Virginia Major Party Primaries, 2023

Seal of Virginia
Seal of Virginia

Public primary elections for the Democratic and Republican parties of Virginia will be held on June 20, 2023. Off on a Tangent makes recommendations to primary voters in state- and federal-level races in Virginia and local elections in Loudoun County whenever nominees will be chosen in a contested public primary election.

Political parties are private organizations that should have no formal standing in our political system. As private organizations, they are free to choose their nominees through whichever process they wish—common methods include conventions, caucuses, private “firehouse primaries,” and direct nomination by party leaders. But in Virginia and many other states, the Democratic and Republican party duopoly has given itself permission to hold public primaries when they wish to. These are managed by state election authorities and funded by the taxpayers.

When a party chooses to have a public primary for an office in Virginia, it is “open”—any registered voter may vote in it. Virginia does not have formal party registrations and party membership is a private matter between the party and the individual. A voter’s party membership status may affect whether they can participate in a private nomination process, but it is irrelevant in public primaries. That said, a voter may only vote in one party’s primary on a given day. If both major parties are having public primaries for an office, the voter must pick one or the other.

The public primary system is unconstitutional. Private organizations may not use public agencies and funds to conduct internal business. The state also cannot discriminate between organizations—meaning if they are going to offer this service, they must offer it to any organization of any type. If we’re going to allow public primaries for the Democrats and Republicans, we must allow the Libertarians and Greens to have them too . . . and the Rotary Club, and your neighborhood association, and your swim team, and your church, and Starbucks, and Google. Either everybody can do it, or nobody can.

I do not vote in party primaries because I am not a member of any party. I have no inclination (and no right) to influence who a private club wants to nominate for elected office unless I am a member of the club. But I am a taxpayer, which means I’m paying for it when the parties chose to nominate with a public primary. For that reason, I make recommendations in public primary races, but not in races where the parties are choosing their nominees privately.

South Riding Board of Directors, 2023

South Riding Proprietary

The South Riding Proprietary is a homeowners’ association (HOA) that acts as a de facto local government for the South Riding community in Loudoun County, Virginia. At the proprietary’s annual meeting on May 23, 2023, three of the seven seats on the Board of Directors are up for election. Members of the board serve three year terms. South Riding property owners may cast votes by attending the annual meeting in person, submitting a paper ballot by mail, or voting electronically with a provided PIN on

The three directors at the end of their terms are Gary Smith, Karen MacDowell, and Kip Lowe. None are seeking reelection. The three candidates on the ballot are Michael Beardslee, Marilyn Gardner, and Mark Pontello. Property owners may vote for up to three candidates, and may write-in other names if desired.

Under the Proprietary’s bylaws, at least 10 percent of South Riding property owners must cast votes to achieve a quorum. Without a quorum, the Board of Directors cannot seat new members or perform any official work. If a quorum is not achieved, the meeting will be recessed for up to a month, and, when resumed, the quorum requirement drops to only 5 percent. The meeting may then be repeatedly recessed and resumed until the 5 percent quorum is achieved.

Compulsory HOAs are perpetuated by the disclosures (i.e., covenants) that owners must accept when purchasing property in an HOA neighborhood. Among these terms is a requirement that owners will include the same disclosures when selling their property later. This has the effect of creating permanent de facto governments. In addition to providing community services and amenities, most HOAs—ours included—claim broad authority to impose restrictions on the use and maintenance of residents’ private property.

The right to property is one of the three fundamental human rights. It cannot be signed-away by contract. Even if it could, HOAs are de facto governments and are therefore bound by constitutional limits on government. In Virginia, this includes a recognition that property rights are fundamental and that citizens may not be deprived of property without due process of law (cf. Constitution of Virginia, Article 1, Section 11 and U.S. Constitution, Amendments, Article V).

Until the South Riding Proprietary’s board takes steps to repeal all unconstitutional restrictions on the use of private property in the community, I recommend that South Riding property owners abstain from the Board of Directors election and deny the board a quorum.

Virginia Senate, Special, 2023

A special election will be held on March 28 to fill a vacancy in the Virginia Senate. I make the following recommendation in that race:

  • 9th District: Former Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-VA 9th) resigned following her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election in February. Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-VA 74th) and Steve Imholt (R) stand as candidates to replace her. I make no recommendation.

Scott Bradford has been putting his opinions on his website since 1995—before most people knew what a website was. He has been a professional web developer in the public- and private-sector for over twenty years. He is an independent constitutional conservative who believes in human rights and limited government, and a Catholic Christian whose beliefs are summarized in the Nicene Creed. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. He loves Pink Floyd and can play the bass guitar . . . sort-of. He’s a husband, pet lover, amateur radio operator, and classic AMC/Jeep enthusiast.