VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — There is one ad on air in the special election race for the Beach District on City Council, focusing on a loophole in election law that allows a city candidate to keep an at-large seat and run for another seat on City Council or the School Board.
The fact the candidate doesn’t need to resign the seat before running in another district is troubling to many, and confusing.
“Hi, I’m Aaron Rouse,” begins the ad for Beach District Councilman Guy Tower. Rouse is providing a testimonial for Tower.
“One of Guy’s opponents is already on City Council as an at-large representative, and she will be allowed to remain in that seat even if she loses the Beach District.”
That is true, Virginia Beach city charter allows at-large councilmember Rosemary Wilson to run against Tower for the Beach District that he represents without giving up her current seat until after the election, if she wins.
“This isn’t unusual,” Wilson said.
Though it is unusual. It has never happened on City Council, and has happened only once for School Board.
Why is Wilson doing this?
“I want to be the point person in the Beach District. It is standard practice for staff to go to that councilmember on whether to move forward on little things to big things, and the council looks to that person … I like John Uhrin, who represented the Beach District. And two council members wanted Uber to be able to stop on Atlantic Avenue … we wanted it, but Mr. Uhrin said we couldn’t do it and he stopped it. One councilmember stopped the wishes of two others.”
Tower has been telling voters, “They can vote for me and keep me on council, and keep her because she hasn’t given up her at-large seat.”
Wilson also thinks, “I think I am the most qualified one for the seat. We need stability that I can bring, and also to work with my colleagues.”
Wilson is running because of what she calls instability in the Beach District due to past elections, but Tower says what Wilson is doing brings more instability.
“What I think she is doing is wrong … she would be the fourth person to hold that seat in less than a year, and if she wins it would trigger the third appointment in a year. Now that is not my idea of stability.”
That is true, if Guy wins there would be no more appointments needed. He would be on council, and so would Wilson in her at-large seat.
Wilson says she is better qualified. “I don’t think he has the experience that I have. Remember he filed to run against me. He wasn’t going to run. He was dishonest with the council and the public.”
It is true, on his application to be appointed to Beach District on City Council on Question 8, “Do you plan to run in November for the seat to which you are asking to be appointed?,” Tower responded, “I do not intend to run for the seat in November.”
Wilson was quick to say, “Mr. Tower has been a divisive force. He was dishonest with the council. There are people on council that are very upset with him.”
10 On Your Side asked Tower about that. “What’s wrong with changing my mind? At the time I did not intend to run, but that changed.”
Here’s the timeline of his announcement: Tower was appointed on April 23 and Wilson filed to run May 1. Then Tower told Wilson he was running on May 14.
Tower claims after she announced there was increased momentum to get Tower to run. “She’s not happy because yes I screwed up her plans. She had it aligned up where she was going to slide into this seat. She would get three more years without having to run instead of having to run for re-election in her at-large seat.”
Wilson says, “I helped him. I was one of the people that helped him get appointed. I felt very betrayed by it to be really honest.”
Tower counters that, “the sense of betrayal is probably very real on her part because she had a plan. She admitted to me she had been planning this for a long time to run (in the Beach District).”
If Tower loses, he says he won’t accept any appointment to Wilson’s at-large seat. “I’m done with appointments. I’ve done the appointment thing. I was happy to do it, but I’m not doing it again. I do not want to be part of any other appointment.”
10 On Your Side also interviewed the third candidate, R.K. Kowalewitch, who actually believes he’s benefited by this because the more established candidates in Tower and Wilson are pulling from what he calls the same support base and could split that vote.
“My voters are entirely different than the ones voting for them. They are worried about the special interest groups and the money people, and my concern is with the people who don’t want to pay higher taxes … their voting record shows the whole story. I call them Rosemary Tower because they are one and the same.”