Has anyone even heard of Stephen Yelverton’s (write-in) candidacy for Virginia’s 8th District before this week? I’m just back from my polling station (where I voted for Rep. Jim Moran), and was rather surprised to see three people wearing t-shirts promoting the write-in candidacy of a Stephen Thomas Yelverton. Until a few days ago, I’d never seen that name in Arlington, nevermind any campaign coverage. No debates, no campaigning – nothing. Yet there were three people working the poll, with printed t-shirts, and scads of quality yard signs. All for an out-of-nowhere candidate? So I had to look a few things up:
- His website. See it for yourself. Convincing? Not particularly. The URL was registered in March 2010.
- Contributions. According to Open Secrets, he’s an exclusively Republican giver. Mostly the RNC and George W. Bush until the mid 00s (and folks like Lauch Faircloth and Jesse Helms in the 90s).
- Finances. I’m a bit hesitant to mention this, but 1) he’s running for Congress (apparently) and 2) it’s one of the few relevant results that come up when you search his name, but this guy is still dealing with a personal bankruptcy. The proceedings appear to involve substantial amounts, but you have to wonder where he’s getting the money to pay poll workers and print t-shirts/signs. His candidate site says that he only accepts contributions from individuals of less than $200 (mere coincidence that that’s the reporting threshold, I’m sure), so we don’t have any fundraising records available.
So I called the contact number on his website, which turns out to connect me to his cellphone. Apparently catching him on his way out of the Metro and heading into court. He tells me that he’s a genuine candidate and self-funding. He also said that he’s been advertising for the past couple of weeks, but has been “laying the groundwork for 6 months.” He gave me the short pitch on his positions (reform Congress, transparency, etc.), but I told him that I was mostly interested in verifying whether he was a genuine candidate, and not someone just designed to peel off votes. He responded by telling me that yes, he was a real candidate, and that he was running against both the Republican and Democratic candidates. He also told me that he’s never been particularly involved in Arlington or Alexandria politics. He then said that he had to head into the courthouse, suggested that I call back in the afternoon if I’d like, and we concluded the call.
He was polite enough, and I don’t have any personal reason to doubt the man. Yet, in light of the circumstances, I’m still wondering if it’s a bid to peel off enough voters to give Murray (the GOP candidate) a shot. Now, I could very well be wrong – the 8th District race isn’t interesting to me, and I’ve not kept my ear to the ground for every detail. Jim Moran’s imperfect, but he’s orders of magnitude better than Murray (who thinks a winning strategy in the 8th is going on the G. Gordon Liddy radio show, or accusing his GOP primary opponent of supporting gay marriage (horrors)). As a result, I’m confident Jim Moran is going to beat Murray handily. But this whole thing gives me a nagging feeling that maybe someone, somewhere, thinks that – with a write-in candidate who can peel off the votes of those who are tired of Jim Moran, but won’t vote GOP (a group which includes a fair number of Democrats) – Murray just might have a shot. And maybe they’re betting on it.
Update: The Sun-Gazette did have a brief note late last week on Yelverton’s self-announced entrance into the race, and I’ve been told that he’s also placed some advertising in the Falls Church News Press. It’s also my understanding that he tried – and failed – to secure enough signatures to qualify for the ballot as an independent earlier this year. That helps tilt the balance in favor of an actual, if still ill-executed, candidacy.