Herndon Residents Question Partisanship in Town Elections

A number of Herndon residents have begun questioning the involvement of party politics in Herndon's 2012 town council election.

A number of Herndon Town Council candidates, and one mayoral candidate, are coming under fire after Herndon residents began questioning a campaign flier and a YouTube video.

It started with a . Reader Jim Seevers commented that he thought brochures were more effective than road signs. “A brochure that represents a specific candidate, not the only one I have seen so far that seems to ask voters to vote in a block of candidates to provide a ready-made majority for all future votes,” he said.

The flier features mayoral candidate, Lisa Merkel, incumbents for re-election, Sheila Olem and Wolf, and new to the election, Melissa Jonas, Eric Boll and Jeff Davidson. It includes their contact information, election day information and reads, “A team that will work together and put our town first.” The flier also lists out the group’s priorities.

Though there is no mention of the Republican, Democratic or any other political parties on the flier, soon comments began coming in with accusations that those who appeared on the flier together are being supported by the Democratic party.

Matt Genkinger said, “Perhaps it was a coincidence that Ms. Olem's February 22nd fundraiser was hosted by Fairfax County Democrat Committee Chairman Cesar del Aguila with special guest Supervisor John Foust (D)? Lets (sic) not pretend that party politics have not inserted themselves in the race.”


Herndon resident William Campenni included a YouTube video in the discussion of the candidates in the comments section on Wolf’s blog post, along with : "The long tradition, and legal necessity, of Herndon elections being non-partisan was breached in 2010, and totally destroyed in this election."

The video was made to support Herndon resident Cesar del Aguila, during his campaign to become the chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. In the video, Merkel, Olem and Wolf talk about the impact del Aguila had on their campaigns in the Herndon’s 2010 election. Del Aguila ran for Herndon Town Council in 2010, but was not elected. Boll appears in the video as well.

In the video, Boll says del Agulia turned Herndon from a Minutemen-Tea Party stronghold to a Democratic stronghold. Merkel laughingly says that she knocked on the doors del Aguila told her to knock on. Wolf says, “I can honestly say I wouldn’t have gotten elected if it weren’t for Cesar.”

Campenni said the flier and video show a new disregard for the town’s traditionally non-partisan election. He said he believes there is no doubt the group of candidates is running with support from FCDC, and that FCDC has held fundraisers for some of the candidates.

Herndon town code prohibits candidates from having a political party next to their name on the ballot, but doesn’t have further restrictions on party politics in the town’s election. “But there is no doubt as to what the intent of the town code is—to prevent party politics from taking over Herndon elections,” Campenni said.

The Hatch Act (1939) prohibits federal employees from taking part in partisan politics. However, the town’s nonpartisan ordinance allows them to take part in the local election and be on the council.

When asked about the video, del Aguila said the people who appeared in the video did so as friends to help support him in the FCDC chairman election, and the video was intended to show him in a positive light. “Those folks are in no way indebted to me for anything.”

Del Aguila said he is also aware that the town’s election is nonpartisan. “The FCDC is in no way, shape or form endorsing any candidate in any town election,” he said. “That includes all towns within Fairfax County.”

Though del Aguila and others are affiliated with FCDC that doesn’t mean its members won’t help the campaigns of people they are friends with, he said. “I want to help my friends,” he said.

Merkel said though del Aguila did help her during the last election, he wasn’t chair of FCDC at the time. She said he offered assistance to fellow candidates he was friends with in the 2010 election, which was helpful with his experience in marketing and sales, and that she was joking in her comment about door knocking.

Merkel said she disagrees with the “Democratic stronghold” comment Boll made in the video, but that doesn’t mean she won’t get along with him if they were both elected to the council. The candidates shown on the flier are a group of town residents who want to come together in spite of their differences to move the town forward, Merkel said.

She said she also thinks those who are responding negatively to the flier are underestimating Herndon’s voters.  “No one thinks they have to vote for every candidate on the flier,” she said.

Wolf said there are a wide variety of political beliefs represented among the town council candidates, and she wants to set aside ideological differences for the betterment of the town. “Town issues are nonpartisan,” Wolf said. “Therefore we’re taking a nonpartisan approach to it.”

Campenni said though there were purely local groups that would form because of election issues in the past, that can no longer be said. "That all changed in the 2010 Town election, and is being repeated on a grander scale in the current election," he said. 


A number of those involved in the discussion on the blog expressed concern about the involvement and impact of political action committees, special interest groups and others on the Herndon election. Though the groups come and go, accusations of partisanship aren’t new to the election.

Groups taking an interest in the Herndon election over past years include the Herndon Minutemen, Help Save Herndon, the Alliance for Herndon’s Future, Citizens for a Better Herndon, Neighbors for Herndon and a number of others.

In the 2010 election the Virginia New Majority became involved in the election with the intent of having an .

The Alexandria-based, lobbyist-represented group is largely funded by Service Employees International Union, with more than $60,000 in contributions from SEIU reported. In 2010 VNM supported Olem, del Aguila, current Herndon mayoral candidate Jasbinder Singh, Daniel Alvarado and Merkel.

