Szakos to Seek Dem. Nomination for Council

Community organizer Kristin Szakos is running for the Democratic nomination for City Council, Chiara Canzi reports for C-Ville Weekly. Szakos was the volunteer coordinator for the Obama-Biden campaign in Charlottesville, and plans to formally announce her campaign on Saturday. More information about her is available on her campaign website.

Both Mayor David Norris and Vice Mayor Julian Taliaferro are up for reelection at the end of this, their first term. Neither have publicly stated whether they intend to run for another term. Though the general election is in November, the Democrats’ nomination process isn’t yet clear. The party has long held a nomination convention, requiring hundreds of people to pile into a room and remain there through round after round of voting. When there are few candidates (as with the unchallenged Norris and Taliaferro, two years ago), it goes smoothly. But when there are a bunch of candidates (like in 2002), it’s an hours-long process that might make for interesting sport, but it’s hugely unpleasant and not particularly democratic. There’s debate within the party over changing the process this time around, such as moving to something closer to a traditional primary. Since the Democrats just about always win, how the nominees are chosen basically determines who is going to sit on Council.

19 thoughts on “Szakos to Seek Dem. Nomination for Council”

  1. While it will come as no surprise to anyone in these parts that know me, Ms. Szakos is a tad to liberal for my beliefs. HOWEVER, this is a lady that clearly puts her money where her mouth is and has spent her life doing more than simply bitching about the right. I cannot even begin to review the things she has done that have impressed me, nor the time and energy she has spent giving to the better of the world.

    I know her and have coached her youngest daughter in soccer for several years.

    OMG!! I might vote for a democrat! I must go now and seek medical attention. Feeling woozy….lightheaded…falling….falling…

  2. While Kristin is not quite liberal enough by my standard, I am with danpri on this one. It’s a great day when real people like her step up. If there is one thing our country needs to do, it’s to get rid of the professional politicians and to start electing real people. Kristin is a great start on this path.

  3. I’ll start getting excited when a strong viable candidate from the Republican Party,or an independent or third-party candidate,comes forth.
    The Charlottesville Democrats -same old, same old,inbred warm-and-fuzzy lot.The names may change,the outlook,not.

  4. A strong viable canidate from the republicans should move to the county, even then it’s an uphill battle these days. Unless the democrats do something stupid there is little to zero chance a reublican could win. Obama got 78% of the city’s vote.

  5. I’m hoping we’ll see Norris and Szakos on the Council. Taliaferro’s efforts on Council have been largely forgettable, and he frequently seems disinterested in what’s going on.

  6. Does Ms. Szakos support giving city park land to the YMCA?

    While I supported Norris in the past, he lost me by voting for the YMCA mega center.

  7. I hope the Democrats continue to nominate their candidates by caucus. It may be an unpleasant experience but if a candidate can’t handle it, he really shouldn’t be on Council. In caucus, Democrats chose their candidates that they will support. In a primary, the public will chose the Democratic candidate and may or may not support the winner because they have no allegiance to the party. Each party should chose its own candidates and not let the public do and bear the costs.

  8. I hope the Democrats continue to nominate their candidates by caucus. It may be an unpleasant experience but if a candidate can’t handle it, he really shouldn’t be on Council.

    The problem isn’t w/r/t the candidates, it’s w/r/t the participants. IIRC, in 2002, the process lasted five hours, and we lost half of the participants in that period. So while we started off with ~500 voters at the beginning, the folks who couldn’t stay all day (people with jobs, children/parents to care for, etc.) had to leave, which is significantly disruptive to the process. It also leaves the candidate selection process in the hands of those with time to kill, which is to say wealthier voters.

    It’s a bad process.

    In caucus, Democrats chose their candidates that they will support. In a primary, the public will chose the Democratic candidate and may or may not support the winner because they have no allegiance to the party.

    That’s a false dichotomy. There are plenty of ways to nominate a candidate that lie between these two methods. For instance, there’s a firehouse primary: a caucus held in a single location that anybody can show up to over the course of many hours, cast their vote, and leave. And there’s a caucus with instant runoff voting, in which voters need only rank the candidates by preference, and then they can leave; it’s precisely the same as the current runoff process, only skipping the hours and hours of voting and revoting and re-revoting.

