At 7 p.m. Tuesday, as the polls closed on one of the most contentious elections in the history of the City of Falls Church, the historic bell of the Falls Church Episcopal in the City’s center pealed with a ring of destiny. Exactly two hours later, when the results of the election were finally confirmed, the bell rang out again as if in solemn approval as those candidates who stood for moving the City forward, and not grinding it to a standstill, won all three seats on the City Council and all three seats on the School Board.
With 41.9 percent of registered voters casting ballots, incumbents Mayor David Tarter and Phil Duncan, and energetic newcomer Letty Hardi won the three Council seats, defeating two former Council members, Johannah Barry and Sam Mabry, both of whom had called for a moratorium on development in the City.
In the School Board race, incumbent chair Justin Castillo won along with newcomers Erin Gill and Philip Reitinger, while a candidate involved in taking legal action against the School Board, Becky Smerdon, came in sixth place, among eight candidates total.
Tarter was the top vote getter in the Council race with 1,636 votes, followed by Hardi with 1,486 votes. In the School Board race, Gill, like Hardi a young parent with three children in the school system, was the top vote getter with 1,318 votes among the eight total candidates on the ballot.
Tarter e-mailed the News-Press after the election, “I am deeply honored by the trust and support shown me by my fellow citizens in re-electing me. While this has been a contentious and hard-fought campaign, I am confident that we can move forward together to make our great City even better. Falls Church is on the right path, but much more work needs to be done. I look forward to the challenges ahead. I am confident that we have a bright future.”
Tarter was present at a party at Mad Fox Brewing Company after the polls closed and the ballot results were announced, joining Hardi and Gill, who called the party, Duncan and a large noisy contingent of celebrants and well-wishers.
Hardi was present with her husband, Lucas, a lifelong F.C. resident and George Mason High School graduate (Class of 1996) and their three young sons. She told the News-Press that she was pleased that she was able to remain focused to carry forward the main issues of the campaign, and will now continue that to move the City forward as a member of the City Council.
They were due to head out to the West Coast yesterday morning for a brief break to attend a video game release party in conjunction with Lucas’ work.
School Board member John Lawrence texted about the election Tuesday night, “After a long campaign with unprecedented bitterness, cruel personal attacks, and vicious mudslinging, Falls Church showed that it wants optimism about the future, not anger about the past.”
In other momentous electoral results around Falls Church Tuesday night, Democratic State Del. Kathleen Murphy was re-elected to a full term (following election to fill a vacated term in January) in the 34th District (McLean), and Democrat incumbent John Foust edged out a re-election victory over Republican Jennifer Chronis by a 54-to-46 percent margin for the McLean-based Dranesville District seat in Fairfax County.
Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross, also a Democrat, was re-elected to a sixth four-year term with a victory over Mollie Loeffler, 57 to 42 percent. In the 38th State Delegate district, incumbent Democrat Kaye Kory won with 75 percent of the vote over Independent Green James Leslie.
While Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth ran unopposed for the Providence School Board seat, Dalia Palchik upset incumbent Patty Reed. That race gained a high regional profile because of Reed’s reluctance to extend full rights to transgender students in the Fairfax School system, and she became a target for defeat by the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, among other groups.
“Despite strong Republican headwinds that held off a Democratic takeover of the State Senate elsewhere in the Commonwealth, Fairfax Democrats scored wins at every level in Fairfax County in the election,” reported Sue Langley, chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
Democrats swept the seats on the Alexandria City Council, and Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol won seats on the Arlington County Board.
In comments to the News-Press following Tuesday’s election in Falls Church, former Council member David Chavern opined, “Falls Church voters are nothing if not consistent. They have communicated again and again a firm, ongoing view on both development and schools that is very hard to deny….People who win tend to have a positive vision of the City that a broader public can understand and connect with….A big part of the electorate is made up of newer residents who generally like the status quo. They are less emotionally attached to what currently exists in our commercial zones, a good chunk of which is pretty run down, so the potential for change isn’t so bothersome….When they look at the ‘new Harris Teeter,’ they don’t necessarily see the ‘old Anthony’s restaurant.’”
Also on the Falls Church ballot Tuesday, State Sen. Dick Saslaw won 1,701 votes to Independent Green candidate Terry Modglin’s 499 and won re-election overall handily.
On the ballot without opposition were State Del. Marcus Simon, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo K. Stamos.