Like the Maytag repairman: Unopposed candidates talk about running a one-person race
Story by Chris Graham
Jean Shrewsbury could take it easy this election season.
Given that Shrewsbury, the commissioner of the revenue in Augusta County, is unopposed for re-election this fall.
But the Republican isn’t sitting on the sidelines lamenting the fate of her challenged colleagues.
“I’d be involved in this whether I was in elected office or not,” Shrewsbury told The Augusta Free Press.
A GOP activist preceding her days in the constitutional office, Shrewsbury spent many a September, October and early November stuffing envelopes and placing campaign signs.
“I actually try to use this to my advantage, I guess,” she said of her unopposed status. “I have more time free at the end of the day to help the party.”
It would stand to reason that with voter turnout expected to be low as it is, then the mission of an unopposed candidate as far as getting the attention of the sliver of the population that is engaged in the process would be even more challenging than it otherwise could be.
But Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said he thinks more voters are aware of his candidacy than he would have assumed to be the case just a few months ago.
“The voters usually ask me if I am opposed or not, so they do know that I am running for re-election most often, which is encouraging,” Landes told the AFP.
“What I hear most on the campaign trail are questions about other candidates running for office this fall at the local and state level in our region. I also hear a great deal about the economy, state budget, education and I-81,” Landes said.
Plus and minus
Kay Frye, who is running unopposed for re-election to the Middle River District seat on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, said she personally has benefitted from not having an opponent this November.
“The pluses are for the candidate,” Frye told the AFP. “In my case, winning the nomination and being unopposed thereafter has saved me a great deal of my own money. Not to mention a lot of work.”
However, Frye said, “democracy is not best served by candidates without opposition.”
Which is why Frye has made it a point to remain engaged with the election process throughout the campaign season – from volunteering her time to meet and greet visitors to the Augusta County Fair in August to participating in a board of supervisors candidates forum held last week in Verona.
Landes, for his part, said it is not difficult for him to keep his nose to the grindstone.
“With or without an opponent, I always have a campaign plan and goals for re-election, so that makes me get out and campaign and talk to voters. Any candidate, opposed or not opposed, needs to express their goals for office,” Landes said.
In addition, he said, “I always try and help or assist other Republican candidates, so I try and campaign for them as well.”
Landes noted similar plusses and minuses to being unopposed as Frye did.
“The plusses for running unopposed are more time for your real job and family, which is especially nice for me this year because my wife, Angie, and I can spend time with our 16 month-old son, Roth. Another plus is the feeling that maybe, just maybe the citizens think you are doing a good job for them,” Landes said.
“The minuses are that the people do not really get a choice, and although you try to discuss the issues, you do not always get invited to forums and debates if you do not have an opponent,” Landes said.
The bottom line
“I have now run with opposition three times, and only run without opposition twice,” Landes said.
“Running without opposition is nice for a candidates’ family and job, but not so nice for those who do not agree with the candidate politically or philosophically,” he said.