Today’s Manassas City GOP convention was quite a bit different than the rise of the establishment that marked this exercise back in 2008. Then, incumbents cruised towards a certain victory in the general election with a slate of GOP incumbents that changed nothing. This time around, a challenger not only knocked off an incumbent but ended up as the top vote getter by a decisive margin. This sets up a general election contest that’s going to be far more interesting to watch where incumbency is not anywhere near as powerful as it has been over the past few decades.
Andy Harrover’s bid for mayor against Hal Parrish had been characterized as an old-guard versus new-guard contest, but it really wasn’t. It was a contest among two established candidates where the argument to kick Hal out wasn’t really driven home. Parrish had the opportunity to somewhat uncharacteristically fire back with a strong broadside during his speech to seal the deal, and earn nearly two thirds of the weighted delegate votes as a result. Unseating Parrish was going to be a longshot under the best of circumstances for Harrover, so this doesn’t really come as much of a surprise.
The surprise of the morning was Ian Lovejoy’s tremendous performance. With the backing of Delegate Jackson Miller, conservative stalwart councilman Marc Aveni, and the unabashed support of the Tea Party, Lovejoy cruised to a huge victory with about 61% of the weighted vote. I’d expected he’d do well, but coming out as the top vote getter is a vastly rare accomplishment for a convention candidate in this setting. Ian has gone from contender to kingmaker in one day leaving the convention wisdom on Manassas election politics in complete ruins. This outcome rocks the “establishment” and demonstrates at least for now there’s a power shift going on in Manassas politics with conservatives on the rise in a complete reversal of what happened in 2008.
The incumbents battled for the scraps, all running within about ten to fifteen votes of each other in an unusually weak performance for incumbents in the city. Jonathan Way and Mark Wolfe squeaked by, leaving a visibly shocked Sheryl Bass slightly behind. The difference here seemed to be the palpable anger of the convention delegates towards the school board, and Bass being a former member of that board she got caught in the crossfire as each candidate’s speech seemed to throw plenty of rocks at the school board and decry the underwhelming performance of the city’s schools and the effect that has on real estate values and the quality of life in the city. Charles Patullo didn’t even register, even after having Xerk White (who has endorsed independent candidates over Republicans in the past) give his nomination speech.
Watch out incumbents on the school board. There’s a freight train coming your way. Fast.
With one conservative independent (Jerry Carman) and likely a Democrat competing against this slate of council candidates in May, the general election looks like it’s going to be a lot more interesting than the typical ticket punch for GOP candidates. Way and Wolfe have some ground to make up in here before they can feel in any way comfortable, and if challengers from outside the party run strong campaigns they could quite easily come up short in the general election. It’s up to conservatives to seal the deal here, and they might have one more surprise in store for us before this election is over.
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