Longtime political activist and chief executive of a conservative non-profit organization, Eugene Delgaudio is also one of the longest-tenured supervisors in county history.
He seems, from one perspective, a surprising fixture on the board of supervisors, considering Loudoun voters’ tendency to flip it’s political polarity every four years.
If the Republican-Democrat-Republican cycle of the past signifies anything, it would seem to be a vacillation between extremes, the equilibrium of a spinning gyre. The board’s other survivor is Scott York, also of Sterling, who is exactly the type of middle-of-the-road, self-reinventing public figure one might expect to remain standing amid political earthquakes.
And alongside York, there is Delgaudio the lighting rod, unlikeliest of political constants.
But will the cycle of waxing and withering now, finally, claim the man in the orange hat?
In Part 1 of this series, we noted that Delgaudio has managed to prosper politically, despite the fact of living in a hall of long knives because of his politically incorrect day job. Anyone who opposes the Left’s devouring cultural hegemony can expect to be vilified. As a longtime public office holder, the bullseye on Delgaudio’s back offers double bonus score.
In Part 2, we suggested that the root of Delgaudio’s current problems could have been a 2011 scenario where he had managed to create a toxic situation, as it were, in his own mess kit. His liberal enemies may have caught a break when he ticked off some conservative friends.
If the recall effort being led by the Democrat whom Delgaudio shellacked in 2011 goes forward, Delgaudio’s run could get bumpy.
Regardless of what happens with the recall, however, it is not hard to imagine Delgaudio popping right back up during the 2015 election season undeterred and, likely, motivated.
He would be able to make a few arguments for himself, as long as he is willing to make an important one against himself.
For one thing, those who have been leading seemingly all anti-Delgaudio efforts of recent years are right there in the front of the bus driving this one. Prominent in the Sterling Deserves Better photos are Nevarez and West, the defeated Sterling Democrats from the past two elections. At Real Advocate are two more sets of indefatigable nemeses.
Merits of their arguments aside, the door is open for Delgaudio to launch a campaign with a theme like “here they come again,” and declaring the people of Sterling too independent to follow the tune of every pied piper who comes marching down the boulevard.
For another thing, the main and notionally most damaging case against Delgaudio – that he might have misappropriated county resources in having Donna Mateer make phone calls to his fundraising list – might prove to be a massive exaggeration, if attorney Charlie King’s contention is correct that county records show Mateer spending less than 3 hours in total on such calls.
Delgaudio could cut a check back to the county to compensate for that oversight and, while he is at it, announce that whatever role his Public Advocate staff assistant played in coordinating activities for his county staff, could be considered a gift to Loudoun taxpayers – no reimbursement required.
There are plenty of theatrical possibilities for Eugene Delgaudio in 2015, if he has the will to stick his chin back into the fight.
But the one case he will have to admit against himself, in my opinion, is that the Donna Mateer situation was a Delgaudio mistake more than a misfortune that befell him.
She was a bad hire, as evidenced by her own testimony. She appears to have accepted and kept the position grudgingly, giving as her reason that she was “a single mother” who needed the money to pay her bills.
But when her boss reiterated this, allowing “take as many hours as you need … You need the money … You are a single mother,” like a character straight out of Atlas Shrugged, Mateer was not only not grateful for the opportunity but actually irritated, telling us Delgaudio made the above statements “constantly” and “many, many times.”
Her autobiographical letter is one long description of someone tasked beyond her abilities, to the extent that Loudoun County residents could be forgiven for wondering why she remained on the payroll for nearly nine months.
Indeed, Delgaudio’s management acumen must be called into question for hiring and retaining someone so apparently inept at customer-facing tasks that she had to be restricted in whom she was allowed to talk to, and provided clear instructions on what to say to visitors – yet was also given free rein to make appointment setting calls from his “Igor” list.
Delgaudio needs to say “I made bad personnel decisions, compounded by my laissez-faire approach to the day to day affairs of the office. I have fixed the HR problems and have been at the helm of the office ever since.”
Anyone who knows Delgaudio knows he has the creativity and audacity to attempt a comeback, whichever way the recall goes and whatever sort of continued beating he takes in the press. What he cannot control or stage manage, however, are the dispositions of his fellow Republicans who will be campaigning for their own offices in 2015, and lingering impressions among the voters of Sterling.
Delgaudio’s Republican colleagues on the board of supervisors and in the constitutional offices have an awfully good term going right now. If federal spending continues to keep the local economy buoyant, each of them should expect positive momentum heading into the 2015 elections and a possible break from the red-blue-red cycle.
The Republicans have turned out to be pragmatic and competent to the point that potential challengers will need to be creative to fashion plausible negative campaigns.
Except for the big, orange-hatted target, of course. While it would be a stretch to think the Democrats could succeed by trying to paint the county orange and campaign against Delgaudio in every district and at every level, they are likely to get mileage out of the controversy outside of Sterling – especially if the recall movement fails.
A relatively popular elected official feeling good about their own performance in the job could be forgiven for secretly wishing to eschew such controversy, and holding onto hope for another term . . . personal feelings about Eugene aside.
One of the most damning accusations leveled against Delgaudio in the current imbroglio is that he routinely blew off constituent inquiries and requests, punting them to other supervisors’ staff or ignoring them entirely. The accusation would be suspect if it only came from Donna Mateer’s statement, but the special grand jury report suggests that other staff may have confirmed the claim.
If this was the practice at Delgaudio’s county office, at first glance one would think such dereliction of duty would bring a karmic self-corrective mechanism in the form of very angry constituents next time the polls are open. A supervisor who blows off requests is a supervisor likely to get his head handed to him by the voters, regardless of how many emails he sends and snow-shoveling photo ops he circulates.
On the other hand, maybe not: The typical county resident probably has little knowledge of what their county supervisor can or should do for them, and the number of voters who have personally sought “constituent services” is unlikely large enough to swing an election.
All politics may be local, but most news is national. It’s almost impossible to even find a physical local newspaper in Sterling. There are probably a lot of potential voters in Sterling who have not yet tuned into the 2015 supervisor’s race, don’t read online newspapers or Democrat blogs, and have no more than a vague idea of Delgaudio’s alleged infractions.
Though his enemies will be have new ammunition to try against him, some of his GOP colleagues may be tepid in their support, and political observers may wonder what more he has left to prove, there is little reason to think Eugene Delgaudio will be anywhere but back on the campaign trail a year from now.
A 2015 triumph would be more than a history-making fifth consecutive term – it would come with extra style points for overcoming the hordes arrayed against him. And don’t think for a minute that alone would not motivate Eugene Delgaudio to take another shot.