Citizens will cast votes in a special election on Tuesday for the Culpeper County Circuit Court clerk.
The candidates are Marshall Keene and Carson Beard. The winner will fill the three-plus years remaining on retired Clerk Janice Corbin’s term.
Keene chairs the local Republican committee and school board. He is also a sheriff’s office investigator and private business owner. Beard is the interim clerk and has worked in the clerk’s office since graduating from James Madison University in 2014 with a justice studies degree.
Keene said “it’s a very important position in our community” and “I think it’s important that the people in our community know who their clerk is and that the clerk is accessible.”
“It’s important because our community interacts with that office more than any other constitutional office in our community in so many different aspects and I think I bring that leadership and that experience to that office,” he said.
Beard said “I know how to do it and that’s what I’ve been doing for over six years.”
“I want to continue to serve the community that has served myself and my family for many, many years. I just really love doing the job,” he said. “I love learning something new almost every day. It’s interesting, it’s exciting and I just really, thoroughly enjoy it.”
Beard said his primary goal is improving the office’s technology with e-filing, e-recording and online payments.
“It just makes it easier for those who wish to do that and not have to come to the office,” Beard said. “I’ve already started, I’ve gotten a survey done by a company to do some back scanning for us to get some of our records on the computer. Again, I know how to do this and I am prepared to do it.”
Keene said he would defend the Second Amendment and be fiscally responsible while improving working relationships between the clerk and law enforcement.
He noted that modernization through e-filing is key and he would apply for grants to update technology. Keene added that he wants to build and foster a relationship with the public.
While Beard says he did not want an endorsement from political parties, he is proud to be endorsed by Corbin.
“She has fully endorsed me and has fully been behind me and she was a fantastic clerk, a fantastic boss and I am so appreciative of her support and endorsement. I am really thankful that I came in the office under her. It was a delight and a pleasure to work under her,” Beard said.
In addition to the local Republican committee’s endorsement, Keene is endorsed by Del. Nick Freitas, Virginia Sen. Bryce Reeves, Virginia Republican Chairman Rich Anderson, Attorney General candidate Chuck Smith and gubernatorial candidates Pete Snyder, Glenn Youngkin and Amanda Chase. Over the weekend, the local GOP committee posted Facebook videos with some of those individuals endorsing Keene.
The state code requires that the vacant clerk’s seat be filled “promptly” and the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors requested a special election in March instead of in conjunction with the November general election. County Attorney Bobbi Jo Alexis advised that either month was suitable.
Keene said he is happy with the March date, as that is the promptest way to fill the seat. He said the clerk should be elected by the people and not chosen by “kingmakers.”
“It would not be fair to the citizens of Culpeper County to have somebody sit in that office for almost an entire year without being chosen by the people,” Keene said.
Strictly from the perspective of a taxpayer, Beard said the November date would be preferable as it would save the county a considerable amount of money.
“With all budgets being tight, I would have obviously preferred it for that reason just being a taxpayer myself,” Beard said. “It just seems like it easily could have been in November and could have saved the county a rather large sum of money.”
Keene is endorsed by the local Republican Committee and has made it clear that he values the party’s core beliefs. Beard is running as an independent and says there is no room for partisanship in the clerk’s office.
“I want no part of the political fray that can occur, is occurring – I don’t want any part of that,” Beard said. “I am an independent. I strictly want to work for everybody and have no party affiliation whatsoever.”
Keene counters that any elected position is political.
“If they don’t like it being an elected position or a partisan position then they need to lobby and change legislation,’” Keene said.
Beard said there is zero room for politics in the office.
“You cannot bring politics into that office because you have to follow the Code of Virginia and the court. There should be no room for politics whatsoever. You have to follow the law as it is,” Beard said.
While Beard has been staunch in that stance, Keene emphasized that his opponent “is the Culpeper Democrat Committee’s chosen candidate.” Keene pointed to the local Democratic committee’s meeting minutes. For example, the Jan. 26 minutes state: “Direct mailing – Ed reported on the mailing for support Carson Beard. Ed and Sharon have created a list of 8,294 voters living at 5,768 addresses. Cost of the mailing is approx. $3500. So far folks have pledged or paid $3,745. Excess will go toward future mailings in the build up to November. The letter will have information about why we believe Carson Beard is the most qualified candidate.”
