Thirteen candidates for political offices impacting Clarke County gathered before a group of about 50 voters to discuss their plans for the future Wednesday evening. The debate, which centered on the three opposed races, was sponsored by the Clarke County Farm Bureau and moderated by the Clarke Daily News.
“We felt like a debate would provide the voters with an important opportunity to hear the candidates talk about the issues,” said Clarke County Farm Bureau president Clay Brumback.
Although thirteen candidates spoke at the event, only three races in the county are opposed; Bev McKay and Randy Sprouse for the White Post Board of Supervisors seat; Jennifer Welliver and Jim Brinkmeier for the Berryville School Board seat; and Randy Minchew and Dave Butler for the 10th District House of Delegates seat.
Republican Bev McKay and Democrat Randy Sprouse, each seeking the spot held by A.R. “Pete” Dunning Jr. for over thirty years, agreed on nearly every issue including holding the line on tax increases despite Clarke County’s low unemployment rate, decreased state funding for schools and four year salary freeze for government workers and teachers.
One point of difference between McKay and Sprouse, however, did arise during McKay’s closing comments. During his remarks McKay read from a letter that he attributed to Sprouse’s campaign in which, according to McKay, Sprouse accused him of sub-dividing portions of his property for potential future development.
McKay denied having ever subdivided his property other than one instance of a boundary line adjustment which facilitated an open space easement.
Republican Randy Minchew and Democrat David Butler, both hoping to win the newly created 10th District seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates, also debated at the event.
The new 10th District seat includes parts of Loudoun, Frederick and Clarke counties. About 3,000 voters in and around White Post and Millwood will send one of the two candidates, either land use lawyer Minchew, or engineer and Leesburg Town Council member Butler, to Richmond. As in the other races, substantial differences between the two candidates were often hard to discern, except in one area- environmental protection.
In responding to a question related to costs to local farmers stemming from future federal regulations designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay, Minchew said that he would support Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s efforts to fight the requirements saying, “there are better ways that we can protect the Bay.”
Butler took a counter stand on the issue. Butler pointed to farmers in Pennsylvania, that he says are already paying more than Virginia farmers, and that if the public wanted clean water and a healthy Chesapeake Bay there will be a cost.
As in the other races, incumbent Jennifer Welliver and challenger Jim Brinkmeier agreed on many issues. Asked to grade Clarke County High School’s vocational programs and advanced education programs, Welliver assigned a “B” grade to each. Welliver noted, “There is always room for improvement.” Brinkmeier differed by offering a grade of “C” saying he couldn’t accept that either program had performed at an “above average” level as implied by a “B” grade.
Welliver said that the School Board has spent much of the last four years focused on construction issues related to the new high school, but that now it was time that the School Board turn its attention to grades and academics.
Brinkmeier said that one of the reasons that he is running for office is to reduce the in-fighting that has characterized much of the current School Board’s last four years.
“People don’t like the fighting,” Brinkmeier said. Brinkmeier also said that his more than 15 years as a college division one baseball umpire offered good training for a School Board member.
Three of the four unopposed School Board candidates also spoke at last night’s forum. For the Russell District Janet Alger, White Post’s Chip Schutte, and Buckmarsh’s Beth Leffel. Incumbent School Board Chairman Barbara Lee did not attend the event.
Other constitutional officer candidates speaking at last night’s event included Clarke County Sheriff incumbent Tony Roper, Berryville Supervisor Michael Hobert, Buckmarsh Supervisor David Weiss and Commissioner of the Revenue candidate Donna Peake.
Another candidate’s forum sponsored by the Northern Virginia Tea Party will be held tonight (Thursday, Oct. 20) at the Camino Real Restaurant in Berryville at 6:30pm on Thursday, October 20th.
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