1. John Cook
The real winner is actually Braddock District (and all of Fairfax County), which did the right thing in returning the independent leadership of John Cook to the Board, to continue in the tradition of excellent constituent services and to keep at least 3 seats on the Board who are committed to protecting Fairfax County taxpayers. Beating John Cook was the one of the top priorities of Fairfax Democrats, and they launched their biggest weapons (Chap!, Bulova) to try and drag a rubber stamp across the finish line. Thankfully, the voters of Braddock chose otherwise.
2. Democrats: Fairfax County & Inward
As jubilant as the John Cook victory party was, there was a somber attitude in Northern Virginia last night thanks to the strong performance of the Democrats. I almost labeled this entry “incumbents”, as no challenger in Fairfax County or further inside the Beltway won. But that would take away from the big victory the Democrats scored on the School Board, sweeping all three at-large and holding all their open seats as well. Throw in the losses by Marston and Merrick in Arlington, and the four State Senate races in Fairfax, and there was little reason to celebrate up here beyond John Cook.
3. Republicans: PWC and Loudoun
PWC had a decent night, overwhelmingly returning Corey Stewart, electing Peter Candland, holding its House and Senate seats, picking up HD 2, and giving the senior Chuck Colgan the race of his life from a candidate who got in late over the summer. But this entry is justified mostly by the oustanding performance of Loudoun Republicans, sweeping every race including total control on the Board of Supervisors, as well as pickups in HD 10 and HD 87. Even with the last-minute missteps, they had a huge night.
4. George Barker
One final NoVa note: George Barker’s victory was perhaps the most cathartic of any Virginia politician. The premature mockery started weeks ago: that George Barker drew the lines and couldn’t even draw himself a winning district; that “Barker not Baker” and “George Lincoln Barker” were ridiculous; that of ALL the Senate races in Northern Virginia, most had Barker as the most likely loss. I didn’t enjoy the outcome of this race, but its tough not to tip your cap to Barker with so many people so prepared to spit on his grave.
5. House Republicans (plus Howell and Hugo)
Fifth on the list is about right in terms of the impact this victory will have, but I truthfully believe this is one of the biggest wins of the night. I’ve been following the House races since the lines were redrawn, and after things started to settle, it became clear that the House drew themselves a good map, poised to expand on their majority over the next decade. I didn’t realize they would get it all done in one night. The House picked up an astounding SEVEN seats, expanding their majority to 68-32. Even in the event of another disastrous cycle like 2007, there is no chance Democrats will take control of the House this decade.
6. Bob McDonnell
I don’t have a “mixed” category, which is ultimately where the Governor probably belongs, but I’ll tell you why I count this as a win. It’s true McDonnell put in $5 million and only came away with two seats when a dozen were on the table. It’s true that, even with a 70% approval rating, he couldn’t throw his weight around more and nudge some of these close races over the top, even in favorable regions. But here’s the benefit of a 20/20 Senate: Bolling has the tiebreaker, but Senate committees will be split, which means there were will be at least some check on Republican power. I think that check will help ensure that some of the more outlandish legislation, sure to be introduced by some of the more outlandish Republican members, get sent to the dustbin. That can only protect McDonnell as he increases his national exposure.
1. Ward Armstrong
2. House Democrats
These are tied together, but it wouldn’t be right not not give Ward Armstrong his own specific mention. We all know the House Caucus did a miserable job recruiting candidates. They also did a miserable job supporting the candidates they did have. Competitive races have been the norm for Dave Albo; he barely broke a sweat. Comstock/Danner was supposed to be a marquee match-up; it was over at least three weeks ago. Ron Villanueva won by 21 votes two years ago; his opponent this time around was underfunded. Joseph Yost is a 25-year-old recent college graduate with a scant resume; thanks to a huge (and unmatched) investment, he’ll be heading to the House of Delegates to replace Jim Shuler. Dave Ramadan was vulnerable in the open 87th; he won by 50 votes. Bill Barlow and Robin Abbott could only look around hopelessly for help, wondering when the cavalry was coming.
Well the calvary, along with virtually all of the Caucus’s money, was redirected to the 9th District, which Bob McDonnell won with 70% of the vote, and the home of long-term incumbent Charlie Poindexter. With Armstrong in charge of the House Caucus, and with his statewide ambitions on the line, he put everything on the line in one of the most uphill challenges anyone could face. Credit where it’s due, he came close. But ultimately, he lost, and as a result of his hoarding Democrats lost seven seats along with him, setting them back at least a decade and likely more.
3. Bill Janis
Here’s an underreported race: Bill Janis, the powerful member of the House, suddenly announced his retirement to run for Henrico County’s Commonwealth Attorney, after the Republican nominee was involved in a sex scandal. It should have been open-and-shut: Janis had the support of the entire Republican establishment, from Bill Howell to Eric Cantor and Ken Cuccinelli. His years of service should have allowed him to waltz in. Instead, they split the vote and the Democrat won. If it wasn’t for Joe Paterno, it would be the saddest ending to a long career we’ve seen this week.
4. Barack Obama
Obama won Virginia in 2008. Then Bob McDonnell won it with 58% in 2009, Republicans won 3 Congressional seats in 2010, and in 2011 the State Senate vote was 61% GOP to 39% DEM. Granted, the results are skewed due to many uncontested Senate races, but the fact that there’s a 20/20 split in the Senate is a testament to the line drawers, and not at all any indication that Virginia voters are prepared to vote Democrat any time soon.
5. Straight ticket voting
One thing about low turnout elections in off-off cycles is that the people that do turn out tend to be very engaged. Which means that they make their own determinations on who to vote for, and don’t just simply vote down the line. As a result, Dennis Husch and Louise Epstein weren’t carried to victory in Dranesville, despite the good performance of Comstock and Merrick there. Sheila Ratnam didn’t win in Sully, even as Mike Frey, Jim LeMunyon, and Tim Hugo did. John Cook won in Braddock, but most people that shared a ballot with him (Flanary, Schoeneman, Hurley) lost. People crossing over party lines to support a candidate is good for democracy, but its also a useful lesson to keep in mind when we try to decipher the “downballot” or “upballot” effect in these types of local elections.