No Special Election for Commissioner?

Brent Finnegan -- January 24th, 2008

It had been reported there would likely be a special election for Rockingham County Commissioner of Revenue. Last November, county residents voted for deceased Commissioner Richard Connellee over challenger Ester Nizer.

However, the Board of Supervisors voted 4 – 1 against holding a special election, as it would cost extra money, and likely have a pitifully low turnout (although, as Reagandem points out, “A court still has the final say in the date, regardless of what the BoS may prefer”). County residents can will likely vote for Commissioner when they vote in the presidential elections this November.

47 Responses to “No Special Election for Commissioner?”

  1. Christa says:

    Thank you BOS! They are very wise. Who is acting COR until November?

  2. JGFitzgerald says:

    I’m missing the wisdom. An acting official in an elected position for 13 months in order to save money because the citizens voted for a dead man?

  3. Christa says:

    The wisdom to NOT have a special election and costing the taxpayers a huge amount of money. What’s not wise about that?

  4. Lowell Fulk says:

    I don’t understand the confusion here. The Republican Party of Rockingham County urged, begged, and pled with people to vote for someone who was no longer qualified to hold office (because he had passed away) so that the office could be decided by holding a special election at the well publicized cost to the taxpayers of Rockingham County of some $18,000.00.
    The majority of voters in Rockingham County chose to vote in that direction, for a deceased candidate, because they accepted the premise of the importance of holding a special election.
    I wonder why… If the majority of the people of Rockingham County, being fully informed of the cost which would be incurred if they chose a certain course of action with their vote, should be denied that course of action which they chose? Why is the majority of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors unwilling to follow the directive of their constituants?

  5. republitarian says:

    Let’s see…republican dominated board puts off a special election so that it will be held at the same time as a presidential election…..

    Would it be safe to say no democrat has a prayer in Rockingham if Hillary is on the ticket?

    This county would probably vote for a dead man for commissioner…….oh, hold on, they already did…….

  6. Lowell Fulk says:

    So Myron, (Republitarian) what you’re saying is that the Republican members of the Board of Supervisors are “gaming the system”? This doesn’t sound a little bit like “old boys” now does it? Sarcasm fully intended. No, it fully reeks of old boys network. Haven’t we seen enough of the bypassing of our citizen’s intentions?

  7. JGFitzgerald says:

    Elected officials should be elected. The financial savings are less than what it would take to fly a half-dozen county officials to Hawaii. Doing nothing is sometimes the wise course. This isn’t one of those times.

  8. reagandem says:

    Not so fast my friends. A court still has the final say in the date, regardless of what the BoS may prefer. Va. Code 24.2-682 requires: “A special election to fill a vacancy in any constitutional office shall be held promptly . . .” subject to certain technical restrictions. Inclusion of the words “shall” and “promptly” would seem to be the keys. Exclusion of the words “cheapest,” “least expensive,” “most convenient,” and, “possibly best for one political party” may also be of some enlightenment. The Republican Party asked the voters to accept a plan that would cost county taxpayers additional monies; the voters accepted that plan by voting for a candidate that could not take office; now, the price is due and the voters should get what they demanded thru their vote. Elections have consequences, both good and ill. We should all remember that when we pull the lever.

  9. Gxeremio says:

    Do you really think that partisan voters are more likely to come out for a presidential race than a special election? I don’t think it effects the likelihood of the outcome either way. When I think of “special election” voters I picture mostly older people, those with lots of time on their hands, and partisans.

  10. How many of you out there are going to go out and vote in a special election for the COR? The readers of this blog maybe, but come on…. don’t you think that the candidates running for the office would rather have the election when people are actually going to the polls anyway? When people voted for Connellee, they did it out of love and support, doubting what lie next. I didn’t vote for Connellee…I felt it was somehow wrong. If they have a special election now, who do you think would win? A Democrat? I doubt it, but I can tell you a Democrat would have a better chance in November, because a lot of Democrats will be getting out of their houses this election. Oh, hold on, this isn’t a political office now, is it?

