After enduring a long, often heated election cycle, Americans woke up on Wednesday to survey the aftermath of an Election Day that stunned many commentators and galvanized Republican Party leaders, as the GOP took control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Republican nominee Donald Trump, a reality television star and real estate businessman, became the president-elect after defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with 279 electoral votes to his female challenger’s 228 votes.
By sweeping nearly the entire South and Midwest, Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote, where the two primary party candidates were separated by a mere 0.2 percent, according to the reported numbers as of late Wednesday afternoon.
“We will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream,” Trump said in a 3:00 a.m. victory speech to supporters in New York City. “I’ve spent my entire life and business looking at the untapped potential in projects and people all over the world. That is now what I want to do for our country.”
Trump announced during his speech that Clinton had called to congratulate him. The former Secretary of State gave a concession speech around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Virginia initially appeared to be in position to play a pivotal role in the presidential election as preliminary results rolled in Tuesday night.
Though Trump initially led the state, Clinton started to make gains around 9:00 p.m. as more precincts, particularly ones in Northern Virginia, started to report results. The Democratic nominee pulled ahead around 9:45 p.m., and The Associated Press called the state for her around 10:40 p.m.
According to the Virginia Department of Elections’ unofficial results around 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Clinton won Virginia with 1,912,462 votes, or 49.5 percent, to Trump’s 1,727,706 votes (44.7 percent). Fairfax County represented a significant chunk of that difference, favoring Clinton by 354,486 votes (64.4 percent) to 157,539 votes (28.6 percent).
Republican candidates also found success further down the ballot. The GOP retained control of both the House and the Senate with 239 and 51 seats, respectively, while the Democrats will have 192 seats in the House and 47 in the Senate.
Fairfax County had two congressional races this Election Day, but 11th District Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat, ran unopposed. In the 10th District, incumbent Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock beat Democratic challenger LuAnn Bennett with 52.6 percent of the vote.
In the contest that perhaps most directly affects them, Fairfax County residents voted down a meals tax referendum that would’ve imposed up to a 4 percent tax on prepared food and beverages.
The referendum failed 53.8 percent to 46.2 percent. If it passed, Fairfax County estimated that the tax would generate approximately $99 million in revenue per year, 70 percent of which would’ve gone to the public school system.
Meals tax supporters argued that more money was needed to maintain the quality of Fairfax County’s schools and other services and that a meals tax would help reduce the county’s reliance on property taxes.
Opponents called a meals tax regressive, meaning that it isn’t distributed based on income. They worried that it would hurt the restaurant industry as well as lower-income consumers when coupled with an already existing 6 percent sales tax, which predominantly goes to the state rather than the county.
“I feel that this area here is already taxed high enough,” Nick Holland, a voter at Luther Jackson Middle School in the Merrifield precinct, said after casting his ballot on Tuesday. “[The cost of living] is one of the highest in the country…so I think adding to it again is just going to hurt businesses and people.”
Though she wasn’t surprised at the result, calling the campaign for a meals tax an “uphill battle,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova praised the pro-meals tax coalition’s work and expressed hope that they would continue it in the future.
According to the chairman, the referendum’s failure all but guarantees another round of clashes over the Fairfax County budget in 2017.
“Had the meals tax passed, we would’ve had new revenue to be able to increase teachers’ salaries and to reduce class size, but we will not have that revenue, so it will be hard to adopt a budget,” Bulova said.
Town of Herndon voters likewise opted to maintain the status quo by reelecting Mayor Lisa C. Merkel, who has served in that position since 2012. Merkel more than doubled the vote total of opponent and current town councilmember Jasbinder Singh with 5,928 votes to Singh’s 2,785, according to Fairfax County’s unofficial election returns.
Merkel ran her campaign for reelection on her desire to shepherd Herndon’s downtown redevelopment plans into reality, and she reiterated that as a priority when discussing her victory Tuesday night.
“I’m honored that the residents of Herndon have placed their trust in me once again,” Merkel said. “We are excited to see our downtown plan come to life, and I’m pleased that my positive campaign resonated with so many.”
Three out of six representatives on Herndon’s town council will return for the 2017-2018 term, as current council members Jennifer Baker, Sheila A. Olem, and Grace Han Wolf were all reelected.
Those women will be joined by newcomers Jeffery L. Davidson, Signe V. Friedrichs, and William J. McKenna.
The mayoral and town council election results become official once they’re certified by the Fairfax County Electoral Board, which administers elections in the Town of Herndon, according to the town’s website.
In addition to electing officials, Fairfax County voters made decisions on a number of state and local issues.
Virginia had two constitutional amendments on the 2016 ballot.
A proposed right-to-work amendment would’ve cemented existing laws banning contracts between employers and labor organizations that require all employees in a workplace to pay unions in the state constitution. Opposing voters outweighed supporters 53.5 percent to 46.4, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.
However, nearly 80 percent of Virginia voters supported the second proposed constitutional amendment, which empowered the General Assembly to give localities the option to give tax exemptions on property occupied by the surviving spouses of law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency services personnel killed in the line of duty.
Fairfax County voters approved all three bonds on the ballot by at least 60 percent of the vote.
The Board of Supervisors is now authorized to contract debt, borrow money and issue bonds to accrue $120 million to finance Fairfax County’s share of the costs for transportation improvements and facilities in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area along with state highway-related improvements.
The parks and park facilities bond question requested permission to raise $107 million total for the Fairfax County Park Authority. That amount also includes $12.3 million to cover county contributions to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
Finally, voters approved a human services and community development bonds question for $85 million to fund human services and community development facilities, including community centers and shelters.