It was by a slim margin of 324 votes, but in a district that has been Republican for all but one two-year hiatus in decades, a win is a win for a Democrat there. That’s what Kathleen Murphy laid claim to Tuesday night, turning one Virginia State Delegate district “blue.” It happened in the 34th, which abuts the City of Falls Church in McLean and runs all the way deep into Loudoun County.
Combined with an easy win in the 63rd District in Petersburg, Democrats are taking Tuesday’s two electoral victories (Murphy’s qualifying as an upset) as a sign, a harbinger of good things to come in 2015 and beyond.
After last November’s thumping, Democrats were looking for any indicators that they could be on their way back, and nothing was better balm for them than Murphy’s hard-fought victory on Tuesday to fill the seat vacated by new U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock after her win in November.
“These two important wins are signs that voters in Virginia are ready for real change in Richmond. They’re ready to move Virginia forward,” crowed Del. David Toscano, the State House Democratic leader, in a statement he released late Tuesday.
Area Democratic leaders who were able to negotiate the season’s first real snow, piled into the McLean Community Center Tuesday night to celebrate Murphy’s victory. The outcome was sealed just over an hour after the polls closed when results from the State Board of Elections showed her with a 400 vote margin and only one of the district’s 55 precincts yet to report in.
State Delegates Marcus Simon (who represents Falls Church City), Alphonso Lopez and Mark Sickles were among those on hand, along with Fairfax Supervisor John Foust. They were elated over the win and said it energized them for the new legislative session in Richmond to begin next Monday.
Murphy amassed 6,406 votes to 6,082 for Republican Craig Parisot in the district that the Republican-controlled legislature had gerrymandered in 2011 to tilt more heavily Republican.
Murphy is attributed with winning it with her personal energy, also exhibited in her near loss to Comstock a year earlier. But she told the News-Press Tuesday night that she and her legions of volunteers who knocked on door and made phone calls found prospective voters more concerned than last time about the right wing extremism taking over in Richmond.
A paid staffer for the Murphy campaign said he was unsure how it would go at first (it was only a seven-week campaign) but started believing Murphy really had a shot with about three weeks to go. “The money, the volunteers, the support that began to escalate at that point convinced me,” he said.
While some Republicans attributed their man’s loss to the bad weather holding down the turnout Tuesday, Foust disagreed. He said that on snow days, a lot of people who drive into the District to work stay home, and have nothing better to do than to venture out to vote.
Foust will be seeking re-election this November after losing the congressional race to Comstock last November.
Last Sunday, the tone for the Tuesday election and the upcoming Richmond legislative session was set at the Fairfax County Democratic Committee “Road to Richmond” brunch that has become an annual sell-out event.
Rep. Donald S. Beyer, Jr., preparing to be sworn in at the Capitol on Tuesday, was the first speaker, saying his two points were that “karma exists, hard work conquers all,” and “who wins matters,” with “life and death issues” on access to health care and other matters at stake.
Rep. Gerry Connolly followed, saying that for the Republican right, “ideology trumps all,” and as such, defines “why our cause matters.”
With State Senate Democrats’ leader Sen. Richard Saslaw still in Hawaii with his family, Sen. Janet Howell said their delegation will be fighting “cruelty and irresponsibility” in Richmond, while State House caucus chair Del. Scott Surovell said the importance of Murphy’s victory lie in adding more women to the legislature to fight some of the anti-women bills that Republicans will be advancing.
Fairfax County Board chair Sharon Bulova noted that with the national ascendance of the GOP, Democrats in Northern Virginia “held.” “We did our job,” she said, noting that in 2015, every House of Delegates seat, every Fairfax Supervisor and School Board and constitutional officer seat will be up for election.
“Education has to be our top priority against the projected state revenue shortfall,” she said.