Polls in Fairfax County had barely closed before CNN, ABC News, and other cable news outlets projected that Sen. Tim Kaine would prevail in Virginia’s Senate race, drawing cheers from the handful of staffers and supporters already gathered at Fairview Marriott Park in Falls Church for an election night rally on Tuesday.
Kaine held off challenger Corey Stewart with around 57 percent to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors at-large chair’s 41, a nearly 16-point difference that dealt Stewart his second statewide loss in as many years after he fell short of a bid for the Republican nomination for governor in 2017.
Incumbent Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly won reelection for Virginia’s 8th and 11th Congressional District seats by even more comfortable margins.
Fairfax native Thomas Oh ran as the Republican nominee for the 8th District, falling to Beyer by more than 50 percentage points. U.S. Army veteran Jeff Dove was uncontested in seeking the Republican Party’s nominee to challenge Connolly, who received 71 percent of the vote for the 11th District, according to Virginia Department of Elections unofficial results.
“I am so filled with emotion,” Kaine said to a crowded ballroom on Nov. 6. “…I cannot put it into words. I think, tonight, Virginia showed who we are. Virginia sent a message with our polls closing first in the nation about American values and Virginia values.”
However, the most contentious and closely watched race of the election for local voters was taking place on the other side of the county as supporters for Rep. Barbara Comstock and State Sen. Jennifer Wexton convened for watch parties in Dulles and Ashburn, respectively.
Democrats have been looking to unseat Comstock for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District since she was first elected in 2014.
A sprawling district that crosses the northern part of Virginia, the 10th District encompasses Loudoun, Frederick, and Clarke Counties, as well as parts of Fairfax and Prince William and the Cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, and Winchester.
Elected in a January 2014 special election to represent Virginia’s 33rd District in the State Senate, Wexton relied on her political experience and familiarity with voters to stand out from a primary field crowded with first-time candidates and become the Democratic Party’s nominee in June.
Wexton turned out to be the right choice for Democrats. Edging out Comstock with roughly 56 percent of the vote, she is the first Democrat to represent the 10th District since one-term Rep. Joseph Fisher won in 1978.
In addition to turning Northern Virginia’s entire Congressional delegation blue, Wexton’s victory helped Democrats become the majority in the House of Representatives as projections showed the party flipping at least 29 districts, exceeding the 23 seats they needed to gain to take control of the chamber.
Republicans are projected to keep a majority in the Senate, though races in Florida, Mississippi, and Arizona had not yet been called by press time.
“I’ve been saying since the beginning of this campaign that change is coming to America,” Wexton told supporters in a victory speech on Tuesday. “Change is coming to Virginia too, and that change came tonight.”
In other upsets, Grace Wolf Cunningham lost her seat on the Herndon Town Council after four terms, as did William McKenna, who was serving his first term on the council.
They were replaced by newcomers Cesar Del Aguila and Joseph Plummer, while returning Vice Mayor Jennifer Baker, Sheila Olem, and Signe Friedrichs rounded out the town council’s five at-large members.
Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel won reelection in an uncontested race.
The Herndon Town Council elections became mired in internal conflict after Cunningham filed campaign law violation complaints against Olem, Friedrichs, and Del Aguila with the Virginia Department of Elections.
After being cleared in public hearings by the Virginia State Board of Elections, Olem, Friedrichs, and Del Aguila filed a lawsuit against Cunningham with the Fairfax County Circuit Court on Sept. 24, arguing that her complaints constituted malicious prosecution.
The lawsuit remains ongoing after a county judge took the defense’s motion to dismiss under advisement but declined to grant it when the case appeared in court on Oct. 19.
Herndon’s new town council members will officially assume office on Jan. 1, 2019, according to a Town of Herndon press release announcing the unofficial results, which must be certified by the Fairfax County Electoral Board.
Virginia voters easily passed both constitutional amendments on the ballot.
70 percent of voters approved of authorizing counties, cities, and towns to provide a partial tax exemption for property subject to recurrent flooding if flooding resiliency improvements have been made.
An amendment allowing surviving spouses of veterans with permanent, service-connected disabilities to claim a property tax exemption after changing their primary residence passed with 84 percent “yes” votes.
A $182 million public safety bond aimed at financing facility construction and renovation was approved by 69 percent of Fairfax County voters.
The bond includes $73 million to renovate, expand, or replace four fire stations, $59 million for Fairfax County Police Department facilities, and $50 million to make system upgrades in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center and the Fairfax County Courthouse.
Fairfax County voters turned out in numbers that handily surpassed recent midterm elections.
After turnout in 2014 dipped from 2010’s 49.1 percent to 45.7 percent, the Fairfax County Office of Elections estimated a 69.8 percent turnout for the 2018 General Election, including absentee ballots.
That Fairfax County would see a higher turnout than usual for a midterm election was evident even before in-person voting commenced. The office of elections reported that it had received more than 74,000 absentee ballots by Nov. 4, close to three times the 28,662 absentee ballots cast in 2014.
According to Office of Elections unofficial returns, Fairfax County voters cast 490,262 total ballots, including 85,702 in-person and mail absentee ballots.
With 702,772 active registered voters in the county, an increase of more than 18,000 individuals over 2017, those numbers are more comparable to the 2016 presidential election, which had an 82.5 percent turnout with 683,171 registered voters, than previous midterms.
Voters also turned out despite a steady rain that doused the region throughout the morning of Election Day.
Informal interviews of voters leaving the polls suggested that this year’s midterms had an added sense of urgency even for those who say they vote in every election.
A registered Republican, Clifton resident Deb Sterling is an emphatic supporter of President Donald Trump and views keeping Republicans in power as a necessity, citing immigration and tax reform among the issues on her mind.
“The Democrats have done nothing but try to tear us down,” Sterling said. “At my age, I don’t want to live in a country where I have to worry about my social security money, where I have to worry about somebody taking what I’ve worked hard for all these years away from me, and I feel like that’s what the Democrats are doing. It’s an evil power I’m seeing that’s happening.”
Voters who went with the Democratic ticket spoke in similarly dire terms.
Winton Weiser from Herndon says he is usually not enamored with either major political party, but he voted for Kaine and Wexton because he thought Democrats “have had a track record of actually doing things to help people’s lives in this country.”
“I also think this current Trump administration is extremely dangerous for this country, for democracy,” Weiser said. “It’s taking us backwards on women’s rights, against minorities, and the fabric of our country, which is based upon immigration…I think the Republicans are very, very dangerous right now, and Trump is totally unhinged.”
A Clifton resident who identified herself as Martha brought her two children with her to the polls at Centreville High School. Though she says she votes in every election, she felt this one had a lot at stake, especially for the future of U.S. immigration and healthcare.
While numerous factors figure into the outcome of every election, the Democrats’ success in Fairfax County and the 10th Congressional District in particular likely came in part due to voters like Herndon’s Eve Malley, who gave her vote to Wexton after supporting Comstock in the past.
“I don’t care for the Republican Party anymore,” Malley said. “I don’t believe what they are saying. I’ve checked their records and so forth, and I see one thing and I see they voted a different way, and I’m done.”
Mentioning abortion and reproductive healthcare as one issue that made her disillusioned with the GOP, Malley says that Wexton’s history in the state legislature gave her confidence in the state senator’s ability to succeed in Congress.
“I think that we need change in the government,” Malley said. “It’s not working the way that it should work, and I think Jennifer Wexton will do an excellent job.”