At 10 p.m. Tuesday night, with 400 Northern Virginia Democratic party faithful packed into Falls Church’s State Theatre, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe took the stage to announce that Virginia had gone for Hillary Clinton in the national presidential election.
It allowed the crowd, sullen as Clinton’s rival Donald Trump began knocking off Democratic stronghold states, to explode, followed by one of McAuliffe’s trademark rousing speeches. “Virginia is the first battleground state to go blue,” he exclaimed, and promised “when the night is over, we will win it all.”
While that promise continued to fade as more results from around the U.S. came in, it was not until 40 minutes later that CNN officially projected Virginia for Clinton and her running mate, Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine.
McAuliffe was joined by Falls Church Native Son Rep. Don Beyer, in an easy reelection, and follow re-elected congressmen Gerry Connolly of Fairfax and Bobby Scott of Norfolk. Not present but elected for the first time that night as another Virginia Democratic congressman was Donald McEachin from Richmond, (U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock in the nearby 10th District won over Democratic challenger LuAnn Bennett, 56 to 42 percent.)
While the City of Falls Church was happy to host a rousing celebration of a statewide win for Clinton at its largest live music venue, it also had its own reasons to take solace in the election, as 85.38 percent of the City’s active registered voters came to its three polling places, joined at the Community Center location by a delegation of observers from the United Nations.
The big news locally was the solid victory for the referendum on library bonds, which passed by a lopsided 66 (4,902 votes) to 34 percent (2,578), such that $8.5 million in revenue bonds will be sold to pay for the long-overdue renovation and expansion of the key community location of the Mary Riley Styles Public Library across the street from the Cherry Hill Park and City Hall.
The rumors circulating around Falls Church indicated that it would be a tough sell for the library bonds, but pro-library commentaries and publicity plus the endorsement of the bonds by the News-Press made it not even close in the final vote. The outcome was considered a mild surprise.
Falls Church Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly told the News-Press of the library vote, “Falls Church voters joined together to strengthen this treasured place and make it accessible to all citizens. It is an exciting time in Falls Church as this is the first of three big capital projects that we hope to be launching in the next few years.” (The other two projects she referred to are the renovation and expansion of City Hall and the George Mason High School.)
City of Falls Church voters aligned with the Virginia majority in the presidential election, but by a much wider margin. Here Clinton notched 5,810 votes for 75 percent, and Trump has only 1,323 votes for 17 percent. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson had 236 votes and Green Party candidate Jill Stein had 70. Conservative independent Evan McMullin had 228 and there were 79 write-ins.
For Congress on the F.C. ballot, Beyer won re-election for the first time with 5,605 votes (73 percent) to his Republican rival Charles Hernick with 1,688 votes and an independent candidate Julio Gracia with 327. Beyer won district wide with 191,569 votes for 67 percent.
Falls Church voters also aligned with the state vote to reject a constitutional amendment calling to make mandatory membership in unions illegal, 53 to 47 percent, and to approve one to permit localities to provide tax relief for the surviving spouses of police and other first responders killed in the line of duty. That passed here, 5,233 votes to 2,220.
On Trump’s win nationally, McAuliffe issued a statement yesterday congratulating Trump saying he “looks forward to working with him.” He said of Clinton that “she based her campaign on a vision for a country of greater equality and opportunity for every single American…No one is tougher, more passionate or more devoted to the American people than she is. I am so proud of her, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and their entire team for the history-making campaign they ran.”
The Falls Church City Republican Committee, now chaired by Matthew Kahn, issued a statement saying, “Congratulations to President-Elect Trump….This is a victory for the United States of America and all its people. While our Presidential ticket didn’t carry Virginia, it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
Jeff Weaver, longtime Falls Church City resident who was campaign manager for Sen. Bernie Sanders, said on CNN yesterday that Clinton had a “lack of understanding of what’s going on with the anger of a declining middle class,” something that Sanders tapped into. His candidate was “a principled opposition in the fight for social and economic justice,” and asserted that if Sanders had been the Democratic nominee against Trump, “He could have won.”
The Falls Church City Democratic Committee chair Tom Devlin, in an email communique to his committee yesterday, wrote, “At least Virginia was a bright spot in a rather bleak evening,” noting there are governor and state legislative races next year. “There was some speculation that Trump winning was even worse for the Republicans than Trump losing. Unless he surprises everyone in his stint in the White House we should be able to make him a one term president.”
According to Dr. Toni Jones, superintendent of the Falls Church City Schools, in a comment to the News-Press yesterday, concern was expressed at the monthly meeting of all the system’s top professionals that it will be a challenge for young people in a community where Clinton won big to grasp mentally and emotionally the impact of her loss nationally.