A Small Margin and a Big Win for John Cook in Fairfax County

By VA Blogger

After close calls with Joe Murray and Pat Herrity, the third time’s the charm. John Cook beat Ilryong Moon by 89 votes with 12,000 cast in Braddock. While the 18.6% turnout is down from Braddock’s 22% in the February Chairman’s race, it’s still much higher than anticipated. Most people I talked to figured on 8%-10%, maybe 12% or 15% tops.

Ilryong Moon has officially conceded, and Chairman Sharon Bulova (who preceded Cook in Braddock District, and has a long history of working with him on neighborhood issues) called Cook to offer her help with a seamless transition. This puts to rest any discussion of a potential legal battle over the voting machines in Fairview, or a potential recount. With a 0.6% margin of victory, a recount isn’t automatic, and wouldn’t change the outcome of the election.

Speaking of Fairview, as reported elsewhere, the voting machines did not break and were not “inoperative”, but the printed reports gave the total votes as 707, while the candidate vote totals added up to over 1,100. Election officials decided to send the machines to the Government Center to deal with in the morning, which they spent most of today doing.

After validating from the manually-tabulated registrar’s book that 707 people showed up to vote, a ballot audit from each machine added up to the same amount, giving election officials confidence that the votes could be hand-counted then and there. The hand-counted votes also added up to 707, and showed Cook winning the precinct by 19 votes.

The 19 votes, plus winning two of three provisional ballots, upped Cook’s vote margin to 89 votes. As recent recounts involving electronic voting machines have shown, a recount wouldn’t move the results, especially enough to swing 89 votes. While there was some discussion of legal injunctions and lawsuits over the abnormalities with the Fairview voting machines, I think the certification and confidence of election officials in the open and transparent process today would prove such efforts to simply be an attempt to delay the swearing in of Supervisor-elect John Cook.

What It Means

When Pat Herrity lost the Chairman’s race by 1.2%, I posted on this blog that half of the County voted for a new direction, and that Herrity went from representing one-ninth of the County to one-half of it. First and foremost, Cook’s election puts another Republican on the Board, increasing the representation to three. While Republicans are still in the minority, the added vote helps a lot to generate debate and discussion on issues, even if the seven Democrats are in lock-step with one another.

However, Supervisor Jeff McKay of Lee District has a good working relationship on several issues with Pat Herrity, and Supervisor Jeff Foust of Dranesville has a strong independent streak, meaning that the Herrity-Cook-Frey coalition might even be able to win some fights on the Board. With Ilryong Moon likely to have simply gone along with whatever Sharon Bulova and Gerry Connolly wanted, it also diminishes Boss Connolly’s machine in Fairfax County by denying them another seat.

Special elections are interesting because the low turnout means that an active campaign by even the out-of-power party can make up ground that would be too much to overcome in a higher turnout election. Some people use this as reason to dismiss the results of them, and there is some merit in doing so. Joe Murray came within 16 votes of winning in a district Obama won by 75%. Nonetheless, Delegate Herring is likely to win re-election by a very comfortable margin in November. Alexandria is not suddenly red, or even “purple”,  because of a close special election there.

But special elections also identify where the excitement is. Fairfax Republicans were excited about Pat Herrity, and Braddock Republicans (as well as many Independents and Democrats) were excited about John Cook. And while the turnout isn’t too high, those that turn out are typically the most knowledgeable and involved in local politics. And I would even argue that the higher-than-expected turnout in Braddock makes it more legitimate than special elections in other areas would be. In fact, two precincts in Braddock yesterday voted at a higher rate than Lee District as a whole did in 2007 when Jeff McKay was elected Supervisor. If 28% turnout is enough to make no one question the legitimacy of McKay’s strength in Lee, I think 19% is a solid indication of John Cook’s strength in Braddock.

BTW, Lowell and Scott Surovell, a district that votes for Obama by 57% is not “Republican-leaning” by even the most imaginative stretch.

Candidates Matter

Most of all, what it means is that Republicans can win when we have a strong candidate, and Democrats in Fairfax County aren’t entitled to win based on their party ID alone. It’s frustrating to watch, not as a Republican but as a citizen, a candidacy like that of Gerry Connolly, who couldn’t be found for two entire months of his Congressional campaign, and who let the DCCC wage a cultural war against Keith Fimian while he refused to take positions on many important issues. Sharon Bulova was even worse, spending the entire duration of the ten week campaign for Chairman avoided, at every single turn, saying anything specific about any issue.

Ilryong Moon followed Sharon Bulova’s campaign plan well, doing his best to avoid discussing issues, not giving specific answers, and taking credit for things he was only tangentially responsible for (like, taking the lead on FAIRGRADE, which anyone involved in the discussion will tell you is nonsense). His unwillingness or inability to discuss issues were on display here in the debates, which I covered here. After FCRC Chairman Anthony Bedell posted a letter to the editor in a local paper, Moon put an issues section on his website, but I believe his lack of preparation as a candidate led to the Washington Post endorsing Cook.

Hopefully, Herrity’s near-win and Cook’s victory will lead to Democratic candidates in Fairfax on actually putting on the table their plans for office and their vision of leadership, as Herrity and Cook both did from the very beginning, and at every step along the way of the campaign. Such a discussion, and the debates it would lead to, can only benefit Fairfax voters no matter who wins.