When the street solicitation ordinance wasn’t addressed right away VNM’s tactics became aggressive, including singing Christmas carols with offensive alternative lyrics to members of council it had previously supported.

In 2006, the election got contentious when candidates began debating on the subject of the day labor site. Campaign tactics included anonymous post cards, telephone push polls and accusations of partisanship. Ultimately, many of the incumbent council members were unseated that year.

According to The Washington Post, the challengers said the previous council had fallen out of touch with voters in the town.

"It's a new direction for Herndon," newly elected Charlie Waddell told the Post. "We've got a new slate. We've got a new council. We've got a new mayor. We are going to try to be responsive to the people. That was lost on the council." Waddell is running for Herndon Town Council again this election.

This year Virginia New Majority, as well as the group Progressive Majority, have contacted a number of the candidates about endorsements for this election. Merkel and Wolf said they have refused support from VNM and they have not authorized them to do any campaigning on their behalf. Additionally, Merkel turned down support from Progressive Majority.

Herndon Voices is a new PAC this year looking to have an impact on Herndon’s election. According to its website the group will “evaluate all candidates seeking elective office and recommend individuals that best share our vision for our town. We seek to put our town before politics.”

There are no names on the website in terms of who the organization is supporting nor who is heading the organization, though VPAP.org shows Sharon Gleason and an address she owns as the contact information. The address is outside the town of Herndon, in the 20171 zip code. The single $500 donation is from a McLean resident.

Del Aguila said he can understand how someone who lives adjacent to the town could be concerned with the election, as changes in the town of Herndon could have impact on their neighborhoods as well. The same argument was made by Herndon residents in the 2008 election on the RestonWeb forum in regards to the PAC Help Save Loudoun.

The Dranesville District Democrats posted Facebook photos of a fundraiser for Herndon Voices in March that was held in McLean. In attendance were candidates Jonas, Boll, Wolf and Merkel. Del Aguila attended as well.

Herndon isn’t the only locality to worry about partisanship in its local elections. In 2003 Vienna's council addressed the issue. The Herndon council and mayoral candidates will learn how town residents feel at the , to be held next week, and ultimately . 

In the meantime, residents can sound off here in the comments. What do you think of partisanship and outside influences on Herndon's elections? If you want to tell the candidates directly, visit our . 