  11. Why didn’t the Republicans organize a write-in candidacy last November and save everyone a lot of trouble?

  12. JGFitzgerald says:

    To those who think turnout is an issue: What is the minimum turnout that makes an election legitimate? Does an election with fewer than that percentage count, or should we, in a world that elects dead men, reject the results?

  13. Adam Sharp says:

    Because write-in campaigns have an extremely low record of success, and there is no way on God’s green earth local Republicans were going to risk losing that seat to the Democrat who was running.

  14. Bubby says:

    Here are the facts:

    The county GOP asked the Virginia State Board of Elections to change a notice to voters to indicate that Connellee, although dead, was still a candidate. The board refused, however, saying that only someone who can vote in an election is considered a viable candidate. The intent was to allow a select few the ability to APPOINT the next Commissioner.

    So, here is what the Rockingham Republicans – who CONTROL the Board of Supervisors decided:

    “A victory by Richard Connellee will trigger a special election,”(mike) Meredith said on Tuesday. “This is the only way to have a fair and valid election between two candidates.”Daily News Record-10/24/07

    NOW, without discussion, without public notice, the Republican members of the Board of Supervisors have decreed that the voters of Rockingham don’t deserve such a special election after all…the regular November election will do just fine.

    This is what “a fair and valid election” looks like to Rockingham Republicans. Makes me wonder what else they think is “fair and valid”. I guess they’ll let me know, when they think I need to know it.

  15. finnegan says:

    Fair enough, Reagandem.

    Original post updated to reflect your point.

  16. Adam, please explain to me where party affiliation has ANYTHING to do with a COR position. Maybe I’m just an idiot, but explain it to me. As in the Clerk of Court, where does politics play a part? Do they make law or vote on law? Help me out here. And why wouldn’t Republicans want Esther Nizer to win? She’s definately qualified. Because she is African American? How ignorant is that?

  17. cc says:

    Wow! This discussion is far away from the one that happened at the Supervisor’s meeting. It was the democrat on the board who brought up the issue for a vote. The discussion was civil and rational and the outcome was fully recognized as a recommendation with the court having the final say. No need for all this venom.

  18. Reagandem says:

    If the “special” election is held in November and the county “saves” money, should I and other county residents expect to received a rebate check?

  19. Lowell Fulk says:

    Having the expectation that people should live up to their word equals venom?

  20. Bubby says:

    cc: We are now nearly 90 days out from the election of a deceased Commissioner of Revenue. When, exactly was the Board going to get around to calling for that special election voters were promised?

  21. Adam Sharp says:

    Ms. Gitchell, I would submit that perhaps Mr. Meredith could answer that question as well as I, being as it was his organization that so strenuously worked to elect the late Mr. Connellee.

    I for one believe that local constitutional officers should not have their party affiliation listed on the ballot, but instead run as independents, whether they have been endorsed or nominated by a party or not. However, neither here in the Valley where Republicans are the dominant party nor in NOVA where the Democrats are the dominant party will that idea see the light of day.

    I cannot speak to why local Republicans would not want Ms. Nizer elected. I can only observe that they seem to have put in extra effort to prevent her from being elected.

  22. I may be wrong Adam, so correct me if I am, but if I remember correctly, the family and friends of Richard are the ones who worked so very hard to get him elected, not Mike Meredith. The Connellee’s banded together and pleaded with people to vote for him in his memory and to give others in the office a chance to be able to run for that office, because they would not run against their beloved boss. There were Connellee supporters at every poll. Show me where Mike Meredith organized any of this.

  23. Bubby says:

    Christa: Not only did the Rockingham Republican Party fight unsuccessfully to keep Mr. Connellee listed as a candidate for the office of Commissioner (he wasn’t), they paid for pamphlets, sample ballots, and yard signs urging voters to vote for the deceased Mr. Connellee. Remember the “yes you can” newly added to Connellee campaign materials.?