Democratic Committee Chairman Jim Restel explained that “we did send out the letter to folks on our mailing list saying ‘we looked at the candidates and we support Carson.’” Restel noted that the letter was drafted and sent independently of Beard’s campaign team.
“We support him, definitely we support him, but he declined all of our help and we have a lot of our members and other citizens out there helping out on Carson’s campaign,” Restel said.
Regarding the letter, Beard said “I’m happy to have all the support.”
“I would never, and I don’t think anybody would turn away support…Again, as I’ve stated, I did not want to be a part of that letter…but they were going to send it out anyway and that’s fine. I appreciate the support,” Beard said. “The Republican Committee could have done the same thing…and I would have appreciated that support as well.”
Beard said “I cannot control what anybody does” and “I can only control what I do, and that is trying to be in the job and serve everybody.”
Also at that January meeting, Keene pointed out that the minutes state: “Ed Dunphy introduced Brandon Thurner from the Fairfax County Providence District Democrats…they are committed to help CCDC and others in red parts of the state. In 2018 they canvassed for Abigail Spanberger…In 2019 they canvassed for Amy Laufer in her bid to unseat Bryce Reeves…In 2020 the phone banked for Abigail Spanberger. PD wanted to learn more about the Special Election for Clerk of the Court and are hopeful that they can find volunteers to assist us in phone banking for Carson Beard in March.”
Restel said that Beard’s campaign was initially the first “target” of that Fairfax committee, but “Carson basically declined all of our help.” Restel added that the Fairfax committee had “nothing to do with Carson’s campaign” but is helping the Democratic committee organize its resources for upcoming state elections. Any claims otherwise, he said, are inaccurate. He also emphasized that the local Democratic committee has never endorsed Beard or donated to his campaign. Spending money on a mailer, he said, is not a campaign donation.
In the online videos posted by the local GOP committee, gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder and Del. Nick Freitas question the Fairfax committee’s involvement.
“The Democrats are trying to take this one from us. They’re spending thousands and bringing in dollars and activists from Northern Virginia to try to take this one,” Snyder said.
Keene notes that minutes from the Democrat’s Feb. 23 meeting states: “Member announcements 1. Friends of Carson Beard – Request was made for volunteers to phone bank for Friends of Carson Beard.”
During every meeting, Restel said members can make announcements. In this instance, he said one member informed the committee that “I’m doing this on the side, does anybody want to help out?”
Restel noted that the Democratic committee has supported conservative candidates. At the end of the day, he said the committee abides by the motto of “we support candidates, not causes.”
Keene has vehemently supported the Second Amendment and says he would offer a free concealed carry permit class through the clerk’s office to lower costs of obtaining concealed carry permits.
“If you dive deep into some of the responsibilities of the clerk, concealed carry is a big one…So I’m a big Second Amendment guy, I believe in protecting our Second Amendment and if I have the means available to make it easier for citizens to obtain a concealed carry permit….then I think that’s an excellent opportunity for the clerk’s office to be able to do that,” Keene said.
Beard asked: “Is he being the clerk or is he being a firearm safety instructor?” Of the 800-plus duties of the clerk, he said “being a firearm safety instructor is not one of them.”
“You are elected to do the duties that are prescribed to you and I just think getting into that is a whole other realm and I am unaware of any other clerk that does that in the state,” Beard said.
Beard said he is thankful for everyone’s support and is happy and fortunate to live in Culpeper.
“It’s been very humbling and I’m excited for March 30 and I hope I can continue to be clerk and continue to work for the community that has done so much for myself and my family,” he said. “That’s really the main point I want to stress from this election. I am truly humbled by all of the support and it means the world to me.”
Keene said “you know who Marshall Keene is, you know where I stand, you know what my core beliefs are politically.”
“You may not like what I say but you know where I’m coming from. I’m the candidate that everybody knows. I find it disingenuous that the Culpeper Democrats and my opponent seem to think I’m unqualified just because I’m a Republican,” Keene said.
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