On our side, as long as we have strong candidates like Joe Murray, Pat Herrity, and John Cook (along with delegates like Tom Rust and Tim Hugo, to mention two) that run on issues that people relate to, we will always be in a position to win. Too often, our party is deemed the party of negativity, more interested in saying “No” or stopping ideas than offering solutions to problems. Pat Herrity ran on how our government can provide the services Fairfax residents have come to expect while not raising taxes by prioritizing our spending and expanding our commercial tax base. John Cook ran on a simple message of strengthening neighborhoods and offering responsive government. People responded to these proactive solutions, and the results are evident.

Going Forward

With Moon’s concession, Supervisor-elect John Cook’s swearing-in is likely to take place this week, in time for Cook to join the Board in a Budget Committee meeting on Monday. The timing of the election was a key point throughout the campaign, as the next Braddock Supervisor would join the Board in the middle of the process of determining the final budget that’s currently $650 million short. The Board on Monday voted to advertise a tax rate of $1.05, which would mean an increase in the taxes that homeowners actually pay, something Cook has come out strongly against.

Cook’s election also sets a tone for the upcoming November elections. Because Moon lost, he will remain on the School Board and this is the end of special elections caused by Connolly’s election to Congress in November. Bob McDonnell announced from the very beginning that Fairfax County and Northern Virginia would be a focus of his campaign—indeed, he’s having his campaign kickoff in Fairfax this month—in addition to both Ken Cuccinelli and Dave Foster being from the region and running for Attorney General.

Cook’s election also should be a concern to Delgates David Bulova, Dave Marsden, and Vivian Watts, who all represent a part of Braddock, and a relief to Delegate Dave Albo, who also represents a section of Braddock.

Finally, unless redistricting takes a dramatic turn, John Cook will enter 2011 as the most vulnerable Supervisor; however, the desire for strong constituent service that he was elected on will allow him to shore up votes if he follows through. Meanwhile, with Supervisors Gerry Hyland (Mt. Vernon) and Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill) rumored to not be running for re-election, and Pat Herrity’s wins in Mt. Vernon and Dranesville, Republicans might just be able to pick up two or more seats and take back control of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Such a possibility is a long-shot, but so too was, according to some people, the possibility of a civic association president beating a 10-year veteran of the School Board who spent nearly $200,000 in a month, and we all know how that turned out.


  • KEN REID says:

    Fantastic news! Three GOP Supervisors in Fairfax! We need to work on Loudoun, too!

  • Incredible news! Awesome job by Cook to pull this out, especially against Moon’s huge money advantage, and in Bulova’s old district.

  • I also once again call for Anthony Bedell to take over for the worthless Jeff Frederick at RPV – he (Bedell, of course) has obviously done a great job turning around the FCRC.

  • VA Blogger says:

    Hey, we want to keep Bedell around here for a lot longer than four months!

  • Another Moderate says:

    This is an incredible victory for the Republican Party in Fairfax. The entire Cook campaign team worked very hard to make it happen. Also, the generous help by Pat Herrity in donating men, money and time to this race, plus the road he paved in his own race helped make this victory come to fruition.

    Things are definitely starting to change in Fairfax. As well, with Bedell as Chairman, FCRC is beginning to show a lot of life…there is an energy out there…2009 will show.

  • NovaConservative says:

    I would point out, too, that this was the first Republican to win in a long time that Tom Davis had NOTHING to do with.

    Like him or not, that’s a good thing for the party. Sometimes you just have to move on.

  • FCRC says:

    Excellent analysis on the race. Thank you for the kind words… but the real credit goes to John Cook… his fantastic campaign team… and the hard working members of the FCRC.

    By the way… I like Fairfax just fine.

    Anthony Bedell

  • Wrong says:

    Tom Davis helped more than you can ever possibly think. He headlined a campaign rally for Mr. Cook and provided invaluable amount of advice to the campaign.

  • jotb says:


    that was sarcasm right?

  • […] Republican Victory… in Fairfax County? March 11th, 2009 Word has it that John Cook has won the special election for the Braddock seat on the BOS. This couldn’t come at a better time—We finally have another voice on the Board that will fight […]

  • mike says:

    don’t forget that pat herrity paid for cook’s campaign staff. his commitment to john’s campaign was above and beyond.

    john ran a solid campaign and was a good candidate. he will be a great supervisor.

  • Anonymous says:

    Cook deserves a huge amount of credit for this win. Pat Herrity, however, leaves no doubt now with this one that he is the new leader of the Republican Party in Northern Virginia.

  • novamiddleman says:

    Pat Herrity is the key

    He is able to attract the Cooch and the Davis supporters and get them to actually work together. Imagine that. That is what was killing us before.

  • Chris says:

    NVM, you are exactly right and that is why Pat is the man. You know, I would really like to see him give Connolly a run in 2010. He is a real unifying force.

  • GOP4Ever says:

    @ Va Blogger

    I Agree! Anthony will be at FCRC’s helm for a while. That was sole request when he earned my endorsement.

  • KEN REID says:

    I’d love to see Randy Minchew be RPV Chairman, but I don’t think he wishes to move to Richmond. But Anthony Bedell must be doing something right in Fairfax, and Glen Caroline is doing great work with the LCRC.

  • FCRC says:

    I said NO WAY!


  • NovaConservative says:

    Yeah, yeah, silly me, this was all Tom Davis.

    Please. I’m not dissing the guy, but seriously–others have stepped up. That’s a good thing.

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