Story by Chris Graham
Eleven – yes, eleven – people want to be the new clerk of court in Rockingham County.
But the race for the $123,000-a-year job seems to be coming down to the two major-party nominees.
“I really think it’s going to be a two-person race,” Bridgewater College history and political-science professor David McQuilkin said, naming as the top two candidates Republican nominee Chaz Evans-Haywood and Democratic nominee Dianne Fulk.
Evans-Haywood is the assistant director for industry and government relations at James Madison University and has worked in the legislative offices of former United States senator George Allen and Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Fulk is a deputy in the clerk of court office in Rockingham County and the wife of two-time 26th House District Democratic Party nominee Lowell Fulk.
A third candidate, Mike Harvey, an independent who runs a real-estate settlement business in Harrisonburg, would seem to have something of a leg up on the competition in his own right – in the form of the endorsement of the outgoing clerk, Wayne Harper. Another independent, deputy clerk Brenda Huffman, can, like Fulk, cite experience in the office as a key attribute buttressing her candidacy.
But McQuilkin sees the race as being Evans-Haywood and Fulk at the top and everybody else picking up the scraps that they leave behind.
“I think the rest of them are going to split the small vote that is going to come out for them into little, small pieces – 1 percent here, maybe 2 percent there, if they’re lucky. There are friends and relatives and associates, people that they know, who are going to vote for them, but I really don’t see that most of these people are going to have a countywide draw that’s going to enable them to carry the race,” McQuilkin said in an interview for this week’s “Augusta Free Press Show.”
McQuilkin and James Madison University political-science professor Bob Roberts agree that among Evans-Haywood and Fulk the race seems to be Evans-Haywood’s to lose.
“The assumption is that Chaz is in a good position unless the vote fragments – the county is heavily Republican, which can easily offset the Democrats’ advantage in Harrisonburg, unless those other nine candidates fragment the vote. And we have no idea on that – because nobody has any idea how strong the independents are. Fulk’s hope is that the Republicans will fragment the vote – and therefore take away some of those Republican votes from Chaz,” Roberts told The Augusta Free Press.
“Lowell Fulk when he ran very clearly proved that this is a Republican county,” McQuilkin said. “Even though his best effort was widespread and very vigorous, he really couldn’t effectively challenge the Republican Party control in the county. I really don’t see it happening with Dianne Fulk, either – and very frankly, I think the race is going to go as most races go in this county. It’s going to go very clearly Republican.”
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.