    The Rockingham Republican Party rigged the election to trigger a special election, then told the Judge, and the voters – never mind. The Rockingham Republican Party should pay for the Special Election.

  24. Have the Republicans even named a candidate? Perhaps they named, but I missed, the Deputy Commissioner of the Revenue? County voters have no excuses for the actions taken by the Board of Supervisors — we all elected them.

  25. I didn’t know all that Bubby. It’s why I was asking. That being said, what is the likelihood that the judge will hold a special election?

  26. Bubby says:

    Christa: I don’t know how Judge McGrath will find in his decision. I suppose it depends on whether he determines that the Board of Supervisor’s recommendation represents the wishes of County voters, and is acceptable public policy.

    I certainly intend to respectfully express my thoughts to the Judge.

  27. So you feel that there should be an election, Bubby? I suppose that would make a lot of Democrats happy, but when a Republican wins the election, the griping will start all over again.

  28. Emmy says:

    A very willing and very qualified individual ran against the deceased, but she didn’t have the right letter next to her name. It doesn’t make any difference when this election is held. They might as well just appoint some Republican and get it over with.

  29. finnegan says:

    I believe Lowell Barb is the Republican candidate now.

  30. I don’t know about that at all anymore Emmy. Dianne Fulk came very close to winning the COC race. I think if Democrats got out and voted, Nizer could win, if she still wants to run. Who is running as the Republican? Anyone know?

  31. Sorry Finnegan, you and I were posting at the same time I think.

  32. republitarian says:

    Not too many people are more qualified than Ester….but it doesn’t matter.

    Emmy is right….appoint Lowell and get it over with.

  33. Bubby says:

    There was an election Christa. And we had a living very qualified candidate – Esther Nizer. The ONLY candidate. She took 41% of the vote, outright won a number of precincts – despite the emotional pleas, and chicanery.

    But never mind that, the Republican Party machine told (asked, begged, pled) with voters that they should have a special election to decide the election. Lots of blah, blah about ‘fair and valid’. Now? Not so much. We can’t afford an election? Do you support leadership that does not play straight with you? I don’t.

  34. Emmy says:

    I’d be very happy with Lowell Myron, but again, wrong letter.

  35. Christa says:

    Which leadership do you speak of, Bubby? The BOS? I believe all they did was express their opinions. They can’t make the decision, but the judge can. Call him. It’s your right.

    Do I support their leadership? They have never given me any reason not to support them. Have I agreed with all their decisions? Of course not. But like Dave Briggman said, we elected them. I happen to have the highest regard for every single one of them. And Mike Breeden , his wife and his kids are good personal friends. No better people in the county. And…..he’s a Democrat. I am Republican, but I would vote for him in any election.

  36. Emmy says:

    Christa, I missed your comment earlier. I used to think that Democrats could win a local election if they put the right person up. Well they have several times in recent elections and they’ve still lost. I’ve talked to lots of Republicans who really don’t see eye to eye with the local party, but they keep voting for the candidate that the party picks even if they are no where near suited for the job. I’m sure Matt is a very nice guy, but it was pretty clear that Lowell was a much better fit. Heck, even the Republicans seemed to realize Matt wasn’t right…but they still voted for him. If I had been able to vote in this election and the situation were reversed I would have voted for the Republican who was alive unless he or she were an incompetent boob! That may not hold true for higher elected offices, but it certainly would have in this. Nizer was more than qualified and did very well, but more people still voted for a dead man! Do they really think that there is someone out there better for the job? Or can they just not bring themselves to vote for a Democrat? My bet is the latter. I’m fed up with local politics. I’m glad to see that our state as a whole has a bit more sense.

