In an era of change, Waynesboro doubles down on keeping things just the same
I was having a hard time figuring out how an electorate that would vote for Lana Williams in one Waynesboro City Council race would also vote for Terry Short in another, and then it hit me.
It isn’t so much about Williams and Short, as it is about … Waynesboro.
Makes no sense otherwise, why we did what we did.
Williams’ resume is razor-thin, even on its own face, and then when you put it up against the vitals of her opponent, Kanise Marshall, a young, vibrant, well-spoken African American woman with an MBA, it’s not even a question as to who you would hire.
Short isn’t short in terms of resume. The sitting mayor, Short is a district planner with the Virginia Department of Transportation, with a background that includes a master’s degree in urban planning, so, yeah, he’s got cred.
His opponent, Jim Wood, maybe can’t boast the policy chops, but he has a record of service in Army, including time spent in Iraq, and a deep background in business.
Wood came to interest in running for City Council at the height of the furor locally earlier this year over whether or not Waynesboro would join dozens of Virginia localities declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in the face of gun-control legislation being considered in the General Assembly.
Wood was among the more vocal in pushing the City Council down that path, and when city leaders declined to join the movement, he announced his candidacy, and the fight was on.
Over time, Wood would align with Williams and Bruce Allen, the incumbent in Ward B, to form a conservative coalition opposing Short, Marshall and Marcia Geiger, a political newcomer challenging Allen for the Ward B seat.
The conservatives marketed themselves as a team, to the point of sending out a joint mass mailer with a sample ballot and absentee voting application, to which the progressive side responded late in the campaign with a joint mailer of their own.
The battle lines were thus drawn.
Conservatives vs. progressives.
Republicans vs. Democrats, in essence.
This seemed to portend a straight-ticket result either way.
The leading vote-getter on Election Night was Williams, who received 59.2 percent of the vote in Ward A, easily dispatching the challenge of Marshall.
The weakest, but also, and this will make sense later, the safest, candidate in the field polled the strongest.
Allen, a three-term incumbent, won a three-way race with Geiger and former City Council member DuBose Egleston, but he received just under 50 percent, which was a bit of a surprise, especially considering Williams’ showing.
Two conservatives down, one to go, except that Wood, the most vocal, didn’t come close, as Short won re-election with 57.1 percent of the vote, on a night where our neighbors 10 miles to our west, in Staunton, elected a Republican slate that made the 2A movement the foundational element of its campaign efforts.
While that strategy worked wonders in Staunton, Waynesboro is not Staunton, which, until this cycle, had been reliably blue – consistently progressive in local elections, pulling the lever for Barack Obama, twice.
Waynesboro is more conservative, and what I mean by conservative is not what most people have come to understand the term to convey.
Not social conservative. People here aren’t in your face about abortion, for instance.
The conservative faction that had a majority on City Council from 2008-2016, and will form the majority again when the new City Council is installed on July 1, owes its existence to a libertarian whose main thrust is on the fiscal side of things.
Business conservative. Center-right.
People who think money-first value consistency and predictability above all.
I found this out firsthand when I ran for a seat on City Council way back in 2008.
I’ve told this story many times, but it bears repeating here, about the time I was collecting signatures for my petition for ballot access, one of those paperwork things you have to do to run for office.
One lady that I had approached said she would be happy to sign, but she wanted me to promise her something before she did.
That I wouldn’t go about trying to change everything when I got elected.
This is how I explain an electorate voting for Lana Williams and Terry Short.
Short is center-left, sure, but that Wood guy, man, he might be a Republican, but he’s way-y-y-y out there.
And that Marshall lady – she’s smart, but …
She’s young and … black.
And yeah, I know, I’m risking controversy here saying it like that, and yeah, I know, Waynesboro elected another young African American woman, Elzena Anderson, to the Ward A seat in 2016.
Notice that she didn’t run for re-election.
Notice who we put in her place.
Somebody predictable, consistent.
We elected two incumbents and the wife of a former City Council member.
That’s about as predictable and consistent as you can get.
Staunton has been Democrat for as long as anybody can remember, and voters there decided they wanted a change, and, wow, they’re going to get change.
Waynesboro is content being what it is. For better or worse.
Story by Chris Graham