Watching the local campaigns

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Election Day is less than three weeks from now and I’m betting some candidates as well as voters will be happy when it’s over. There have been a few remarkable moments so far, including the following:

IW Sheriff

Challenger Russell Stephenson wins the award for the show stopping comment of the two Isle of Wight candidates’ forums held at The Smithfield Center.

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While discussing how he would manage adding fulltime School Resource Officers to the county’s elementary schools — a key plank in his campaign — Mr. Stephenson said “it (his plan) is a very economical way and I can’t tell my secret tonight, but it is a very economical way to put school resource officers back in the school and, uh, I have that plan and it will work.”

The comment brought chuckles from the audience and, later, consternation among others, as word spread about his “secret” plan.

There are some possibilities. Maybe he’s been watching national candidates for president and believe, since it seems to be working for Donald Trump, it must be OK. Trump has famously “teased” policy topics with “I’ll tell you later” promises.

The more likely possibility, of course, is that Mr. Stephenson doesn’t know how he’ll come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars for additional resource officers.

Regardless, it was a stunning comment.

Surry Sheriff

Mr. Stephenson’s comment doesn’t light a match to a proposal — in this case, not a secret — by candidate for sheriff Michael Bailey. Bailey seriously proposed staging mock mass shootings in the county’s schools if he is elected sheriff. The idea, of course, would be to condition students so they would know how to react when their second-grade classmate gets his or her head shot off during the real thing.

Mr. Bailey didn’t say whether he would use ketchup from the cafeteria to imitate blood or whether he might go for more realistic exploding packs of food coloring, like they use in Hollywood.

And he doesn’t see a problem with this? All kinds of kids attend public schools and their reactions to something like this could run the gamut from laughing to terrorized.

Fortunately, the county school superintendent and School Board would have to OK this insanity, and that’s doubtful.

Buzz’s suitcase

Buzz Bailey has been torn all year between running and not running for re-election. He emailed the newspaper two weeks ago to say he wanted to run as a write-in in Newport, his district, and would like to have a seat at the table during the candidates’ forum. I suggested he contact the sponsors, which he never did, but in one of the more extraordinary events of the campaign season, he did show up at the forum, briefcase in hand. Sponsors declined to seat him since he wasn’t a registered candidate and he left.

Still, you may expect to see someone in Newport campaigning to “write in Buzz” between now and Election Day.

The water deal

For the past several years, county staff and the supervisors have intoned the party line: The Norfolk water deal cannot be broken. The contract is ironclad.

A lot of people have not believed that, but it’s consistently been the county position.

Until last week’s Board of Supervisors forum, that is. Windsor Supervisor Dee Dee Darden said it would “cost a lot of money” to get out of the water deal. Whoa! Does that mean that a lawyer has told the supervisors privately that the deal can be either broken or negotiated away, but that it would be strikingly expensive to do so? Certainly sounds like it.

How much is “a lot of money?” The deal by most everyone’s estimate is costing close to $150 million and by County Administrator Anne Seward’s way of calculating, is actually a lot more expensive than that. So, what’s the cost of getting out? That’s the question an awful lot of county residents have been asking for years and the only answer they’ve gotten is that no amount would break the deal.

But is that not quite true?