Yes, Tony Buffington Can Run as a Party Nominee

When Janet Clarke announced she would not run for another term on the Loudoun BOS, she also said she would be supporting Tony Buffington to replace her:

Clarke urged her supporters get behind Tony Buffington in his effort to secure the Republican nomination for Blue Ridge District seat in next year’s election.

Buffington is one of three elected resident representatives on the Brambleton Community Association board of directors and serves as an at-large member of the county’s Heritage Commission. The former U.S. Marine was raised in Clarke County and moved to Brambleton in 2011. He works in law enforcement for the federal government.

That last bit, pointing out that Mr. Buffington works, “for the federal government,” has raised a few eyebrows, since the (rather badly understood) Hatch Act has stopped many a federal employee from running for local office. This is more of a non-story than a story, so I’m not going to bother with the usual links to citations and all that. Instead, here’s the down-low:

  • Mr. Buffington appears to be an officer of the United States Capitol Police.
  • The USCP is an agency of the legislative branch, not the executive branch.
  • The Hatch Act prohibits partisan candidacies for federal employees of the executive branch, and also federal employees of any agency deemed by statute to be in the “competitive service.”
  • The USCP is deemed to be in the “excepted service,” not in the “competitive service.”

Thus, as a federal employee in an excepted service agency of the legislative branch, Mr. Buffington is not prohibited from seeking the Republican nomination to the BOS by the Hatch Act.

(Attentive readers will want to know how it was that Cliff Keirce was able to run for the board in ’11, as he is an employee of the FAA, most certainly an executive branch agency. The answer is that, some years back, Congress realized that the area around DC was so full of federal employees, that a total ban on those employees running for office would substantially reduce the pool of available candidates. In a compromise move, Congress allowed federal employees of certain agencies, who lived in certain localities, to run, but only as independent candidates, not as party nominees. In the ’70s, Loudoun county got itself added to the list, and FAA was already on the list of authorized agencies. Thus, Keirce could run while being a federal employee, but only as an independent, while Buffington, it appears, can run as a Republican, even though both are federal employees. I’m sure that makes perfect sense to better brains than mine.)