Shenandoah County Dems lack candidates for races

Shenandoah County voters might not see many Democratic candidates on the ballot Nov. 3.

Only two people have stepped up to ask for the party’s nomination to run for state or local offices, Shenandoah County Democratic Party Chairman Tony Dorrell said Friday. However, Dorrell didn’t rule out last-minute filings.

Individuals wishing to receive the Democratic Party nomination to run for any race in the November general election have until April 17 to file the necessary forms. If the committee receives filings by more than one person for any office, the chapter will hold caucuses on May 4 and 5 to determine the nominee.

“However, at the present, it doesn’t look like the caucuses will be necessary,” Dorrell said. “Not only do we not have any competition, we just don’t have any candidates yet.”

County Treasurer Cindy George intends to seek a sixth, four-year term in the constitutional office as a Democrat. George is the only Democrat seeking election to any local office so far.

“[George] has had widespread support, bipartisan support, because of the good, professional job she’s done, so the Republicans haven’t even had a candidate against her, you know, in several of the elections,” Dorrell said.

Democrats will have a challenger to run against Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, in the election for the 26th state Senate District. April Moore announced last month her intentions to run for the seat. Moore is married to Andy Schmookler, who ran as a Democratic candidate against U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, in the 6th District in 2012.

But Democrats often lack candidates for local races.

“This isn’t unusual for Democrats here in Shenandoah County,” Dorrell said. “We don’t often have more than just a few candidates at best.”

The reason?

“It’s really hard to win as a Democrat,” Dorrell said.

“For a Democrat to win it’s very difficult and so people just don’t want to run when they’re not likely to win,” Dorrell said. “That’s why sort of our overall strategy for building our party and helping our party is to do everything we can to help win state and federal elections.”

Local support for Republicans and Democrats is usually split 65-35, respectively, Dorrell said.

“Now the local election picture is really changing, however, with the divisions within the Republican Party,” Dorrell said. “Some people think it’s an opportunity for Democrats. If we have two Republicans in the race and maybe one Democrat running and the Republicans would split their votes.”

Dorrell recalled that in a board election in the mid 2000s a Democratic candidate helped to split the vote. However, the Republican candidate still won the election.

In November 2013, Emily Garnett Scott ran for the District 4 seat on the Board of Supervisors as a Democrat and received 17.4 percent of the votes. Democratic candidates received closer to 30 percent in previous elections, Dorrell said. Cindy Bailey ran as an independent after she failed to receive the Republican Party nomination and won the election with 46.7 percent of the votes. The Republican candidate Steve Shaffer received 35.8 percent of the votes.

“We don’t feel real negative or upset about not having any candidates for the local elections,” Dorrell said. “But we do take a strong interest in them and, while we won’t endorse a member of an opposition party, our people as individuals will vote. When there’s an independent and a Republican, our people are welcome to vote and take their pick.”

The chapter can support a candidate of another party only if Democrats do not and will not have a candidate of its own, Dorrell explained.

Democrats also are not going to nominate someone for a particular race for the sake of having a candidate on the ballot, Dorrell added.

“If we’re gonna run someone we want them to be serious and we want to give them our support,” Dorrell said.

Dorrell likened the Democrats’ standing in the county to that of the Republican Party in many urban areas, where voters usually lean left. But the Democratic Party remains active.

“It’s not like we don’t have a problem having a well-organized committee and people who are activists coming to meetings and being positive,” Dorrell said. “It’s an active party even though the overall situation’s not very encouraging.”

Dorrell said he sees the Democratic Party support in the Northern Virginia area spreading to the west into counties that traditionally picked Republican candidates.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com