Post-Election Thoughts: The Future, and a Bitter Pill
Well, we gave it our best and we lost. For my money, I’m not sure there’s anything much the campaign could have done to make up those 1200 votes. The independent candidates (particularly DeCarlo, who targeted Republicans) didn’t cost the election. The Republican ground game was clearly superior to Sharon’s, and outworked her campaign across the County; Sharon won on by running on her party label and, as Ben said, bringing Braddock District out in force.
Bulova’s distortion of Herrity’s position on Dulles Rail probably hurt, though there’s a limit on how much time a campaign can spend on persuasion and counter-persuasion in a short campaign like this. And as Bwana argues, the amazing result in HD-46 probably hurt as well, particularly with the absentee ballot program. It’s painful that a candidate can run on their party label and offer no agenda or platform to voters, and be rewarded with a leadership position. Regardless of my thoughts, however, Sharon Bulova will now be the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
She ran her campaign asking voters to trust her years on the Board as suitable experience, while taking absolutely no responsibility at all for the obvious problems that currently exist in the budget. While during the campaign she adamantly refused to take a specific position on any issue, hopefully now that she can’t be held responsible for three years, she’ll begin to make public her thoughts on how to address the $650 million shortfall.
The one thing Bulova cannot do, however, is pretend as if business is usual. Only seven more votes were cast for her than against her, as she was running as the status quo incumbent. She has no mandate to operate the County as it has been for the past decade; indeed, there is a strong mandate for at least some change. And if Sharon is truly the “consensus” politician she portrayed herself as, she will follow suit. Pat Herrity offered many good solutions to our fiscal, transportation, and education challenges. I would expect to see them at least partially incorporated into the upcoming agenda.
The Future of the Board of Supervisors
Meanwhile, while Gerry Hyland is probably the safest (and therefore most likely) choice for Vice-Chair, I think Jeff McKay of Lee District is a better choice. McKay is a charismatic voice and has a pragmatic brand of leadership, and unlike Bulova, knows the difference between truly working with the Republican minority on the Board and force-feeding them an 8-2 agenda.
It’s also unlikely that Bulova will remain Chairman of the Board and Budget Chairman at the same time. I don’t have a clue who the favorite is for that post, but if Bulova wants to prove that she is the candidate of consensus, she could reach out to the 49% that voted against her and make the only Supervisor with a business background the new Budget Chairman.
Speaking of Pat Herrity, expect a more visible role on the Board of Supervisors, as he received a large mandate from the voters to continue to play a leading role in shaping County policy. In one day, Herrity went from representing one-ninth of the County to one-half; that’s not minor. With a strong showing, Herrity also put himself as a, if not the, leading elected Republican in Fairfax County.
That leadership will be put to the test in a little less than five weeks, as the race for a new Braddock District Supervisor gets underway. While Braddock turned out big for Bulova, it is arguably the third most-Republican district in Fairfax, and is a great chance for Republicans to increase representation on the Board. John Cook is a great candidate with a great resume, and working Braddock District fervently for the past month for Pat Herrity gives him an excellent jumping off point.
Looking Ahead to November
I’m not sure this changes much for the statewide candidates. Bob McDonnell has already made Northern Virginia a focus of his campaign, and while a victory in Fairfax would provide momentum, a loss (especially one this close) doesn’t hurt him one bit.
As for the local races, Ben has done a service by listing the results by House of Delegate districts. Notably, Herrity carried all three Republican incumbent districts: that of Albo, Hugo, and the Fairfax-portion of Rust. Rusts’s Herndon-based seat is probably the most vulnerable of the three, but Herrity actually carried Herndon #2 and Hutchison in Dranesville and carried 2 of 4 precincts in Hunter Mill (and lost a third by 3 votes).
Even more interesting are the recent Democratic pick-ups in the 34th, 35th, and 67th, with Pat carrying them all. Margi Vanderhye is probably the most vulnerable in this group, with Herrity’s strong performance in North County and the recruitment of Barbara Comstock, who is guaranteed to raise a lot of money. Herrity ended up carrying 75% (12 of 16) of Dranesville precincts in the 34th.
Chuck Caputo has much to fear as well, as Herrity carried all but one Fairfax precinct in the 67th (one more sits in Loudoun County), on his way to carrying all but one precinct (a different one) in the whole of Sully. Jim LeMunyon has been gearing up for a while, and Caputo may not survive a second-straight cycle of being outworked on the ground while resting on his incumbent status.
Finally, the most surprising of those results is Steve Shannon’s district in the 35th, which would surely not be competitive if Shannon were not running for Attorney General. While Shannon’s Vienna-based seat leans Democratic, Herrity provided a gameplan for victory: hold the line in Vienna, run up big totals in the Republican West, and do the best you can elsewhere. Herrity actually won 11 of 18 precincts in the 35th, including two of three in Springfield.
A Bitter Pill to Swallow, with a Silver Lining
Despite losing, there is a lot for Republicans to look forward to based off these results, not the least of which is an active party committee, which sponsored some staffing, the campaign’s AB program, and the $650,000,000 yard signs recently profiled by the FCDC. John Cook’s race will be uphill, but it is doable. McDonnell gained valuable groundwork, while the local House candidates have a chance to put Democrats on defense.
In the meantime, the County is in the hands of Chairman Bulova, who said repeatedly that she has the experience to lead us out of this shortfall. Let’s see what she’s got.