    I particularly like the idea of a primary for two reasons. 1. Our elections are now in November, so holding a primary would cost $0, since there will likely already be a primary scheduled (for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, house of delegates, or state senate). 2. Caucuses favor the most extreme candidates. Moderates don’t emerge from caucuses. Given that Charlottesville is overwhelmingly Democratic, moving to a primary-based system would allow more moderate candidates to have a shot at being nominated. The latter isn’t a matter of public policy, of course, just something that Charlottesville Democrats ought to keep in mind.

    Charlottesville Democrats’ current process is an exclusionary, Byrd-era method that should be dropped.

  9. I don’t appreciate Norris’ “obtuse musings.” And, I don’t appreciate the way Norris ignored public comments and went ahead and voted for the YMCA just as he intended all along.

  10. Yeah it’s pretty obtuse, and I can only figure it relates to the “Save McIntire” people, and is a suggestion that they should be equally opposed to the Parkway if they are to be consistent? Or maybe he’s jsut frustrated about so many people with competing plans for the park. I’d be interested to hear your reading of it.

    Nonetheless, I can’t disagree with his criteria for how the City Parks should evaluate their design, especially with Green Space being right up there at the top. Is the YMCA “Green Space”? Certainly not. It may meet the second criteria, “Incorporate a diverse array of recreational and fitness opportunities for the city’s residents (considering, secondarily, the needs of residents from outlying jurisdictions)”, but other uses could better accomodate all five criteria.

    It almost sounds like he’s expressing doubt about the YMCA, but doesn’t want to do it openly. Dave reads this blog, so maybe he’ll chime in? Of course, he’s made his point deliberately obscure, so we may just have to guess about it…

  11. Waldo, I think someone with a lot of money will have an advantage in a firehouse primary such as the Chamber of Commerce or Free Enterprise Forum ( a developers club)

    A primary will be decided by paid advertising to gain name recognition.

    I favor David RePass’s idea of a modified caucus.

  12. There’s no reason (that I know of) why a loyalty pledge can’t be required to vote in a firehouse primary. Contributions are public record and easily understood, thanks to VPAP, so if an ostensible Democrat were being funded by such a group, it would quickly become public knowledge. It’s a huge oversimplification to say that primaries are decided by advertising. Many a primary in Virginia and in this country have shown no strong correlation between spending and votes, and the smaller the district, the weaker that correlation is going to be.

    That said, I don’t know the specifics of David’s proposals, but provided it allows people to vote without spending but a few minutes on it, that sounds good to me. :)

  13. I don’t have much faith in loyalty pledges–most likely we’d see a lot of 10 minute Democrats and I still believe that money matters even in a small town like Charlottesville. A lot of behind the scenes influence doesn’t show up in public records.

  14. “unless the democrats do something stupid”- but they HAVE done lots of things that are stupid, and still keep getting elected.
    Is it because members of other parties think its hopeless and don’t even try? Because so many who don’t like the Councils we have had have moved out of the city?
    One thing I do know. Its not good when a small group of activists decide who governs a community,where the election is meaningless, because the next Council has been deciding at a party caucus or mass meeting. In the long run will not be good for the party either.

  15. Lonnie, sorry for the belated reply, you asked a good question about the meaning of my blog post on park planning (

    Short version is that I simply offered up a conceptual framework — a series of proposed tests, if you will — for deciding what is an appropriate use of City parkland and what is not. The YMCA, in my opinion, passes most (though not all) of those tests, plus offers many other benefits to the City (for example, its immediate proximity to Charlottesville High School, which will give our youth direct access to the tremendous recreational, enrichment and employment opportunities offered by the Y, at no charge to those who cannot afford to pay). Plus, partnering with Y will be a huge money-saver for City taxpayers, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in the coming decades. In these tight times, it’s hard to justify passing up such a wonderful opportunity, even though it will indeed cause a picnic shelter to be relocated and will necessitate some more parking spaces in addition to all the asphalt that’s already there to support softball etc. The new bus line to the park will help.

    There have been some odd, if not outright surreal, discussions lately about “Saving McIntire” that completely ignore what is, by far, the biggest threat to McIntire Park and to Paul Goodloe McIntire’s intentions for the parkland he donated — i.e., construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway. Of all the tests I proposed for use of City parkland, the Parkway arguably passes none of them. These surreal discussions prompted the other part of my blog post, though perhaps that point got lost in the obtuseness. Sadly, though, as each day goes by and as the bulldozers get ready to roll, it’s rapidly in danger of becoming a moot point.

  16. Rather than playing after school, it would be far advantageous for the high schoolers to spend after-school time closing the achievement gap.

Comments are closed.