The Charlottesville Democratic Committee (CDC) has woven a tangled web in its decades old “secret” representation agreement with the city’s black community, and now their chickens are coming home to roost.
The “deal,” cemented in the early 1980s was reached after the Charlottesville NAACP and affiliated individuals nearly succeeded in pressuring then-Mayor Frank Buck and his Democrat council majority (who unanimously opposed a change) to move city elections from the at large method to a ward or district system. At large election schemes had been used for years in the South (including in Charlottesville) by white Democrats seeking to dilute or disenfranchise the black vote. During the 1960s and 1970s, many jurisdictions (e.g. Richmond, Petersburg) were forcibly compelled by the United States Justice Department to convert from at large to ward-based elections, but through a series of manipulations and dodgings Charlottesville narrowly avoided Department of Justice scrutiny and appurtenant mandated election reforms.
A compromise was reached then—in private response to ongoing public pressure—as Charlottesville Democrats clandestinely agreed to designate in perpetuity, a single council seat on the five-member board as the “black” seat. After a series of Democrat-backed payouts and buy-offs, the CDC gained agreement from influential NAACP members (fracturing that organization) that such designation was acceptable and roughly proportionate to Charlottesville’s black population, then approximately 20%.
This “system of patronage” effectively has quashed independent black candidacies in Charlottesville, which for years had been a threat to the election of establishment Democrats. Since 1984, there have been no black independent candidates for Charlottesville City Council. Since 1980, there has been one, and only one black face on council at any given time, a statistically improbable (if not impossible) chain of succession. Charlottesville Democrats—who tightly control the nomination and election process—never have nominated a 2nd black person during an interim election, while a designated black “representative” currently was serving: this because white Charlottesville Democrats fear a black “voting bloc” on council.
Over the years, the designated black councilors served at the pleasure of the Charlottesville Democrat Committee, which often told the designee exactly how to vote on specific issues of importance. The willingness to “take instruction” was (and is) an essential prerequisite for any black person who accepted the Democrats’ invitation to elected office.
It has become increasingly difficult for Charlottesville Democrats to find willing black accomplices to further their racial manipulation scheme, as black participation in the CDC is historically low. The last two “minority” representatives on Charlottesville City Council, Kendra Hamilton (2004-2008) and Holly Edwards (2008-2012), have served only a single four-year term (their predecessors each served two consecutive terms), causing a premature and frenzied search for a suitably compliant black replacement.
In the 2011 election cycle, the CDC was taken aback by Edwards’ decision to forgo certainly guaranteed re-election. While her service has been more independent than that of her predecessors, Central Party Democrats were willing to tolerate autonomy somewhat in exchange for eschewing the arduous task of replacement.
Enter Satyendra Huja, current city councilor, consummate Democrat insider, of “minority” (i.e. Indian) descent, and recently announced to be seeking re-election. Behind-the-scenes CDC brainstorming led to an inspired, if not totally palatable solution for the paucity of potential black candidates to fill Edwards’ seat: Huja can be the “black” candidate! This arrangement, of course, would involve creative interpretation of the original “agreement”; but memories are short, and many years (and people) have passed since its inception.
Charlottesville Central Party Democrats know Huja’s candidacy as the faux black council designee would be a stretch in addition to a hard sell. And they rightfully fear an uprising if the 20% “agreement” is breached. While Huja remains the CDC’s fall(back) guy, they continue to beat the bushes for an authentic black face to hold the seat for the next quadrennial. With most of the “usual suspects” (i.e. David Simmons, Karen Waters, etc.) exhausted or disqualified from consideration, attention has turned to the Charlottesville School Board—a Democrat breeding ground for potential Charlottesville City Councilors.
The seemingly obvious choice, School Board Chair Leah Puryear, is too capricious for serious consideration, but Colette Blount, whose profile has been raised recently in local Democrat circles through key appearances and recognitions, is perfect. Polite, non-threatening, and professional, Blount possesses prime qualities sought by Democrats for their designated “minority” seat warmer. Whether Blount will capitulate to the CDC’s invitation (and behind the scenes arm-twisting) is unknown. But unique circumstances and the high stakes at hand make Blount’s rumored candidacy for Charlottesville City Council a good bet—and in the absence of another willing, black Democrat “mark”, Councilor Colette is a near sure thing.
(Satyendra Huja photo courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow.)
About the Author: Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.