  37. Lowell Fulk says:

    Thank you,
    but wrong Lowell.
    Unless I misunderstand,
    in which case I am quite embarrassed.
    I think you understand,
    Better than you would let on,
    Regarding how things are being done,
    And how the people in power are playing games…

  38. Christa says:

    Lowell, you and I have had this discussion before and yes, you are right about people in power playing games. I find it frustrating at times and I guess it’s the reason I don’t get real involved in politics. I think you KNOW I do not blindly defend the Republican party, but I will defend people whom I know and trust. Joe Paxton, Mike Breeden, Fred Eberly, Pablo Cuevas, Billy Kyger and Dee Floyd are all great people. I feel they are dedicated to our community. I’ve raised an eyebrow to some of the decisions made, but they will not be able to please everyone. They voted to not have the election. It doesn’t mean there is dirty politics involved. It means it’s how they felt and they voted on it. Maybe Lowell, I just try to see the best in people and respect their opinions.

    Does anyone know how much a BOS makes a year?

  39. Lowell Fulk says:

    You and I have had really little disscussion on this topic. I know you to be willing to discuss most any thing with an open mind. I know also that you have been led to think ill of me regarding things said that have been attributed to me by others.
    You mention Joe Paxton.
    Mr. Paxton is a fine individual, who has no vote. Joe is the County administrator, and as such, rightfully stays away from politics and attempts to do what is best for the people of this area. He does a fine job and has my respect. Nothing I say, or have said in the past, reflects on Mr. Paxton in the least.
    Mr. Paxton should be left out of this discussion. Period.
    Elected officials to the county board however are a different issue.

  40. cc says:

    Apparently there are restrictions about holding special elections close to regularly scheduled elections. According to the discussion at the BOS meeting the earliest a special election could be held is the end of April. Due to presidential primaries and regular elections there is a relatively small window of time to hold a special election in the late spring and another in the summer when people are typically on vacation. The cost for an election discussed at the BOS meeting was $35,200.

  41. Christa says:

    I was only mentioning Joe, because I think so highly of him. I wasn’t meaning to bring him into the discussion.

    And you and I need to talk about the other situation you mentioned first, face to face. Not on a phone or on a blog. I think we need to do that real soon. You and Dianne free anytime soon so I can take you to dinner? I have been wanting to do that for a long time now.

  42. Bubby says:

    The Rockingham County Democratic Chairman requested that the BOS fulfill the promise made to voters in November, and hold a special election before June 1. Anytime after March 13 is legal. November 4 is outrageous. Mike Breeden was the only Supervisor voting in favor of a special election.

    The county attorney should disclose where he came up with a cost of $35,000 – by line item, for a special election. Especially since earlier estimates were 50% lower – when Republicans wanted a special election.

    Because the Rockingham Republican Party conspired to elect a non-candidate, deceased man to office, the County attorney needs to explain why the County is not petitioning the court to recover the cost of a special election from the Rockingham County Republican party, and Mike Meredith in particular.

  43. JGFitzgerald says:


    25 precincts, times 8-10 workers, times $100-150 (for 16 straight hours of work), equals $20,000 to $37,500, plus Electoral Board members’ salaries, location rentals(?), technical workers for the machines, and a partridge in a pear tree. It’s not cheap. But it’s worth judging as a proportion of the county’s discretionary spending, and what else that amount might be used for.

  44. Christa says:

    Joe, how do you feel the turnout would be at the polls in April? Has there ever been a special election in this area? I was just curious.

  45. JGFitzgerald says:

    No idea on turnout. Doesn’t matter. People who don’t show up deserve what they get. The ones who do show up deserve to make the choice.

    I don’t remember a special election going back to 1990 in this area.

  46. Lowell Fulk says:

    What the party of the pachyderms distributed during the last few days before the election:

    “Candidate for Commissioner of Revenue
    Richard Connellee passed away just prior to the Nov. 6 election.
    A majority vote for Richard Connellee will trigger a special election. The Special election will allow you the voter the opportunity to make a genuine Choice between TWO candidates for Commissioner of Revenue”

    Perhaps I misunderstand, but doesn’t this kind of sound like they wanted a special election?

  47. Lowell Fulk says:

    I don’t know how to place an image on
    but I have placed a scan of the actual card I quoted in my last post here:

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