Once upon a time, when Reagan was ending a most successful Presidency, there was a political activist who had the itch for running for office. This activist did not realize how sexy local government is and wanted to run for House of Delegates or state Senate. Elwood Earl “Sandy” Sanders, Jr., was an attorney in private practice, single and very politically active. This activist had managed (because nobody else wanted it) to become the Occoquan magisterial district chair of the GOP and watched the committee membership increase in two years from 18 to 35 members. Sandy’s representative on the Prince William BOCS was the legendary Kathleen Seefeldt, who won many elections and was the power in PWC politics. In the 1988 Democratic Presidential caucuses in Fairfax County, Supervisor Seefeldt actually received a vote for President!
In the early spring of 1989, I decided to run for the House of Delegates. I had not expected to have a primary opponent. Del. David Brickley (D) was the long time incumbent in the 51st district. He was not a liberal, in fact Brickley was somewhat conservative in some areas. He actually supported some sort of moment of silence law in the schools. I had not met Del. Brickley prior to running against him.
I decided to run against Del. Brickley. I first needed a campaign treasurer. Greg Cebula was my treasurer for the sole reason that he was the most popular Republican in the Occoquan District by virtue of a nice showing against Kathleen Seefeldt in 1987 and I helped him tremendously. I wanted all my stuff to say: Authorized by Sandy Sanders for Delegate, Greg Cebula, Treasurer. It was like having Greg as my running mate. Some said this was my first mistake as Cebula had a mortal political enemy: Michele McQuigg, who rose to have a wonderful political career as Occoquan Supervisor after Seefeldt went to be the first elected Chairman of the BOCS, was a member fo the House of Delegates and is now Clerk of the Court. I have immense respect for McQuigg and maybe the critics were right. We basically read her out of the party because she endorsed Seefeldt.
My platform was simple: (Please be seated as you read this or injury may result)
CUT THE CAR TAX – I proposed a deduction in the personal property tax up to the average cost of a vehicle for each commuter in a family.
ABOLISH PAROLE – I proposed a substantial abolition of parole.
And you lost, Sandy? Yes, I lost. Now that you are being revived with smelling salts, it’s true: Yes, I lost. I know now – George Allen won in 1993 with the Parole Abolition and Jim Gilmore crushed his opponent in 1997 with Cut the Car Tax! That should cure me of politics for ever. But it didn’t. I wonder if I was the Preston Tucker of politics. Had a better car but couldn’t manufacture it! Maybe blogging is safer…
In the spring of 1989, a law suit was wrapping up that I was involved in as counsel. Five citizens from the Dumfries area were fighting a land development near the huge Montclair subdivision and decided to appeal the decision of the Board of Supervisors. They approached me and I agreed to take the case. I loved to tangle with the Establishment even then and I litigated a hearing to fight the BOCS decision. We lost on the grounds that the five did not have standing to sue as they did not have an actual injury to their land or rights. It was going up to the state supreme court when the developer sued the five, now called in the local press The Dumfries Five.
One night in March 1989, I was the guest of honor at a dinner and dancing event designed to raise money for the legal defense for the Dumfries Five, e.g, me! (First and only time my legal fee was paid for by a public event!) I was indeed there. I had a date – one of the first dates I got as a result of my increased notoriety caused by the lawsuit and the campaign. I had gotten my petitions in (with the help of an older couple in the committee who thought the world of me, a resident of a senior citizens’ community who collected signatures in her building, my parents and Greg Cebula) but discovered I had an opponent! (I actually knew before the dinner but A political unknown who was two years younger than me – a paralegal named Larry Newsom. He got first spot on the ballot as a result of him getting his petitions in earlier than I did. I barely made it but they were in! Newsom was married but no kids.
I got a call several days after the deadline, after we were both approved for the ballot, from a reporter for the local Woodbridge newspaper (The Potomac News) who asked me about Newsom’s complaint: I was an unworthy candidate because I barely got my petitions in but he had had them in several weeks prior. He was the best candidate.
I was stunned. It was a silly complaint. I had never heard of such a thing. The only thing I could think to say was: I invoke the Eleventh Commandment of my hero, Ronald Wilson Reagan – Thou shall not speak evil of a fellow Republican. Nevertheless it was an interesting interview because I got to mention things I stood for: No not the car tax or abolishing parole but three other aspects of my platform: Divorce law reform (I called our long separation periods for divorce a “wheel that crushes women” unfair to women and the poor), better child support enforcement, and changing the first offender drug statute to stop giving offenders a free ride – maybe a misdemeanor instead of a felony after a probation period but not a complete dismissal.
Newsom discussed transportation and wanted to do such things as contraflow lanes to better manage traffic going into Fairfax or the nation’s capital. On most things he was not studied on the issues and had simplistic answers. He also regurgitated the right-wing talking points. Then there was a story that got me on the front page of the Potomac News with the incumbent delegate:
“Brickley/Sanders Spar Over Sovereign Immunity”
Spar over WHAT? Find out next post…more highlights:
African-American activists associated with the NAACP endorse a Republican for delegate?
Sandy speaks in a black church?
Who tore down whose signs where?
Who got flowers from a different young woman before his first political debate and a date afterwards?
Find out next blog post…