With the announcement that independent John Pfaltz has entered the race for city treasurer in a special election to be held on April 2, Charlottesville voters will, for the first time in 44 years, be able to cast a ballot in a contested race for that office.
The last time there were two candidates for Charlottesville treasurer was in the general election of 1969, when L. Gene Harding, who had already served in that office for 13 years, defeated Republican challenger Roy “Ted” Huntington with 6,132 votes to Huntington's 1,774.
Harding had run unopposed in 1965 and also in subsequent elections until he retired in 1993, when he was succeeded by Jennifer Brown, who ran unopposed every four years until her retirement for health reasons last year. Deputy treasurer Jason Vandever, who took over from Brown as acting treasurer on October 1, 2012, is the likely Democratic nominee for the post in the special election. (Both Harding and Brown were also Democratic candidates in a combined 19 elections.)
Paper records at the Office of Voter Registration and Elections do not include results for elections prior to 1965, so it is not easy to learn whether Harding had any opponents in the 1950s or in 1961. (He was appointed to the office in 1956 and served 37 years.)
According to a Charlottesville Daily Progress report the day after the historic 1969 election – the first time a Republican, Linwood Holton, was elected Governor of Virginia – Democrats swept all the city offices that year, including the now-defunct positions of “city sergeant” and “clerk of corporation court.”
'I am elated'
The Daily Progress said that Huntington was an assistant to the University of Virginia registrar and also a facilities coordinator at the University. Reporter Bill Akers inquired about Huntington's future plans.
“Another GOP challenger, Roy "Ted" Huntington, who ran against L. Gene Harding for the treasurer's post,” wrote Akers, “said his future in politics wasn't certain.”
On election night, Akers continued, Huntington “asked his wife, and she replied, 'Yes, I've enjoyed it. Yes, I'd like to campaign again.'”
Election records indicate that Huntington never ran again for treasurer.
For his part, Harding reacted to the election results by saying, “I'm not surprised. I am elated.”
Pfaltz, a retired computer scientist from the University of Virginia, ran as a Republican for Charlottesville City Council in 2000, placing sixth among eight candidates for three open seats that year, with 1,701 votes.
The last time that Charlottesville voters had a choice for city treasurer on their ballots, a 34-year-old Republican lawyer, Richard Obenshain, ran for state Attorney General. His son, Mark Obenshain, is seeking the GOP nomination for the same office this year.