“I am going to run like the devil is at my heels,” Fairfax County Board Chair Gerry Connolly told the News-Press yesterday following a convincing victory in the 11th District Democratic Primary for U.S. Congress.
“I am going to take this very seriously,” Connolly said of his up-coming run to the general election in November, when he hopes to turn the 11th District from “red” to “blue.” The seat, held comfortably by Republican Tom Davis since 1994, is viewed as one of the most likely in the U.S. to switch to Democratic control this fall.
Connolly’s decisive victory Tuesday over Former U.S. Rep. Leslie Byrne and two others continued a winning streak he hopes to extend come November. “Maybe it’s because I take every election so seriously that I have now won six straight, and have never been defeated,” Connolly told the News-Press.
Many considered Connolly’s lopsided margin of 58% to 33% for Byrne a surprise, while in other area races, there were no surprises. In Democratic primaries Rep. Jim Moran won with 87% over Matthew Famiglietti in the 8th District and Judy Feder won with 62% over Mike Turner in the 10th District. Coming in behind Connolly and Byrne in the 11th District were Doug Denneny with 6% and Lori Alexander with 3%.
In Republican primaries, Mark Ellmore defeated Amit Singh with 56% of the vote, and Incumbent Frank Wolf had 91% against Vern McKinley. There was no GOP primary in the 11th District, as businessman Keith Fimian, endorsed by Rep. Davis, is the only announced candidate for November.
Low voter turnout characterized all the races, below 3% of registered voters in many Fairfax precincts. The turnout average in the 8th District was 3.2% for Democrats and 1.3% for Republicans, and in the City of Falls Church, it was 5% for Democrats and 1.9% for Republicans.
The 11th District runs south and west of Falls Church in Fairfax and Prince William Counties, encompassing the Mason District, Annandale, Oakton, Fairfax City, Mount Vernon, Lorton, Occoquan and Woodbridge, Clifton, Burke, Nokesville and all the way west to Gainesville.
Of his November GOP opponent, Connolly could say little in comments to the News-Press yesterday. “I’ve been politically active in this area for 30 years,” he said. “Before this election cycle, I’d never met him or heard of him. All I know is that he has a lot of his own money to put into the race. He’s a multi-millionaire.”
Connolly said that the Iraq War, including all the issues attending it such as how the money being spent there could be better utilized in rebuilding infrastructure at home, will be his top issue in the race. It will be followed closely by health care, the national economy, especially the “spiraling cost of energy,” and the environment, he said.
He said that “market manipulation” of the price of oil warrants an immediate investigation. “It’s hard to believe that supply issues account for a sudden $70 a barrel jump in the price of oil. It stretches credulity,” he remarked.
But he said that reducing demand by investing in new technologies for more efficient machines, including autos, is key, along with research and development of alternative fuels. Finding ways to significantly increase battery storage capacity will do a lot to make solar energy more practical, cheaper and available, he noted.
While saying he’s reluctant to think beyond the November election at this stage, he said that if elected he’d like to sit on the House Reform and Oversight Committee as Rep. Davis does now, along with Transportation, Energy and Conservation and Foreign Affairs committees.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine was swift to offer his congratulations to Connolly, whom he’d endorsed, Tuesday night. “Gerry is a tireless public servant and I know he will bring the same passion and commitment to Congress that he’s brought to Fairfax County,” Kaine said.
Kaine also commended Byrne for “running a rigorous campaign and for her commitment to public service,” adding, “Throughout her career, Leslie has worked hard on behalf of Virginia’s families, and I know she will continue this fight.”
The Virginia State Democratic Committee, which is holding its State Convention in Norfolk this weekend, also announced that “for the first time in years,” Democratic candidates will be fielded in each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.
The list includes Keith Hummel (1st), Glenn Nye (2nd), Rep. Bobby Scott (3rd), Andrea Miller (4th), Tom Perriello (5th), Sam Rasoul (6th), Anita Hartke (7th), Rep. Jim Moran (8th), Rep. Rick Boucher (9th), Judy Feder (10th) and Hon. Gerry Connolly (11th).