The Charlottesville Democratic Committee will hold a firehouse primary to determine who will serve as their candidate for an April 2013 special election to select the city treasurer.
However, local Democrats likely will not use that method to select its candidates for City Council as well as constitutional officers.
“The question before us is basically are we going to run our own election or are we going to be tied to the statewide primary,” said Linda Seaman, co-chair of the Charlottesville Democrats.
The party chose the latter at a meeting Thursday held at Charlottesville High School.
“We think there will be contested candidacies for lieutenant governor and quite possibly for attorney general,” Seaman said
The primary is scheduled for June 11, 2013.
The special election is being held to replace Jennifer Brown, who retired as treasurer earlier this fall. Deputy Treasurer Jason Vandever was appointed as interim clerk, but members of the Republican Party petitioned for a special election.
“Judge Edward Hogshire has called for a special election to elect an interim treasurer to serve until the end of the coming calendar year,” said James Nix, the party’s other co-chair.
The firehouse primary, technically known as an unassembled caucus, will be held Jan. 26 at Burley Middle School on Rose Hill Drive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. People interested in the nomination have until Jan. 4 to announce their candidacy and submit a $500 filing fee.
In the event of snow Jan. 26, the firehouse primary will be held the following day.
“If there’s only one candidate filling, that candidate will be deemed nominated and the caucus will be canceled,” Nix said.
Voters in the firehouse primary must sign a loyalty pledge proclaiming allegiance to the Democratic Party and that the voter will not support any other candidate for treasurer in the special election.
The treasurer oversees activities in an office that has a budget in the current fiscal year of $1.2 million. The office collects taxes and other revenues for the city.
Whoever is elected in the April 2 special election will have to run again seven months later in the November general election. In addition to treasurer, the positions of sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, commissioner of revenue and two City Council seats are up for election.
Nix said piggybacking on the statewide primary for these positions will save the Charlottesville Democratic Committee money and will allow citizens to vote at their usual polling places.
“The one major thing that happens if we do it this way is that we would not be using instant run-off,” Nix said.
However, the party can decide to require primary voters to sign a pledge requiring them to support Democratic candidates in the general election.
“That’s a decision for later,” Nix said.
One man requested that the party reserve the right to reconsider the decision if the statewide nominations races are uncontested.
“If for some reason there is not a state primary then we would have to pay the costs to the city of mounting the primary and we don’t want to do that,” said party member Lloyd Snook.
“We probably will not know until January if they will be contested or not,” Seaman said.
The committee also had the opportunity to hold an assembled caucus for both contests. That’s the method used prior to 2009 when Democrats opted to hold a firehouse primary.
“It took a lot of hard work to establish the firehouse primary as our nominating tool and we believe it would not be wise to retreat to the old smoke-filled room system even for a special election,” Nix said.