East Fairfax County Turns Republican
Radically bucking statewide patterns in Tuesday’s election, the City of Falls Church produced near two-to-one margins for Democrats in all the contested races on its ballot, contributing to the solid re-election of incumbent Democratic State Del. Jim Scott.
But it was a different story for the adjacent eastern section of Fairfax County, constituting the 11th Congressional District. Whereas it was firmly Democratic in the presidential election last year, including in the election of U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, this Tuesday it contributed to the election of Republican challenger Barbara Comstock over Democratic incumbent Margi Vanderhye, and provided a strong margin to the victorious Republican statewide slate of governor candidate Bob McDonnell, lieutenant governor candidate Bob Bolling and attorney general candidate Ken Cuccinelli.
Considered a bell weather district in the past decade’s string of Democratic statewide victories, the 11th District sharp voter shift this week was considered due to a unexpectedly steep drop-off in Democratic voters compared to last fall.
With an overall, anticipated drop in the turnout from last year’s presidential race to this year’s from 76 to 39 percent statewide, and the turnout in the 11th down from 78.3 percent to 40.1 percent, Democratic gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Creigh Deeds garnered only 40 percent of voters who went for Obama in the 11th (down from 211,466 to 86,286).
On the other hand, McDonnell landed 68 percent of the voters in the district who voted for the GOP presidential slate of McCain-Palin in 2008 (106,400 compared to 156,000 last year).
Statewide, the drop off for Deeds, compared to McDonnell, was even more dramatic. He lost 58 percent of those who voted for Obama (from 1.9 million to 814,312) while McDonnell was able to win the votes of 1.15 million of the 1.72 million who voted last year for McCain, a drop off of only 32 percent.
11th District Congressman Gerry Connolly, at a morose Democratic campaign gathering in Merrifield following the closing of the polls Tuesday, opined to the News-Press that the Republican sweep was due to a variety of factors.
Among other things, he said, “Putting a distance” between the Virginia Democratic slate and “a popular Democratic president” could have had “an unintended effect of depressing the Democratic base.”
“There is no upside to the blame game,” he added, “And I can’t give you evidence.”
He added that the Republicans were “more disciplined” and “energized their base,” the Democrats “were not successful at sustaining the momentum from last year’s election.” That “complacency” was decisive in the 11th District, which went for President George W. Bush in 2004 before going for Democrats in 2006, 2007 and 2008, he noted.
“Too many Democrats thought their work was done (after 2008). But those who were newly involved in elections last year needed to learn that there are elections in Virginia every year, and that there is no time off.”
“McDonnell also had the luxury of no primary last spring, while Deeds and the other Democrats had primary challenges to consume them through June,” Connolly said.
Other Democrats at the event were not so polite. One intoned, “If you don’t run a campaign, you can’t expect to win.” He said the Deeds campaign reverted to “the losing ways of campaigns before 2000.”
Throughout the campaign, the Democratic slate was never able to come below double figure margins in the polls.
But in Northern Virginia, there was little polling reported in the three area state delegate races in eastern Fairfax County and Falls Church, and the upset by Comstock of Vanderhye, by a slim margin of only 317 votes out of a total of 22,583 votes cast, came as the biggest surprise.
Del. Scott, in the state legislature since 1990 and facing his first GOP challenge since 2001, came away with a firm, but not runaway, margin over challenger Chris Merrola. Scott had 12,514 votes for 60.72 percent to 8,065 votes for Merrola for 39.13 percent.
In the 38th District, Fairfax School Board member Kaye Kory, seeking state delegate office for the first time after upending Del. Bob Hull in the June primary, prevailed over the GOP’s Danny Smith in a district that has always been overwhelmingly Democratic. She had 9,615 votes for 59.49 percent, to 6,501 votes for Smith (40.22 percent).
In another close race, Patricia Reed edged John Jennison in a Providence District race for the Fairfax School Board. Meanwhile, a Fairfax County-wide school bond referendum passed handily with 69.96 percent.
In the City of Falls Church, Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton, Sheriff Steve Bittle and Treasurer Cathy Kaye all won re-election to four year terms in uncontested races.
Democrats Deeds, Jody Wagner for lieutenant governor and Steve Shannon for attorney general all won by nearly identical two-to-one margins in the City. The margins also held, roughly, in each of the City’s five precincts, and in the absentee ballot count.
Overall voter turnout in Falls Church was 50.37 percent, ahead of neighbors Arlington County (39.56 percent) and Fairfax County (40.76 percent), and the statewide turnout (39.86 percent).