Monday, September 04, 2006

For What Is He Waiting?

He, of course, is Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton. Though confirmed weeks ago by the Senate to his new post as United States Maritime Administrator, Chairman Sean has still, nevertheless, failed to resign his post and start the clock running for a special election to choose his successor. Both parties held nominating conventions on 19 August in anticipation of his resignation. The GOP chose Occoquan District Supervisor Corey Stewart as its standard-bearer. Democrats chose (rather surprisingly) former County Attorney Sharon Pandak.

Well, there have already been two posts on this subject. "Independent" Craig Vitter rightly notes the most important issue: " The concern with the timing of the resignation is an issue because it is one part of a complex equation that determines when a special election will be held to replace Connaughton." He goes on to say something with which I absolutely agree: "Here's what it comes down to: Sean Connaughton, if he plans to take this job, needs to make a move and tell the people that he is stepping aside so that the election can go foward on November 7th. The right thing to do would be to announce the resignation at tomorrow's board meeting."

One question which Vitter seems raise is the possibility that Chairman Sean might not plan to take the job. Such a move would be incredibly stupid. Aside from alienating County Republicans AND Democrats who have acted on the presumption that he would not have accepted the appointment and gone through the confirmation processs had he not intended to "take this job" --- though he would accomplish something that his most ardent supporters have always claimed, and bring them together --- one presumes that he would make powerful Republican enemies nationwide for having done so and then backing out of the position. The suggestion that he might do so --- which I'm not sure Craig intended to make --- is simply silly. Were Chairman Sean to do so, I would have to conclude that he is not as politically savvy as many think him to be.

Democrat Ben Tribbett --- as usual, at his best when he brings an objective analysis to an issue --- has an excellent post which addresses all of the major issues:

If he doesn't resign in the next week- it will be too late to call a special election for his seat on general election day- forcing the special election to be called on its own. There are multiple problems with this.

First, a special election in December will draw significantly less people to the polls compared to the general election in November. No one benefits from limiting participation.

Second, there are costs involved in a special election. Besides the money to program voting machines, pay poll workers and all the normal election costs, there are also the costs of taking up rooms in the many polling places around Prince William County. Since many of the precincts are at schools- if the election is held in the gym, the students won't get P.E. that day, if the election is held in the music room, students won't have music class- etc.

Third, special interests can have a much bigger impact in special elections by spending money to turnout voters. In a general election their money has to be spent on persuasion, which has questionable impact from interest groups, while a special election plays to their strength of mobilizing voters.

Personally, I think some of the attacks on Sean Connaughton's fiscal responsibility in Prince William have been misplaced, but if he doesn't resign this week and allow a special election in November then he will have given his critics another chance to cite unnecessary spending, and that would be a shame.

Ben's last point is one with which I take issue, as any regular reader (both of you) would know. Chairman Sean either needs to resign at tomorrow's Board meeting, or give a damn good explanation for his failure to do so. For if he doesn't, he will end up sticking the taxpayers of Prince William County with another unnecessary bill. And there are many --- yours truly included --- who will unnecessarily be given the opportunity to indulge their wildest speculation as to his motives for doing so, absent a compelling explanation.


Craig said...

Right on James.

To clarify I did not mean to question whether or not Connaughton means to take the job. You would have to insane to go through the confirmation process and then turn down a Presidential appointment.

James Young said...

Glad you cleared that up, Craig. I hope you recognize that I didn't really think that; I just note that, with your phraseology, it could be misconstrued that way.