A little over three years ago, six individuals announced their intent to run for two seats on the Harrisonburg City Council. Among them were D.D. Dawson, running as a Republican, and myself, Joshua Huffman, who ran as an independent. Now, if you lived in the area and were paying attention you might have noticed that Ms. Dawson and I have fairly different ideologies. In fact, I would argue after listening to the debates and reading our campaign materials, with the exception of one of the two Democrats, she and I differed the most on our vision for the future of Harrisonburg. However, despite these philosophical disagreements, D.D. Dawson always presented herself with class and style, which are unfortunately becoming particularly rare in politics.
Running for public office can be a particularly nasty adventure. Yes, we may have been vying for the same position, but D.D. Dawson and her husband were always friendly throughout our journey on the campaign trail. Unlike some of our opponents, she never attempted to bully or threaten me into dropping out of the race or not entering in the first place nor did she tell lies about the other candidates.
I have two memories from the campaign regarding Ms. Dawson that I’d like to share. The first took place during a candidate forum on 550 AM, WSVA. The station broke us into two groups and mine included D.D. Dawson. Perhaps surprisingly, she had never been on the radio before and was quite nervous about the experience. Nevertheless, I thought that she handled herself quite well and afterward wore an “I survived being on the radio” sticker.
Another incident that stands out in my mind was an event that took place the night before the election. My church was hosting a fundraiser at JMU called Stop Hunger Now and, in an attempt to bring the six candidates together after a contentious campaign, I invited my fellow office seekers to volunteer at this event. One of our opponents was quite excited about the gathering. Two of them neither showed up nor even bothered to respond to the invitation. Another candidate did appear, but primarily used the opportunity to promote his campaign, thus missing the whole purpose of the event. Afterward, I thanked Ms. Dawson for attending and for not campaigning while it was going on. As she told me, she understood why we were there that night and, given that the election was the next day, the results were now in the hands of God. Given her great demeanor and positive attitude throughout the race, I pledged that if Ms. Dawson were elected, I would stop by the Republican Party headquarters to congratulate her in person for her victory, despite how upset it might make the Republican establishment for me to do so.
D.D. Dawson and I disagreed on many issues during the course of the 2014 campaign. However, if citizens were asked to vote on which candidate exhibited the greatest friendliness, poise, and respect as the six of us sought these two job openings, I think the choice would be quite easy. In a little over a month from now I will be leaving the Shenandoah Valley to pursue my doctorate in political science at West Virginia University, but before I go I’d like to say thanks publicly to D.D. Dawson for being both a good person and worthy opponent when we ran for city council.