November 7, 2007
Most of the close Senate races went the Democrats way, so they will control the Virginia Senate when the General Assembly opens in January. Governor Kaine will no doubt claim credit for securing a 21-19 majority, and perhaps some of that is justified. In the 1st District (Tidewater), Tricia Stall lost to John Miller after ousting incumbent (and alleged "RINO") Martin Williams in the June primaries, while in the 22nd District (Highlands/New River) Ralph Smith won a narrow victory after defeating Brandon Bell ("RINO") in the primary. Another "RINO," Walter Stosch, likewise had to overcome a stiff primary battle but faced no serious opposition in the general election. It was no surprise that Jeannemarie Devolites Davis lost her bid for reelection, even though her husband Rep. Thomas Davis spent hundreds of thousands of his own campaign money on her behalf, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed her, a very unusual gesture of out-of-state support. In spite of much criticism and legal controversy surrounding the primary campaign, Jill Holtzman Vogel (27th District: Winchester, Loudoun) won the seat that has been held by retiring Sen. Russ Potts, an undisputed "RINO." The real surprises that ended up tipping the balance were in the 6th District (Tidewater), where Ralph Northam defeated Nick Rerras, and in the 39th District (N. Virginia), where George Barker defeated Jay O'Brien; both losing candidates were incumbent Republicans. See Washington Post.
One of the biggest exceptions to the adverse (to the Republicans) statewide trend was right here in the Shenandoah Valley. Emmett Hanger won in a landslide, receiving nearly two-thirds of the vote against two opponents, even after surviving a challenge from Scott Sayre in the June primary. I had expected Hanger to get about 45% of the vote, figuring that the Democrats would be working hard to get their voters to the polls, and that Arin Sime would attract votes from many of those who voted for Sayre in the primaries. I was clearly wrong on both counts: The Democrats were conspicuous by their absence on Election Day, and Sime just couldn't get many voters to switch party allegiance. Whether that says more about the respect and affection most voters have for Emmett Hanger, or about the degree of party loyalty in the 24th senate district, remains to be seen. But it clearly shows that Hanger has strong enough backing among his own constituents to qualify as a leader in Richmond. It's just too bad that the Republicans lost their senate majority, thereby depriving Sen. Hanger of his committee chairmanships.
In Prince William County, board chairman Corey Stewart (GOP) defeated Sharon Pandak by a 55%-45% margin, a vindication for his strong stand against illegal immigration. That election result is heartening for me, but I just hope that Stewart and his colleagues keep focused on implementing policy issues and try to avoid getting emotions stirred up.
In local races around this area, Republicans did fairly well overall. Of the four contested seats on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, Republicans won two: In North River, incumbent Larry Howdyshell narrowly withstood a challenge by Charles Curry, while in Beverley Manor, novice Jeremy Shifflett prevailed over Lee Godfrey by 16 votes. Republican incumbent David Beyeler of South River ran unopposed, as did Gerald Garber of Middle River. He will replace Kay Frye in that seat. Mrs. Frye, a conservation-minded Republican, surprised some people by writing a letter endorsing her party's opponents in each of the four contested seats. That was primarily motivated by her displeasure over the way the "mega-site" study was handled by the Board last year.
There was no drama among the races for constitutional offices in Augusta County, as only one of the four GOP incumbents faced real opposition. Ed Carter had placed several newspaper ads criticizing Sheriff Randy Fisher, but he only receieved 222 write-in votes, about 2%.
For me, it was a pleasure helping out with the county elected officials and new candidates during this fall's campaign. After the hard battles earlier this year, the party needs to rebuild communications among members in various jurisdictions, concentrating first and foremost on getting Republicans elected. I intend to post the election results on the Augusta Republicans Web site in the next day or two.