Today’s Daily Progress recounts the unusual dual candidacy of 22-year-old Andrew Williams, Charlottesville’s first black independent candidate for City Council in decades. Although Williams’ name will not appear on the ballot (due to an unanticipated, last-minute lack of valid signatures), a sharp and sincere candidate, he’s still a threat to expropriate votes from the Democrat slate of Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos. This peril is particularly germane since there are two other balloted independents in the race: Paul Long and Bob Fenwick.

In addition to his write-in council campaign, Williams has applied to City Council for appointment to the Charlottesville Planning Commission.

Black, independent candidates are hard to come by in Charlottesville. In fact, prior to Williams, the last African American independent City Council candidate was Margaret Cain, way back in 1984.

The paucity of African American independent candidates primarily is due to the Charlottesville Central Party Democrats deal with select black community leaders — a system of patronage, in the words of former Democrat Councilor Meredith Richards — that insures one, and only one black (Democrat) will sit on council at all times. This “deal” has held from 1980 to the present, and the black “establishment” has not been supportive of black independents for fear of discomposing their powerful Democrat co-conspirators.

Independent candidates (especially black independents) scare the tar out of the Charlottesville Democrat elite, and “the Party” works a double shift to discourage all such candidacies.

In 2006, then Mayor, David Brown, attempted to “bribe” independent candidate, Vance High, out of that year’s City Council race by offering him a plum city appointment. High’s response: “Hell no.”

Upon learning of William’s candidacy, Williams was contacted by current Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris (who is, in his run for re-election, opposing Williams) and asked in a semi-confrontational fashion why Williams was not “running as a Democrat.” Following that question, there was further back and forth about boards and commissions.

Now that Williams has applied for the Planning Commission, Norris and his posse comitatus have a prime opportunity to “kneecap” Williams’ Council candidacy by appointing him to the advisory body.

While it would be highly unethical and a blatant conflict of interest for any member of the (all-Democrat) City Council to support Williams’ appointment to the PC (because such an appointment would so obviously help fellow Democrats Norris and Szakos secure their seats in the upcoming City Council election), don’t believe it can’t or won’t happen.

Since when was ethics ever a consideration of Charlottesville’s Central Party Democrat Machine or its attendant cabal?


  1. Let’s be realistic. A write-in candidate with no money, no experience, and no campaign organization has virtually no chance of being elected. Neither does he pose a threat to the ruling party.

    If Mr. Williams wants to run for City Council someday — when he is sufficiently focused and organized to complete the qualifying process to be on the ballot — he would do much better if he has a city board or commission appointment under his belt, with the experience in policy making that comes with that.

    An appointment to the Planning Commission would be a generous gesture on the part of City Council. To suggest it is a clever means of “undermining” a toothless candidate gives Mayor Norris and his friends credit for being more diabolical than they can ever hope to be.

  2. This may be a classic case of bluff. If Mr. Williams can leverage his potential,
    long shot, political candidacy for a seat on the prestigious Planning Commission,
    I would say that is an excellent political move that is a mark of a potentially
    rising politician in this city. Mr. Rick Sincere is correct that Mr. Williams needs
    to become more focused and organized in reaching his political objectives. Since
    he is related to a former Mayor of, I believe, a Midwestern city, there may be
    some family resources to tap. In a related vein, President Barack Obama learned
    some of these skills after an unsuccessful bid for a Congressional seat in the
    Chicago area of Illinois.

  3. @Rick Sincere, apply “he would do much better if he has a city board or commission appointment under his belt, with the experience in policy making that comes with that.” Now apply that statement to Kristin Szakos.

  4. A write-in candidate almost never wins. Yet they keep popping up. Supervisor Sally Thomas won as write-in when the candidate on the ballot withdrew at the last minute. The most famous write-in winner is Robert Byrd of W. Va. on an anti-integration platform back in the day.

    The primary role of the write-in is to influence the debate, to bring forth issues and ideas otherwise ignored. Write-in candidates are normally refused a seat at forums. But a certified candidate is taken more seriously. The certificate (3 forms) notifies the government that you intend to conduct an active political campaign of some sort.

    I remember at my first forum, Meredith Richards asked me about my petition. I showed it to her. She said it had only one signature. I said, that’s right. It only takes one person to petition the government to inform them you will exercise your right to run and campaign for elected office.

    I wish Rick, as member of the electoral board, would talk more constructively about the write-in option and why we have it in the first place, and how citizens can make use of the process. Williams may be a “toothless candidate” but that has nothing to do with his write-in status. We’ll have to see how his message resonates now and into the future.

    “2000 Revenue Sharing speech on video”, Mar. 10, 2008. Certified write-in candidate brings it to the big boys.

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