By Alex Bridges
Some Front Royal Town Council candidates say they don't want the Warren County Republican Committee's endorsement.
Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker declined the local party chapter's recent invitation to participate in its vetting process the committee plans to use to pick up to three candidates in the Nov. 4 race for Town Council. Parker said such an endorsement would go against council's efforts to make sure local elections remained nonpartisan.
"We worked really hard trying to keep partisanship out of the election and this essentially is a slap in the face of what the town really worked hard to try and accomplish last year," Parker said Thursday. "I understand the ideals of the Republicans. I understand the ideals of the Democrats and I'm not trying to diminish that but a lot of the platforms to which they adhere and stand for are not so much related to town zoning issues and providing basic services as much as those ideals apply to what the federal and the state governments are doing."
Parker said he would support a party's interest in holding an open debate for all candidates but would not accept any invites for possible endorsement.
A majority of council in 2013 requested the Virginia General Assembly change the town code to switch elections to May and to make the local contests nonpartisan. When legislators failed to make this happen, council amended town code to reflect these changes. Parker pointed out that the state legislators who didn't abide by council's wishes are also Republicans.
"It's just a continuation of the same cycle," Parker said.
Committee Vice Chairman Matthew Tederick said Thursday that Parker's response did not come as a surprise. Parker's voting record likely would not draw Republicans or conservatives, Tederick said.
"Shae's understanding of nonpartisan appears to be that no one of any party affiliation should be allowed to communicate anything regarding Town Council races ... fortunately the first amendment affords people the right to communicate and affords us the right to get involved," Tederick said.
The committee is neither nominating nor certifying candidates as Republicans, Tederick said, adding that the group "is not making it partisan."
Parker said he understood the endorsement does not equate to nomination but does show a party's intent to affect an election's outcome.
Tedrick said that as far as the town code goes, the town has had many instances in the past where they have chosen to "overtly violate Virginia and federal laws."
"Whatever the town code reads or how Shae wants to, or the town attorney, or anyone wants to interpret it, I see nothing and I believe the committee sees nothing wrong with what we are attempting to do, which is just to understand who's running," Tedrick said.
Liberals and "ultraliberals" on council don't want conservatives to rally and put candidates on the ballot, Tederick said. He blamed liberals on council for working against Warren County.
Other candidates seeking election to council are: Linda J. Allen, Alford D. Carter III, John P. Connolly, Bebhinn Cecilia Egger, Robert M. Tennett Jr. and Councilman Hollis L. Tharpe. All candidates received invitations, Tederick said.
Egger and Allen also declined.
"I'm really grateful that they included me in that email but I'm not seeking endorsements from any political party in the nonpartisan, Town Council race," Egger said Thursday.
Allen said that once Republicans say they want to endorse candidates the party is playing partisan politics. The Republican Party committee membership includes many people who live in Warren County, Allen added. An endorsement by members who don't live in Front Royal is "not appropriate" in a town election, she said.
"The third thing about it is that it's pretty clear from the questions that they have a certain view," Allen said.
The questionnaire asks candidates about the top issues of their campaigns, which town program would they reduce or cut, what new initiatives would they propose and whether or not they supported consolidation of the town and the county government. Allen questioned why candidates would be asked their position on consolidation when the idea has not been fully addressed.
"I perceive the invitation to be fishing for information," Allen said, in an effort to determine how much each candidate knows about the issues.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org