Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

June 5, 2013

City elections now over but the race is just starting to heat up in Virginia

It is the morning after another significant election in the region. But most citizens didn’t cast a ballot in this election — and at no fault of their own. That’s because there was no presidential election, gubernatorial contest or even House or Senate race to be determined. Nope. Just city elections in Bluefield and Princeton. But both were still of particular importance.

That’s because Bluefield and Princeton are the two biggest cities in Mercer County, and both are dealing with issues at the moment that have a direct impact on all citizens in their respective municipalities. And these headlines have generated a lot of interest — even for those of us who don’t live in the municipal limits of the two cities.

While official voter turnout numbers from last night are not yet available, the hope is that turnout was at least decent in both of the municipalities. Both elections were fully contested, and both were fueled by individual controversies. In Bluefield it was the ban on pit bulls that got city residents — and non city residents as well — worked up. And in Princeton questions are still lingering over the decision to relocate city hall from its current location to Mercer Street. Several of the candidates we spoke with felt the move would come at too high of a financial cost to the city.

Anytime you start passing ordinances that target animals you face the risk of angering pet owners across the region. There are a lot of passionate animal lovers in our region. And you really, really, don’t want to make them mad. Remember the outrage after a large number of animals were put down at the Mercer County Animal Shelter without proper public notice, or opportunity for citizens to rescue the animals before they were killed?

 But animals can’t defend themselves, so it is good to see so many concerned citizens who are willing to stand up and fight for animals — regardless of the particular cause.

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I for one am glad that the summer elections are over — or at least almost over. Several additional small towns in our region will be selecting town council candidates next week. Once these remaining races are over, we can then finally enjoy the long-awaited summer of 2013.

But the hot and lazy days of summer will bring only a brief respite, because the political machine in the neighboring Commonwealth of Virginia is already heating up.

The already-in-progress gubernatorial race between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe is shaping up to be an interesting one. Both candidates, and their respective political parties, have been busy in recent months throwing jabs at each other.

My inbox is full just about every morning now with emails from the candidates, and their political parties, telling me why the other guy is a bad person — and why they are in the midst of a major scandal. It all depends upon who you believe of course.

But the race should be interesting. As most political observers will note, the Commonwealth of Virginia — once a dependable GOP stronghold — has been trending Democratic as of late. President Barack Obama won Virginia twice now, and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., also beat Republican George Allen last fall in a closely watched Senate race. Does this mean McAuliffe has a free ticket to the governor’s mansion in Richmond? Absolutely not. Incumbent Republican Gov. Bob McDonald is still quite popular in Virginia — despite having to deal with his own controversies as of late.

But the gubernatorial race isn’t the only contest voters in Virginia will have to decide this fall. In Tazewell County, the Southern, Western and Northern district seats on the county board of supervisors will be up for grabs, along with the Southern and Western district seats on the county school board.

The Northern District race is a special election that was set into motion more than a year ago when Dr. Tom Brewster resigned from the board of supervisors to accept a position as school superintendent in Pulaski County. Tommy Childress was appointed to fill the board vacancy until the special election could be scheduled this fall.

So if you live in West Virginia, sit back and smile. You are getting a well-deserved break from the seemingly never-ending round of political races. And to the good folks in Virginia, well just try to enjoy the hot and lazy days of summer. Because there is a good chance that you will be seeing a lot of political signs popping up in area yards and roadways in the days and weeks ahead.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him at @bdtowens.

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