PAC money steps into Staunton city elections, promoting conservative candidates – The News Leader

<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PAC money steps into Staunton city elections, promoting conservative candidates</a>  <font color="#6f6f6f">The News Leader</font>


STAUNTON — A Northern Virginia-based PAC sent a letter to some Staunton residents advocating the election of conservative candidates in a local contest.

The mailer pushed the re-election of Andrea Oakes and the election of Steve Claffey, Amy Darby and Mark Robertson to Staunton City Council.

The new PAC involvement angered some Staunton voters who decry outside interference in a local race.

The letter said Staunton City Council announced its intent to raise taxes on real estate properties, water usage and trash collection. In reality, these changes were included in a proposed budget but have not yet been voted on by city council members. The proposed changes to water and refuse fees are price increases, not tax changes.

At council’s April 23 meeting, the amended budget eliminated the real estate tax increase.The changes to water and refuse usage fees were proposed by staff but have not yet been approved by council.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections, any person or group must register as a political committee if they anticipate receiving contributions or spending funds over $200 for the purpose of influencing any non-federal election in the state. PACs must report to the department quarterly, but the next reporting deadline is not until July, 15, 2020.

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The 21st Century Virginia PAC registered with the Virginia State Board of Elections for the first time in early April and indicated that their purpose is to “support candidates in the Shenandoah Valley who support a 21st Century Agenda.”

The committee intends to participate in local elections in Staunton City, Augusta County and Waynesboro City. The PAC’s mailing address is in Alexandria.

Several council members and residents have commented on the letter on social media. 

On his public Facebook page, Councilman Erik Curren May 2 shared a post stating his concern about the PAC.

“Clearly, somebody is trying to spend money on campaigns without taking responsibility for it. That may be legal. But that doesn’t make it right,” he wrote. “Dark money in political campaigns has corrupted our national and state elections and threatened our democracy for too long. Now it seems that dark money is coming to our Staunton city council race”

Councilwoman Brenda Mead also shared a post May 1 saying that the complaints in the letter were all budget recommendations from before the coronavirus crisis.

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“A Northern Virginia PAC has set this letter to Staunton voters, full of lies and misleading statements,” she wrote. “The Republican party is behind it. So much for non-partisan elections and keeping outside interests and money out.”

The News Leader is reaching out to the candidates named in the letter and will publish additional information as it becomes available. 

Share questions, comments or story ideas with Leanna Smith at Follow her on Twitter @LeannaCSmith.


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