When last he ran to represent parts of Fauquier in the House of Representative, Frank Wolf won convincingly, as he had done in so many of the elections in which he was a candidate, stretching back to 1981.
Back in the earlier days, when, we expect, Mr. Wolf had not yet fully established himself as a champion for the 10th District, back before his re-election was a near certainty, back when there were likely more serious challenges from both within and outside his party, negativity in campaigning was, unless memory tricks us, not quite so pronounced and emphatic as it is today.
Unless our memory deceives us again, we don't remember Mr. Wolf falling victim to the urge to denigrate his opponents, at least not very often.
In more recent days, Mr. Wolf has largely been able to stay above the fray, so secure is his position with the voters. From that perch, going negative serves no real purpose.
Times have changed. Not because Mr. Wolf has, but because most of Fauquier is now in a new congressional district, and the race is more open and uncertain.
Our guess is that most Fauquier voters have been as surprised as we have been at how...aggressive this campaign has been, surprised at the edginess bordering on nastiness of the Hurt/Douglass race to represent us in the new 5th District.
If they could hit a reset button and start anew, what would they change about the campaign, the two candidates were asked at Monday night's debate at Warrenton Middle School.
Nothing was the quickly apparent answer.
Brig. Gen John Douglass took the opportunity the question presented to hit his opponent, again, on the effort to lift the ban on uranium mining in Virginia, to hammer him, as he has done repeatedly, as a “corporate sellout.”
Rep. Robert Hurt fired back with his oft-repeated claims that Douglass is a “Washington, D.C. insider and lobbyist.”
Lots of heat. Little light.
Which brings us to the point that a thoughtful reader recently suggested that this newspaper and this community need to begin to champion now: Making sure that party politics doesn't descend to lower political levels and sully our local elections – the races for supervisor, for sheriff, for school board, for our constitutional officers.
The fact is, party affiliation really has very little to do with local governance. Knowing that this candidate is a Republican and this candidate is a Democrat might serve to give voters a broad-brush portrait of how he or she may vote on some of the issues, but simply knowing that affiliation is sufficient.
Getting the party organizations involved, though, with their inevitable promotion of larger agendas, doesn't seem to us or the reader who suggested this as serving much point – other than, perhaps, upping the temperature of contests that are likely feverish enough to begin with.
By statute, candidates for our three town councils run as Independents. That is an outstanding idea that needs to be copied, by gentlemen's agreement if nothing else, on a countywide basis.