Loudoun County Constitutional Offices
Article VII Section 4 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia establishes several elective local offices that must be filled in every city and county. These offices are Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue, Treasurer, and Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Those elected to these offices serve four-year terms, except for the Clerk of the Circuit Court who serves an eight-year term. Elections are typically held in the same year as Virginia Senate elections. This year in Loudoun County, all these offices except Circuit Court Clerk are up for election.
In the race to serve as Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Buta Biberaj (D) and Loudoun County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney M. Nicole Wittmann (R) are vying for an open seat. Incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman (R) is not seeking reelection.
The Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney is responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes in the county, including felony, misdemeanor, traffic, and juvenile offenses. Commonwealth’s attorneys serve a four-year term.
Plowman repeatedly showed poor judgement and favoritism, and there are serious indications that he is corrupt. It is a welcome change to have his name absent from the ballot—although that is tempered by the fact that he is, unfortunately, about to become a circuit court judge. It is essential that our next commonwealth’s attorney be a true believer in law-and-order who is above reproach.
Biberaj, however, seems much more focused on nonsensical social justice buzzwords than on the proper execution of the law. She strongly—and wrongly—implies that our justice system is deeply racially biased. She also claims she will “develop community synergies by collaborating with local businesses, mental health[,] and the probation offices to create re-entry opportunities for our returning citizens.” Perhaps these would be good things, but they are not in the commonwealth’s attorney’s job description. The commonwealth’s attorney’s job is to prosecute criminals.
Wittmann appears to have a much more correct understanding of what a commonwealth’s attorney is supposed to be doing, and has a lengthy history working in the criminal justice field. Since 2005 she has served in the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney office, first as Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, then Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, and, since 2012, the Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney. This is an impressive resume, but her entire service in that office was under Plowman’s leadership, and it is difficult to tell if she will just pick up where he left off.
But these are our options. Our choices are one candidate who doesn’t seem to understand what the office is, and another who is tainted only by her association with the outgoing incumbent. Wittman deserves a chance to prove herself to be Plowman’s better. I endorse the election of Nicole Wittmann as Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
In the race to serve as Loudoun County Sheriff, incumbent Sheriff Michael “Mike” Chapman (R) is challenged by Justin Hannah (D). The Loudoun County Sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer at the county level and has responsibility for administering the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, which is the primary law enforcement agency in the county. Sheriffs serve a four-year term.
Chapman was first elected sheriff in 2011, and at that time the office was in disarray. The previous officeholder, Sheriff Steve Simpson (I), had been a relatively absentee sheriff, and left office under a growing cloud of failure and corruption. Chapman promised that he would make the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office more accountable and effective, and it has been. Chapman continues to operate in an above-board and transparent way, and there has hardly been even a whiff of the kind of corruption or favoritism we had under Simpson.
Hannah, an experienced army veteran, claims that he is running for sheriff because the “partisan leadership that we experience today leaves the residents of Loudoun County behind. We need to rise above partisan politics and deliver the results that Loudoun needs and deserves.” This mirrors a common line of attack against Chapman, who does engage with other Republican political campaigns in the county. But there is no evidence that Chapman’s actual leadership of the sheriff’s office has been tainted by partisan concerns. I don’t care who he campaigns for in his spare time.
As far as actual policy proposals, Hannah promises to, among other things, “minimize cooperation” with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and “advocate for better [gun laws].” Now who’s being partisan? The job of the sheriff is to enforce the law, not to limit cooperation with other law enforcement agencies (ever) or advocate for changes to laws (while on duty).
There’s no reason to replace Chapman, who continues to do good work. There’s especially no reason to replace him with somebody who tone-deafly advocates for partisan policies while simultaneously calling his opponent a partisan. I endorse the reelection of Mike Chapman as Loudoun County Sheriff.
Commissioner of Revenue
In the race to serve as Loudoun County Commissioner of Revenue, incumbent Commissioner Robert “Bob” Wertz Jr. (R) is challenged by Sri Amudhanar (D). The Loudoun County Commissioner of Revenue is responsible for property tax assessments and the issuing of business licenses. Revenue commissioners serve a four-year term.
