which we definitely can’t have. We should ensure that whoever heads up the parties in the future are as far removed from the world as possible.

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