Political Notebook: Just say no to politicking during Pungo Strawberry Festival; everybody runs for Congress in N.C.; basket of power

A Randy Forbes campaign fire hat seen during the 2016 Pungo Strawberry Festival. [File/The Independent News]

Gather round, candidates for local offices that are on the ballot this year, and let Notebook tell you a tale of tempted fate and little red plastic hats with stickers on them.

A few years ago, U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach, decided against running for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District again. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, a long-serving Republican from Chesapeake, had little shot of being reelected a ninth time to the 4th Congressional District due to changed boundaries and district demographics. 

So Forbes cast his gaze this way, deciding to run in the fertile 2nd District though he did not actually live within it. All he had to do was beat Scott Taylor, a Virginia Beach Republican who came up in city and state politics.

In May 2016, Forbes and his supporters descended upon an unassuming Virginia Beach village, known in song as the “Crossroads of the World,” to participate in the parade held amid the annual Pungo Strawberry Festival. 

Along the route, some folks passed out red plastic fire hats — with Forbes stickers stuck right over the fire badge stickers  — to children, violating the rule of avoiding campaigning during a community festival.

These hats were genius in their own way. Americans love brave firefighters, the vibrant color red and the unrivaled affordability of plastic. So too would they love Randy Forbes. Long story short: Forbes lost the primary.

Can Notebook definitively say the Forbes’ campaign’s decision to get political amid the festival’s parade led to his downfall? Certainly not. Notebook can only put that idea into the form of a question to give readers the impression it has done so.

Which is all to say that candidates who may venture to the strawberry festival this coming Memorial Day Weekend might consider their own dignity and the desires of their hosts. 

Don’t campaign.

“It ticks people off,” said Carolyn Culpepper, one of the founders of the festival and a board member. 

Every year, organizers ask politicians not to put out signs, pass out flyers and avoid campaign speechifying, she said. 

With mixed results.

“We really do try to keep people from politicking,” Culpepper said. “It’s not really what the Strawberry Festival is about. … Just like we don’t allow the beer, we don’t allow the political handouts.”

The prohibition on campaign literature is for practical reasons, too.

“The only ones that see their names at the end of the day are the ones cleaning up the trash,” Culpepper said.

So gentle candidates, get yourself a strawberry taco or two and savor the finest parade in Virginia Beach. 

But leave it at that. 

Just think of Randy Forbes’s plastic hats if you feel a sudden urge to announce how your name is spelled as it will appear on the ballot. 

On Tuesday, April 30, Currituck County, N.C., voters will be among those who can cast ballots for their choices in one of three primaries to select nominees to replace the late U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. Ultimately, the winning candidate would fill Jones’ unexpired term, which ends in 2020. 

Depending upon the primary, there are choices. So very many choices.

A whopping 17 people seek to become the Republican nominee in the special election: Michael Speciale, Phil Shepard, Eric Rouse, Joan Perry, Mike Payment, Michele Nix, Greg Murphy, Jeff Moore, Phil Law, Francis X. De Luca, Don Cox, Chimer Davis Clark Jr., Gary Ceres, Celeste Cairns, Graham Boyd, Paul Beaumont and Kevin Baiko. Whew.

In comparison, the list of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination seems manageable: Allen Thomas, Ernest T. Reeves, Dana E. Outlaw, Ike Johnson, Gregory Humphrey and Richard Bew.

And the Libertarian primary ballot has a mere two names on it: Tim Harris and Shannon W. Bray.

Leigh Henderson’s name will appear first on the ballot when she faces John “Clay” Atkinson in a Republican primary in June to become the party nominee for the Virginia Beach city treasurer’s special election in November. A basket did its part in determining the order.

Usually, the candidate with the first paperwork in gets the lead spot on the ballot. However, paperwork for both Henderson, serving as the treasurer following the resignation of John Atkinson, and Clay Aktinson, son of the former treasurer, was delivered to the city GOP at the same time. 

So, amid a meeting of the Electoral Board, the basket went to work.

Deputy Registrar Christine Lewis said the names of the candidates were printed out and placed into envelopes by the respective candidates, and the sealed envelopes then went into the basket. Electoral Board Secretary Tim Barrow held the basket aloft. Donna Patterson, the general registrar and head of the elections office, then picked the winning envelope.

The basket, if only for now, is retired. 

The latest in basket technology. [The Independent News]

Email jhd@princessanneindy.com with suggestions for inclusion. The newspaper publishes every other week, so please send events well before publications dates. Items are published as space allows.

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