F.C. Election: Women Now In Charge

WINNING RE-ELECTION, Falls Church Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly and Council member Debbie Schantz-Hiscott fist-bump at a post-election celebration at Clare and Don’s Tuesday night, while successful School Board candidates Tate Gould (left) and Kathleen Tysse (second from right) look on. (News-Press photo)

For the first time in City of Falls Church history, women will constitute majorities on both publicly elected bodies, its City Council and School Board, when the swearing in of all those newly elected in this Tuesday’s election occurs in January.

Three women were elected to the City Council Tuesday, including incumbent vice mayor Marybeth Connelly, incumbent Debbie Shantz-Hiscott and newcomer Caroline Lian, along with long-time incumbent David Snyder, who has been on the Council since 1995. Two women were among the four elected to the School Board Tuesday, being first time candidates Lori Silverman and Kathleen Tysse, chosen along with Tate Gould and David Ortiz.

This was an election that was particularly foreboding given the national, regional and local climate. It involved coping with the consequences a year and a half of the Covid-19 pandemic and its requirements for difficult virtual learning, the rekindled national civil rights struggle that called for the controversial renaming of two Falls Church public schools, both in the context of a redoubled GOP national campaign to target local school board races with disruptive tactics.
Two members of the Falls Church School Board resigned and not a single incumbent was among the seven candidates vying for four of the seven seats on the School Board.

The circumstances were ripe for the emergence of multiple candidates hostile to the current board, eager to get elected to bring their anger into official school policy making. One played a role in the appearance of yard signs calling for the entire existing board to get the boot. Another appealed to a national backing for an assault on perceived errors and shortcomings of the board and its superintendent, Dr. Peter Noonan.

Meanwhile, in neighboring jurisdictions, angry parents protesting at School Board meetings led to the forced closing of those meetings.

Despite these horribly difficult conditions, all the candidates elected to the School Board, all for the first time, were the four the News-Press determined to be the most constructive and responsibly dedicated to the City’s world class school system. The four won by sizable margins for the Little City, with more than 1,000 votes separating them from those who lost.

Winning were (in order of the highest vote totals and with vote totals in parentheses) Lori Silverman (3,700 votes), Kathleen Tysse (3,666), Tate Gould (3,425) and David Ortiz (3,391). Losing were Jerrod Anderson (2,271), Ilya Shapiro (2,046) and Courtney Mooney (1,575).

For the City Council, the winners were incumbent Marybeth Connelly (4,303 votes), incumbent Debbie Schantz-Hiscott (4,248), incumbent David Snyder (3,967) and newcomer Caroline Lian (3,641). The losers were Stuart Whittaker (1,885) and Scott Diaz (1,581).

The results in both races were consistent across all three of the City’s polling locations, advanced voting and mail-in voting totals. As a percentage of total eligible voters in the City, the turnout of 6,993 voters was 69.46 percent of total active voters, a very high percentage of a non-presidential election.

Falls Church’s Registrar of Voters David Bjerke told the News-Press that the election was very orderly here, noting the high turnout here was matched elsewhere in the state. It was so high, he said, that in six jurisdictions, they ran out of ballots and had to scramble to print more.

In the statewide races in Falls Church, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, although losing statewide to Republican Glenn Youngkin, won by a whopping margin of 5,352 to 1,581.

Similarly, Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General won handily in Falls Church, even while results were different for the whole state. Del. Hala Ayala won in F.C. for lieutenant governor, 5,376 to 1,531 for Winsome Sears, and Incumbent Mark Herring won in F.C. over Jason Miyares, 5,367 to 1,534 for attorney general.

House of Delegates’ 53rd District incumbent Marcus Simon won reelection handily, and in F.C. by a margin of 5,290 to 1,578 over GOP challenger Sara White.

Falls Church’s three constitutional officers, all running unopposed for new four-year terms, won, including Treasurer Jody Acosta (5,923 votes), Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton (5,888) and Sheriff Matt Cay (5,542).

U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., who represents the 8th District of Falls Church that includes the City of Falls Church, issued a statement following the election Tuesday where he said, “I congratulate Gov.-Elect Youngkin on his victory. He will be Virginia’s next governor and while he and I have many disagreements, we both want what is best for the Commonwealth. I look forward to working with him in areas where we have common ground to continue Gov. Northam’s strong record of progress, though I will always defend my constituents’ values.”

He added, “I also congratulate Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares, who have made history as the first Black woman and the first Hispanic elected statewide in Virginia…I thank former Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his leadership and service to the Commonwealth and for his tireless efforts to make Virginia a better place. I also thank candidates across Virginia for local offices and for the House of Delegates for their work to make our communities stronger.”

Re-elected veteran F.C. City Councilman David Snyder submitted a statement to the News-Press that read, “Elections are truly community-wide events in Falls Church. It is comparatively easy to become a candidate and hundreds of volunteer citizens and organizations are involved in running the elections, planning the debates and working on campaigns. This year was no different and I am extremely grateful to all candidates, volunteers, civic organizations and the News-Press for bringing solid information to the public.”