KM April 22, 2012 at 04:29 PM
It sounds to me like you're saying your best chances of effectiveness only occur if these others get elected with you.
CriticalVoter April 22, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Not by any stretch - I am simply suggesting that you should be careful of believing what comes out of SEIU mouths - they are about as trustworthy as snakes. Find the facts yourself, see who they endorsed in 2010. See who Help Save Loudoun endorsed and supported in 2008 and 2010. There's what's being bandied about as truth, and then there are the facts. See exactly which candidate has received PAC money, endorsement or support in the past elections. So far, I see that Connie Hutchinson, Dave Kirby, Charlie Waddell, Bill Tirrell, Lisa Merkel, Sheila Olem, and Jasbinder Singh have accepted outside group endorsements and funding. From the 2012 campaign finance reports so far, no one's reporting nothing. Fingerpointing seems to be the name of the game, shadow and innuendo. I'll take a pass on that line of bull and stick with the facts.
Non Partisan Voter April 22, 2012 at 04:39 PM
You seem to pick and choose what constitutes as outside influence. Les Zidel is not a resident of Herndon yet he continues to be allowed to meddle into our towns affairs to include Richard Downer.
CriticalVoter April 22, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Nah, NPV, they are just as bad. And so are you, as yet another unidentified outsider. You from Herndon or are you just another outside agitator, too.
KM April 22, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Those are fantastic questions. I'd love to hear each one of the candidates of that party, sorry - "slate" - answer that for themselves.
Bob Bruhns April 22, 2012 at 05:21 PM
2010 was about the end of the worries about another Day Labor Center in Herndon. That, I think, is a large part of the reason why the Council underwent so much change in 2010 - mistakes such as shooshing the woman who was droning on about who knows what at a Council hearing, were starting to be more important than the work that was pretty much already done. Maybe the fact that two Council members protested against a candidate for some Virginia state office during a Tea Party protest did not go over well with voters. The Observer newspaper was very much against Mayor Steve and the Council of 2006 to 2008 and 2008 to 2010, which is surely why the Compass was created in the first place. But the Observer is gone now, and we found that a mixed Council still did not want a Day Labor center or unbridled street solicitation in Herndon. A PAC is not the same as a party. But a bigtime party guy who was visible on CNN sitting behind President Obama recently, is behind the 'team', and he is clearly influential there. However, he LIVES in Herndon. Maybe it's not a massive conspiracy. But after the disaster we almost made of the Metro Area Plan, I worry about a team of people pushing like locomotives to 'get things done'. My support goes to individuals.
Non Partisan Voter April 22, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I remember a group last election that was a PAC headed by The O'Reillys right? Collected monies and paid advertising right? Peggy and Mike I believe? You can find Mikey in Cesar's skit on how to say his name.
Non Partisan Voter April 22, 2012 at 06:07 PM
What point are you tying to make? Did you forget you are using a pen name ? How does that make you a resident or non resident? you are simply name calling and making no point which is a pointless conversation.
Bill Tirrell April 22, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Hey there critical voter, In this election, I have received two donations of over $100 (from Town residents, current and past) and a loan over $100 from my wife. What 'outsider' endorsement or funding have I accepted through 31 March? Help Save Loudoun? Please indicate where I accepted their endorsement (or even knew about it). On my website? An endorsement from a former academy classmate who is a mayor in NJ (who sent no money!)?
Non Partisan Voter April 22, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Careful Bill - Anonomous is just making stuff up so it's hard to have a conversation with it.
CriticalVoter April 22, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Hey there Bill, I am a fan but you did get endorsed by and received a paid for ad from Help Save Loudoun in 2008. This election looks clean, from all candidates, which is why I am making a stink over the bull put forth by not-disinterested parties such as William Campenni and Non Partisan Voter. Liars don't help anyone get elected and I'm surprised and disappointed that you put up with their innuendo and mudslinging. I had hoped for a better campaign from you and your supporters.
Non Partisan Voter April 22, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Liars ? You really need moderation and perhaps just placed off the blog. When facts are so discomforting you lash out and call names.
Bill Tirrell April 22, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Critical Voter, Until this came up I NEVER knew there was such an ad or such an endorsement. Since I never knew, I never ACCEPTED that endorsement (and couldn't have done anything about the ad anyway). As to what others choose to say, that's up to them; unlike some others that perhaps control what supporters say, I don't. Hope you're still a fan and will vote for me on May first!
CriticalVoter April 22, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Then why do you allow your supporters to lie on your behalf? I'm disappointed. Okay, you didn't knowingly accept an endorsement or PAC funds. Is it possible that candidates in this election are also in the same boat? Or is that little truth just inconvenient to your platform? Please, make sure your supporters tell the truth, it reflects poorly on you and the Town.
VIcky Dorman April 22, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Critical Voter & Non-partisan Voter. We get it, Its getting very repetitive. Your constant harping at each other is annoying. Everyone should go to the candidates web sites. Send candidates emails that prove you are actually a resident of Herndon. if you don't like the response or don't get one, don't vote for them.. Having had worked in constituent services myself for many years,you are too busy to respond on blogs/emails where voters refuse to identify themselves. Nobody in a Democracy ever won with 100% of the vote. On May 1, the citizens of Herndon will have their say. I for one would like to see all the naysayers actually thank the folks who threw their hat in the ring to run. The anonymous flamethrowers should have thrown their own hats in the ring.
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Why on earth would you group me with Critical Voter? Just because she/it/they name call b/c facts are hard to dispute. Slate candidate web sites are really is not the answer. If memory serves me your former boss was exposed just like Merkel - Republican In Name Only right? She was booted for being fake and hopefully follows the same path as the former Dransville Suprrviosr
VIcky Dorman April 23, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Perhaps because your own posts on Herndon Patch have been deleted for name calling? Since the Town elections are non-partisan, what difference does it make that you call someone a Republican In Name Only? The former Dranesville Supervisor ( note the correct spelling of both words) won a Republican primary. Elections come and elections go.
Bob Bruhns April 23, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I can't say that I greatly object to PACs, per se. I did take action once because one head of a PAC was using a ... :) ... pen name, to attack a target of the PAC. What really galled me, was to see that same person in real name mode in the letters column, accusing another candidate (in another contest) of mudslinging, while being guiltier than sin of the very same thing. If people only knew. The hypocrisy of that individual is beyond remarkable - it is incredible. The worst thing about politics, to me, is that disgusting behavior of many types is considered just fine and dandy if it comes from a person in the same party or group. But anything less than perfection from the 'other' side, of course, is supposedly despicable. Every pretense of shock, displeasure and dismay must of course be exhibited. It's supposed to win friends and influence people.
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Bob - who is "disgusting" ? Perhaps blogs and folks like you who facilitate conversation for ratings than judge are "disgusting". You facilitated the now defunct Reston Web so stop judging! You ain't the moderator so sit down !
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Censorship is the patch
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Keep deleting the truth
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Cesar is a liar
VIcky Dorman April 23, 2012 at 02:03 AM
NPV, you said "She was booted for being fake and hopefully follows the same path as the former Dransville Suprrviosr" You really need to look at this sentence.
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Don't worry Leslie keeps deleting comments. You are unemployed b/c of a dishonest politician much like Merkel, Olem and Wilf
VIcky Dorman April 23, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Point made. This is the most stupid thing to do.
Non Partisan Voter April 23, 2012 at 02:11 AM
No different than you and your friends giving folks the middle finger when they closed the day labor site. No "free press" here . Looks line and smells like Herndon Obaervet- Enjoy your your biased reporter. Lights out :-)
Bob Bruhns April 23, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Very interesting, NPV. I did nothing for ratings - which is good, because I didn't have much in that regard, as you must know. What were you asking before? Oh yes - why were you lumped with a namecaller. I can't imagine.
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 23, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I have not deleted a single comment on this thread. But I'm shutting it down now.
Leslie Perales Loges (Editor) April 23, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I take that back—I hadn't seen the swearing.


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