On Wednesday, Councilman George Hirschmann became the first city resident to file all paperwork necessary to have his name appear on the ballot for November’s City Council election, according to staff at the city registrar’s office.
The retired weatherman said in a Thursday interview it was a deeply personal decision to run again for council and he chose to run again partly because of his dedication to the city and to represent the voters who support him.
“I want to help and, right now, we need to get back on our feet, but at the same time, we need to have some common sense about it and be practical,” Hirschmann said. “There’s just not going to be enough money to throw around that everybody’s going to be happy, but we can help as many people as we can, and then work with the people we couldn’t help to see if we could get more oomph there as well. Just take it a step at a time to make it work instead of jumping in too far.”
Hirschmann said, if reelected to council, he will continue to pay attention to older residents’ needs, work to put people and businesses “back on their feet” and try to figure out ways with city staff and experts to make the municipally-owned golf course, Heritage Oaks, more economically viable.
Hirschmann, an independent, is up for reelection to council this year along with two Democratic colleagues, Mayor Deanna Reed and Richard Baugh.
The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee has chosen its three candidates for the City election after the results from its caucus, which ended last weekend — Mayor Deanna Reed and two new names to the City Council ballot, Laura Dent and Charles Hendricks.
Baugh came in fourth during the primary, placing him out of the running to retain his seat. He has said he will not run as an independent.
According to the registrar’s office, Reed, Dent and Hendricks have almost all of the paperwork submitted necessary to appear on the ballots.
The Harrisonburg Republican Committee, on the other hand, is still searching for candidates as the deadline looms, according to Chairman Jeff Mayfield.
The deadline to file for the City Council race is June 9, according to the Virginia Department of Elections website.
Mayfield said it was shaping up to look like there would be no Republican City Council candidates again this year.
The last time a Republican candidate ran for a seat on City Council was in 2014. Since then, some Valley Republicans have publicly endorsed or supported various independent candidates for council, including Hirschmann.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people feel that Republicans can’t win in the city and I think that’s bogus,” Mayfield said. “We just clearly saw that Staunton, and Waynesboro and Lynchburg City, all three of them being Democrat strongholds, gained Republican council seats.”
In Staunton, conservatives won three City Council seats from Democratic incumbents in Tuesday’s election, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Further south, Republicans also took majority control of the Waynesboro City Council after Tuesday’s election and on Lynchburg’s council there will be two Republicans.
However, Mayfield said those results may have been bolstered by the timing of the elections in May versus the November general election.
“It’s still possible [for a Republican to win in Harrisonburg] because there’s still people out there who don’t agree with the direction one party goes in,” Mayfield said. “And sometimes its not even a matter of whether they are a Republican or Democrat. Sometimes it’s a matter of ‘this party has some good ideas and this party has some good ideas,’ and we need to figure out a way to met in the middle and pick the best ideas and implement them.”
The deadline to file as a Republican is 5 p.m. June 1, according to Mayfield. If more than three people file, the Republicans will have a drive-thru primary on June 8 and if fewer than three people file, they will be the local party’s nominees, Mayfield said.
“I just feel like we’re disenfranchising people by not having candidates — to be that person’s voice,” Mayfield said of voters who may not fully approve of other candidates’ platforms. “Regardless of whether [Republican candidates] win or not, [voters] should be entitled to have someone represent their values.”