65-Vote Edge Ousts 17-Year Vet Delegate
Democratic primary voters in the 38th State Assembly District chose change over 17 years of legislative seniority Tuesday, handing Fairfax School Board member Kaye Kory a narrow 65-vote margin for a startling upset victory over incumbent Bob Hull.
The result was overshadowed by the solid statewide victories of State Sen. Creigh Deeds and Jody Wagner to become the Democratic nominees for governor and lieutenant governor. Deeds’ clear margin over rivals Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran, winning with 49.77 percent of the vote statewide, was mirrored in Fairfax County, where he received a nearly-identical 49 percent.
Kory, who has served on the Fairfax County School Board since 1999 as its representative from the Mason District, gained her majority over Hull from key Mason precincts around her Lake Barcroft home, and in Sleepy Hollow. Five of the 38th District’s 20 precincts in that area provided Kory with a 663 vote margin.
While the overall tally had Kory with 2,535 votes to 2,470 for Hull, in the five Lake Barcroft, Sleepy Hollow area precincts, Kory won 1,215 votes to Hull’s 552.
By contrast, in the other 15 precincts, Hull amassed 1,918 votes to 1,320 for Kory, a margin of 598 votes. At the “upper” end of the district closest to the City of Falls Church, Hull won even more handily in the Greenway (203-48), Willston (142-34), Graham (110-28) and Westlawn (101-25) precincts.
But despite the overall margin of only 65 votes, there will be no recount or challenge by Hull. Recounts are allowed only if the margin is less than one percent, and this margin was 1.29 percent.
In a brief comment to the News-Press yesterday, Kory beamed, “As we all expected, it was a very close race and, of course, I am very pleased.” She added, “I’m already in the process of reaching out to my future allies to get a jump-start on making a difference for my community.”
Hull issued a written statement to the News-Press, saying, “It has been an honor and a privilege for me to have represented the people of the 38th District for the past 17 years. I appreciate all of the support that my constituents have shown me through nine prior elections. Although I came up short in Tuesday’s close primary challenge, I am buoyed by the fact that I received a majority of votes in most of the communities in the district.”
Hull noted, “I have always felt close to this district because I have lived in or adjacent to it my entire life. My first governmental service began in 1974 as an appointed member of the Fairfax County Tree Commission.”
While Hull will remain in office until the winner of the November general election is sworn in next January, Tuesday’s outcome marked an abrupt end to his virtually unchallenged 17-year run as the delegate from the 38th District, which until re-districting in 2001 included the City of Falls Church.
Winning a “firehouse primary” in 1992 following the election of Leslie Byrne to Congress, Hull faced no challenges from within his own party until this year, and only nominal, if any, opposition from Republicans in eight subsequent elections.
Observers noted that Hull got started late running his re-election campaign, perhaps due to his unfamiliarity with facing a serious challenge, while Kory started early and worked hard.
A relatively-high voter turnout in the district was also a factor. Whereas in Fairfax County as a whole, the turnout of all registered voters was 8.8 percent, in the 38th District, it was 12 percent. It was an “open” primary, meaning that, despite the fact it was a Democratic primary, Republicans could also vote if they wished to.
Indeed, one observer at a precinct in Sleepy Hollow reported witnessing numerous voters whose vehicles sported pro-Republican bumper stickers.
The Republican Party could see the outcome as an opportunity to pick up a seat in the state assembly, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross cautioned, in comments to the News-Press yesterday. She said that in congratulating Kory yesterday morning, she told her that she will have to work very hard to win in November.
The GOP candidate in the November election is announced as Danny Smith, an unsuccessful challenger against Hull earlier this decade. There is speculation, however, that with Hull’s defeat, the Republicans might defer to someone considered to have a greater chance of winning in November with a concerted effort.
Gross commented to the News-Press that she “wouldn’t be surprised” if something like that occurred, underscoring her concern that a strong effort now be launched to keep the seat in Democratic control.
In the City of Falls Church, voters had choices only in the gubernatorial and lieutenant governor races. For governor, Deeds won in the City with 718 votes, or 46.9 percent, followed by Moran with 607 votes (39.7 percent), and McAuliffe with 205 votes (13.4 percent). For lieutenant governor, Wagner won with 1,118 votes for a lopsided 81.9 percent over Michael Signer. Deeds won in four out of five of Falls Church’s precincts, with Moran winning in the Ward 5 and absentee votes.
The City’s turnout of 18.5 percent was, as usual, among the highest in the state, where the total statewide turnout was only 6.4 percent.
In two other hotly contested state delegate races in the region, Patrick Hope won the Democratic primary in the 47th District of Arlington with almost twice the total of his next-closest challenge in the five-way race, and Mark Keam won in the 35th District race in Fairfax with three-times the votes of his next-closest challenger in a four-way race.
In his concession statement, Hull added, “In my years of service, I have fought to protect the civil rights, human rights, reproductive rights, and civil liberties of all the people, and I have always been sensitive to how a government action might adversely affect the average person. I will not abandon the causes that the people of the 38th District hold dear, and the one that we have fought for together. Now, I must find a way to do so as a private citizen.”