Wertz has served as revenue commissioner for about sixteen years and is seeking reelection to his fifth term. He has done a good job. Under his leadership Loudoun became the first locality in Virginia to offer online car tax account maintenance, business license renewals, and business property reporting. More importantly, Wertz has kept his office lean and efficient even as the county has grown by leaps and bounds.
Amudhanar’s campaign to unseat Wertz is based on an implied (but never explained) claim that Wertz has shown favoritism. “When the connected few receive favored treatment from the County, the rest of us in Loudoun County bear the burden of that loss to the County.” It’s unclear what he’s trying to say here . . . it’s more innuendo than argument. He has made no further case for his candidacy other than a string of endorsements from some local Democratic partisans.
There’s no reason to send Wertz packing; he has been, and remains, a professional and effective leader of his office. I endorse the reelection of Bob Wertz as Loudoun County Commissioner of Revenue.
In the race to serve as Loudoun County Treasurer, incumbent Treasurer H. Roger Zurn Jr. (R) is challenged by Kannan Srinivasan (D). The Loudoun County Treasurer has responsibility for billing and collecting local taxes, including property taxes and car decal taxes, as well as for investing and disbursing county funds. Treasurers serve a four-year term.
Zurn has served as treasurer since he was first elected in 1996. The county’s books have received a clean audit each year since, and our bond rating has gone from A to AAA, the best possible rating. Zurn’s office was among the first in the Commonwealth of Virginia to offer an online tax payment option, and the first to offer e-billing.
Srinivasan is an experienced financial professional who is running on a platform of transparency, innovation, and accountability. He says he is “a fiscal conservative who believes that your precious tax dollars should be spent and invested with fiscal prudence.” Most refreshingly, he is not lobbing the kinds of nonsense accusations against his opponent that many other Democratic Party nominees on our ballot are making against theirs.
Both Zurn and Srinivasan are quality candidates who are worthy of the office, but there is no reason to change course and replace Zurn. I endorse the reelection of Roger Zurn as Loudoun County Treasurer.
Loudoun County School Board
Article VIII Section 7 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia vests authority for public school districts in a school board, which may be either elected or appointed in a manner defined by law.
The Loudoun County School Board is an elective board composed of nine members, all of whom serve concurrent four-year terms on the same election schedule as the Virginia Senate and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. One at-large member is elected in a county-wide race, and the remaining eight members are elected by voters from each of the eight named county districts.
By law, school board elections are nonpartisan, although local party committees often endorse their preferred candidates.
Denise Corbo (D [endorsed]), Kenya Savage, and Julia “Julie” Sisson (R [endorsed]) stand as the Loudoun County School Board At-Large candidates. Incumbent Loudoun County School Board Member Beth Huck (R [endorsed]-At-Large) is not seeking reelection.
America’s schools—ours included—are badly broken, and elective school boards have proven unwilling and unable to fix them. The United States has some of the best-funded schools in the world, but overall academic performance is mediocre-at-best compared to our international peers. And even if we had candidates proposing the kind of complete, top-to-bottom school reform programs that we need, it is unlikely that school boards have the legal authorities they would need to put them into action.
For these reasons, Off on a Tangent has a long tradition of making no endorsements in school board races. I have argued that it is basically irrelevant who sits on these boards, and it usually is. But there is a major shift in progress; many school boards are now dominated by radical leftists intent on turning schools into massive social experiments that are more focused on political indoctrination than providing a classical education. We have not traveled far down this road yet in Loudoun, but we have started . . . and so we must start taking these races more seriously.
In addition to getting back to education (versus indoctrination), our schools also need to get their budgets under control. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) will spend over $1.2 billion this year, and each year they ask for more and more—at a rate of increase far beyond what would be justified by the combined effects of inflation and enrollment.
Corbo, a teacher, is running on a platform of communication, technology, equity and diversity, and a data-driven school budget process. Savage promises to govern in a nonpartisan way and prioritize student learning and safety. Sisson, a financial professional, intends to provide more course offerings, get the budget under control, and communicate with parents.
