The Nov. 6 midterm elections are fast-approaching, and in the interest of the James Madison University student body and members of the Harrisonburg community, the Executive Council of the JMU College Democrats believes it’s imperative we bring up the two elephants in the room. Two candidates running for Harrisonburg City Council are receiving their funding from the Republican Party in Harrisonburg and are recruiting Republican students at James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University to work for them, all while being dishonest about their partisan leanings.
Carolyn Frank and Frank McMillan are both running as moderate, Independent candidates for City Council rather than as Republican candidates. This is how George Hirschmann got elected in 2016 as a so-called Independent candidate, despite the fact the Republican Party openly encouraged voters to vote for Hirschman, and the fact that Hirschmann was being funded entirely by GOP supporters. Most people who identify as politically-independent tend to be as partisan as avowed Democrats and Republicans. High-profile politicians such as President Donald Trump and Senator Bernard Sanders are prime examples of how candidates who are perceived as “outsiders” or even Independents will still vote along party lines, and, like Hirschmann, Frank and McMillan are no exception.
If a political candidate is a Republican, they should run as a Republican and be honest and ethical about who they are, the values they stand for and what policies they will or will not support. Local media organizations have made the claim that the Harrisonburg City Council is losing Republican representation. This is a lie. Hiding one’s true party status — regardless of what side of the aisle one falls on — will damage the overall trust of politicians by the general public. Citizens will feel lied to and betrayed if a candidate presents themselves as a moderate but then goes on to vote along partisan lines once they get into office. Candidates like Frank and McMillan are too embarrassed to admit their partisan leanings and, in doing this, are harming the democratic process and paving a way for more political inaction.
Frank, while never publicly identifying as a Republican, stands by very conservative policy positions, especially regarding funding for education. Local politics has recently centered on the construction of a second Harrisonburg High School (HHS2) that was proposed in January in order to address overcrowding and provide a better educational environment for the growing number of diverse students in Harrisonburg. Frank is against the prompt construction of a second high school and instead, supports bussing high school students, via the HDPT bus system, to take classes at JMU and local technical centers. This isn’t ideal for JMU students or high school students.
McMillan, during town hall meetings, has wavered in his position regarding the opening date of HHS2, going back-and-forth between the years 2021 and 2023. He’s been endorsed and has received donations from conservative Republicans, including Tony Wilt, a Virginia House Delegate representing the 26th District, State Senator Mark Obenshain and the Harrisonburg and Rockingham Republican Women’s Club — all groups advocating for conservative interests.
We urge members of the community to look into the policy positions of the candidates that are running and see what they’ve said, where they’ve stood in the past, where they’re receiving campaign donations, and who they’re receiving support from. A successful democracy requires that those running to represent us are honest, ethical and transparent about their intentions and their positions. The public needs to be aware of who the representatives acting on their behalf are. If those who are running for office are dishonest about their partisanship, it begs the question: why are they trying to hide it?
Norman Ellis a public policy and administration major. Contact Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org.