On June 11, voters in Fairfax County will have the chance to vote in a primary with five contested races for the Democratic nominations for the Board of Supervisors. The Washington Post Editorial Board chose to issue endorsements in these races, but their endorsement process was insufficiently transparent and even-handed, resulting in endorsements that should be viewed with skepticism. Additionally, the treatment of at least one woman candidate and the fact that all endorsed candidates are men raise questions about sexism in the Washington Post’s endorsement process.
In those five Democratic primary races, 20 candidates are running. Four candidates (three men, one woman) are running for the Chairman of the Board in a countywide race, and in the magisterial districts of Hunter Mill, Providence, Lee, and Braddock, there are sixteen candidates running (seven men, nine women). As community leaders, we are elated that we have equal numbers of male and female candidates. Women remain underrepresented in elected office across the country, because smaller numbers of women usually run.
On May 21 and May 27, the Editorial Board of The Washington Post published endorsements in these races and exclusively endorsed male candidates. We reached out to all twenty candidates with a short survey to capture their experience with the process. Of the 20 candidates, nine — seven women and two men, representing four of the five races — responded. Three of the women respondents received interviews with a Post editorial staff member. Neither of the men who responded were asked to interview. It appears that the Post interviewed only two candidates in most races.
The interview process alone should give a reader pause. How can the Post legitimately make a decision about the qualifications, policy positions, and expertise of candidates if some candidates are completely ignored and some are asked different questions?
Finally, in this quick survey of the candidates, two of the women candidates identified being asked personal family questions unrelated to their ability to serve on the Board of Supervisors. Larysa Kautz who is running in Lee District wrote “When I mentioned the importance of having women with young children on the Board for their perspective and influence on policy and equity, I was informed that there are no women with young children on the Board currently because there are late meetings and it’s hard work.”
We suggest that The Washington Post adopt a fairer process for endorsements, one that doesn’t discount highly qualified candidates simply because there are so many running, and one that doesn’t demonstrate such egregious bias against working mothers.
Candice Bennett – Vice Chair of Finance, Fairfax County Democratic Committee, Emerge Virginia Class of 2017
Holly Seibold – Council Member, Virginia Council on Women, Emerge Virginia Class of 2018
Jessica Swanson – Community Leader, Emerge Virginia Class of 2018
Tiffany Pryce, Activist and Fairfax County Voter
Lainie Singerman, Fairfax County Democratic Committee member and Fairfax voter
Alyia Gaskins, Emerge Virginia Class of 2018