None stand out especially well, but Sisson is the most emphatic about getting the school system’s budget under control. She does not clearly state what she thinks about all of the postmodern nonsense going on in our schools today, but it is unlikely that the Republican Party would have endorsed her if she bought-in to all that junk. I endorse the election of Julie Sisson as the at-large member on the Loudoun County School Board.
Incumbent Loudoun County School Board Member Jeff Morse (R [endorsed]-Dulles) is running for reelection unopposed. The Loudoun County Democratic Committee endorses writing-in somebody other than Morse but has not suggested any particular name. Loudoun County’s Dulles District is in southeast Loudoun, bordering Fairfax County. It includes South Riding, as well as parts of Broadlands, Stone Springs, and Washington Dulles International Airport.
Morse is generally a sane voice on the board, although he and the other incumbents have utterly failed to keep spending at a reasonable level. But there are no other options available to us, except to take the Democratic Party’s somewhat silly suggestion to write somebody else in.
I would much prefer a candidate who was more strongly committed to slashing our inexcusably bloated school system budget. But Morse is not a radical and seems committed to making a sincere effort to properly manage our schools. And given the disturbing trends in public schooling in America, described in the at-large seat endorsement above, here too I will break my longstanding tradition of making no endorsement in school board elections.
I endorse the reelection of Jeff Morse as the Dulles District member on the Loudoun County School Board.
Recommendations in Other Districts
In addition to the long-form endorsements (above) for the Loudoun County School Board offices on my own ballot, I make the following recommendations for contested races in other districts.
- Algonkian District: Atoosa Reaser (D [endorsed]) and Melanie Turner (R [endorsed]) stand as the Algonkian District candidates. I recommend voting for Melanie Turner.
- Ashburn District: Incumbent Loudoun County School Board Member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) is challenged by Harris Mahedavi (D [endorsed]). I recommend voting for Eric Hornberger.
- Blue Ridge District: Ian Serotkin (D [endorsed]) and Ram Venkatachalam (R [endorsed]) stand as the Blue Ridge District candidates. I recommend voting for Ram Venkatachalam.
- Broad Run District: Andrew Hoyler and Leslee King (D [endorsed]) stand as the Broad Run District candidates. I recommend voting for Andrew Hoyler.
- Catoctin District: Jenna Alexander, John Beatty (R [endorsed]), and Zerell Johnson-Welch (D [endorsed]) stand as the Catoctin District candidates. I recommend voting for John Beatty.
- Dulles District: See full-form endorsement above.
- Leesburg District: Beth Barts (D [endorsed]) and Joe Newcomer (R [endorsed]) stand as the Leesburg District candidates. I recommend voting for Joe Newcomer.
- Sterling District: Incumbent Loudoun County School Board Member Brenda Sheridan (D [endorsed]-Sterling) is challenged by Mike Neely (R [endorsed]). I recommend voting for Mike Neely.
Soul and Water Conservation District Directors
The Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District is a political subdivision of Virginia with borders identical to those of Loudoun County. It is managed by a five-person Board of Directors, three of whom are elected by the people of the district every four years. By law, conservation district elections are nonpartisan, although local party committees often endorse their preferred candidates.
There are six candidates on the ballot, and voters may vote for up-to three of them. Each of the three incumbents, Soil and Water Conservation District Directors John Flannery II (D [endorsed]), Marina Schumacher (R [endorsed]), and James Wylie, are standing for reelection. They are joined on the ballot by challengers George Melik-Agamirian (R [endorsed]), Jasvinder “Jimmy” Singh (R [endorsed]), and Michelle Thomas (D [endorsed]).
According to the district’s web site, its mission is to “provide leadership in recognizing and addressing soil and water conservation issues and problems, both existing and potential, and to promote and develop education and technical programs which will meet the agricultural and urban conservation needs of our district.”
However, soil and water conservation districts have no apparent authorities of their own. They can advocate and network and print out some pretty brochures . . . but we already have countless private, state, local, and federal organizations that advocate, network, and print brochures on behalf of the environment. Many of them have actual policy and enforcement responsibilities.
This district, and its board of directors, has no reason to exist. It is irrelevant which candidates (if any) you vote for. I make no endorsements.