Charlottesville’s Democrat “firehouse” primary is just days away, and the biggest intra-party squabble in recent history is furiously brewing.

With three available seats, and seven contending candidates, Mayor Dave Norris is looking to establish a council majority to forward his progressive agenda. To that end, he publicly—and not without scorn—has endorsed the slate of Dede Smith, Brevy Cannon, and Colette Blount.

Democrat party bosses and establishment stalwarts, Jim Nix and Tom Vandever, tacitly have supported a competing roster of Paul Beyer, Kathy Galvin, and Satyendra Huja, in order to counter ascendancy of the Norris wing.

At stake is control of council, but further, the community water supply plan hangs in the balance of the upcoming primary results: the Smith faction opposing the current plan; and the Huja faction supporting it.

Interestingly, in the past week, former Charlottesville Mayor, Kay Slaughter, and current City Councilor, Kristen Szakos, “independently” have chosen to endorse the same two candidates, Satyendra Huja and Kathy Galvin, in an attempt to countermand the Norris slate.

But what of Paul Beyer, who is philosophically conjoined with Galvin and Huja on major issues of the campaign? He has fallen victim to racial politics and back room dirty dealing.

Why endorse only two, when there are three seats open?

  1. Those two seats are all that is necessary to give Szakos controlling majority of council.
  2. More importantly, Colette Blount is black.

Why is Ms. Blount’s race a factor: because, for decades Charlottesville Democrats have held an unholy alliance with influential elements of the city’s black community. The unspoken agreement guarantees one black seat on the five-member council, roughly mirroring Charlottesville’s 20% black population. But the “black seat,” historically, has been beholden to the wiles of Charlottesville’s white Democrat machine. Blacks may serve, but only singly, and at the pleasure of party hierarchy. The quid pro quo for nomination is the understanding that blacks will vote in the manner instructed.

Szakos and Slaughter are well aware of the implicit bargain, but this year, they are entangled in competing interests. Colette Blount is the only black Democrat running. In order to fulfill the ongoing racial arrangement, Democrats know that they must support Colette. But to endorse her would be giving Norris an edge in securing one of the other open seats, and Szakos-Slaughter (representing the party establishment) cannot afford such a costly error. Conversely, were the dynamic duo to have endorsed Paul Beyer, whom they like and agree with, they may be seen as racial agitators and possible upenders of Charlottesville’s longstanding, but fragile black/Democrat accord.

What to do? The answer is simple, but Machiavellian in its cunning. Openly endorse two candidates. Hopefully, the black community will not take offense, as their representative has not been excluded by a full-slate (three person) recommendation. These sly advocates know that if Colette Blount is not selected, Huja’s presence as the “minority” on council will not placate the masses. So, they carefully have engineered a plan to elect their preferred candidates, while not imputing approval on the wayward inheritor of the “black seat.” Blount’s potential council presence is beneficial to all central-party Democrats, but only if the other open seats swing toward Szakos.

In the mean time, Paul Beyer—who has invested a great deal of time, thought, and money into his campaign—has been backstabbed by those he thought friends. His chances of electoral victory slim by the day.

It’s a tough lesson to learn, but poor Paul has been schooled. Democrat politics in Charlottesville is blood sport, and Beyer has been sacrificed at the altar of political correctness.

Et tu, Kristen, Jim, Tom, and Kay?


  1. Rob’s thoughts are compelling and thoughtful. The pattern of backstabing by the old guard is also witnssed in the Feb 22 unannounced vote to overthrow the unaminious vote to support The Norris Plan for the water supply. Recall that Brown, Huja and Szakos had oviously plotted to call an unexpected vote to overthrow The Norris Plan. Huja actually showed up with a prepared speach. Norris and Holly were not included in the privately discussed plans and got backstabbed.

    Is this backroom heavy handed backstabbing government what the people of Charlottesville want? OPEN GROVERNMENT AND THE SUNSHINE LAWS should rule our affairs!

  2. What a blessing to residents of other Virginia cities that seek consensus through non-partisan local elections. They enjoy the focus of issues and character rather than this needless gamesmanship and bickering.

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