The Loudoun County Democratic Committee overwhelmingly threw its support behind Leesburg’s incumbent mayor Kelly Burk in a special meeting Friday night.
By a 70-7 vote, Burk won the LCDC endorsement over her challenger, Town Councilman Ron Campbell. A total of 81 members voted during the special meeting, conducted over Zoom, with four voting not to endorse of either candidate.
Each candidate was given time for a stump speech, answer questions from committee members, and offer closing comments.
Burk, who has served as Leesburg’s mayor since 2017 and is running for her third term in November, said, if the LCDC believes its mission is to elect Democrats to office, she’s their candidate.
“I’ve never wavered in my commitment to [the LCDC’s] mission and values. I’ve never supported, endorsed, or encouraged voters to vote for Republicans over Democratic candidates. That distinguishes me from someone who has criticized and then quits the LCDC,” she said.
Campbell maintained that he left the LCDC two years ago because his voice was not being heard over a membership issue, but that he has been a lifelong Democrat. He said the “I Can’t Breathe” rally he helped organize two weekends ago encouraged him to reach back out to the organization. Campbell has served on the Town Council since 2017 and his four-year term will expire at year’s end. This is his second time challenging Burk for the mayor’s seat, having finished third in a three-way race in 2018.
“What I came away with [after the rally] was a great sense of it’s time to do more. It’s time to put away the swords, it’s time for reconciliation and some healing. I don’t take it lightly that I’m here tonight, but I believe that I seek Democratic justice for Leesburg. Justice is reflected in our values, in our compassion, in our fairness, in our inclusiveness. That’s what separates me from the mayor,” he said.
Campbell was asked specifically by committee members why he should win the endorsement when Burk has a longer history of helping to elect Democrats to local and state offices. He maintained that Democratic loyalty should not be judged solely by being a member of one organization, but also by a candidate’s record in representing Democratic values. Campbell also took issue with a letter he said was sent out by the LCDC’s Leesburg District Chair Mary Pellicano, which he said contained a series of lies and misinterpretations of his character. Earlier this week, the Leesburg Democrats voted to recommend endorsement of Burk over Campbell by a 19-1 vote.
On Monday, Pellicano responded to Campbell’s assertion.
“The letter I sent to the Leesburg Democrats informing them about the upcoming meeting to recommend a Leesburg Mayoral candidate for endorsement by the LCDC contained copies of newspaper articles and social media posts that are publicly available and accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The materials I sent were true and factual to the best of my knowledge. Furthermore, I sent two subsequent emails to Mr. Campbell, asking him to let me know if there was anything erroneous in my posting, and, if so, I would immediately and unequivocally issue a retraction and apology. He declined to respond on both occasions. I stand by my letter to the members of the LCDC Leesburg District and, as a representative of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee, my support of LCDC-endorsed and democratically-elected Mayor Kelly Burk,” she said.
Campbell also said, in response to a question, that he intends to stand by a pledge he signed agreeing to drop out of the mayor’s race if he did not win the Democratic endorsement. He was not immediately available for comment Saturday morning to confirm his campaign intentions.
Also during Friday’s meeting, the LCDC voted to endorse three first-time candidates running for the Town Council: Ara Bagdasarian, Zach Cummings, and Bill Replogle. The three secured 78, 80, and 75 endorsement votes, respectively.
Election Day is Nov. 3. Also running for a council seat is incumbent Tom Dunn and second-time candidate Kari Nacy, both of whom were endorsed by the Loudoun County Republican Committee in their previous bids for office.
Although the Town Council is a non-partisan body, political party endorsements have become a common, if not essential, practice. No candidate for either a mayoral or Town Council seat has been elected without party endorsement since the town’s elections moved from May to November in 2012.