"I think some of the attention to illegal immigration has hurt us in the larger marketplace,"
Mark Wolfe, one of the winners, forgot to mention immigration in his speech at the Manassas GOP Assembly. He said he was embarrassed about the omission.
Immigration Upstaged at Manassas GOP Assembly
Record 376 Delegates Elect Moderate Candidates Amid Concerns Over City's Reputation, Economy
By Nick Miroff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008; PW01
Republicans in Manassas say the results of Saturday's nominating convention indicate that city residents are concerned with more than illegal immigration, which has defined local politics the past several years, and that they're looking for more moderate leaders to address the city's problems.
A record 376 delegates voted at the convention at Metz Middle School. Although Republican leaders did not disclose the final totals, the winners were part of a three-candidate slate formed by City Council members Steven S. Smith and Jonathan L. Way and newcomer Mark Wolfe. The two candidates who lost, Maureen Wood and Dave Core, are members of the anti-illegal immigrant group Help Save Manassas, an affiliation that made some delegates uneasy.
Wood and Core "are members of that group, and that turned me off to them," said Christine Finnie, a business owner and member of the city's Planning Commission, who voted for the Smith-Way-Wolfe bloc. "I think a lot of the people who turned out were looking for a more positive message."
The candidates were competing for three seats on the six-member council. Because no Democrats or independents have announced plans to run, the convention's outcome probably will determine the city's next government. Election Day is May 6.
Vice Mayor Harry J. "Hal" Parrish II, who ran unopposed, was nominated as the party's candidate for mayor.
"I thought they were well-balanced and that they would focus on all the issues facing the city with equal energy," said Richard Seraydarian, a retiree who voted for the three-candidate slate.
Like many, Seraydarian said he is worried about Manassas's reputation.
"A number of politicians, both in the county and in the city, have really been spreading a lot of fear lately and detracting from the image of the area as a good place to live," he said. In contrast, Smith, Way and Wolfe "had a positive approach to things."
In parsing the convention results, Help Save Manassas President Greg Letiecq blamed Parrish and "machine" politics for the defeat of Core and Wood, saying the city "has always been run by insiders."
"I'm certain that Hal's motivation is about personalities and personal relationships," Letiecq said. "I think Hal and some of the other members on the council want to deal with friends who share a more moderate political philosophy."
Parrish noted that he did not publicly endorse any candidate for City Council and that the convention's large turnout indicated a great deal of interest in the party's open nominating process. Although illegal immigration and crowding remain key issues for Manassas residents, Parrish said, "there are many other things this city needs to be cognizant about."
"We need to be thoughtful about taking action," he said. "But it's important that we not miss the ball because we're concentrating on one or two issues by themselves."
Delegates who backed Core and Wood disagreed with the characterization that they were single-issue candidates. "Illegal immigration affects so many things and crosses over many aspects of our lives," said Chris Pannell, a Help Save Manassas member who campaigned for Wood.
In recent years, Manassas has been a focal point in the illegal immigration debate. But the convention results suggested that concerns about quality-of-life issues and the city's economic health were also on residents' minds, matters Wolfe appealed to.
"I think some of the attention to illegal immigration has hurt us in the larger marketplace," Wolfe said, emphasizing his interest in prioritizing economic development and projecting a pro-business image.
To point, he didn't mention illegal immigration in his speech at the convention. He said it was an oversight. "I was embarrassed that I had forgotten to talk about it," said Wolfe, a businessman and local arts promoter.
Manassas Republican Chairman Tony Kostelecky said the high turnout at the convention was a sign that city residents will continue to look to his party for leadership.
"It suggests that citizens are very interested in the direction the city government is going to take," he said. Usually, "local politics is not the first thing on lots of folks' minds."
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