Bypass referendum? Election 2011's expected-- and unexpected-- results
In the end, it all came down to the Western 29 Bypass, at least in the Rivanna District, where incumbent Ken Boyd handily held onto his seat on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors for a third term, in what was– with at least $150,000 in money raised– one of the most expensive races yet.
And it wasn't even close. Boyd got 57 percent of the vote, while his Democratic opponent, Cynthia Neff, only mustered up 43 percent.
"My team was stunned by the margin," says Neff. "We thought it would be closer."
Boyd was surprised too. "It's always been narrower margins in the past," says Boyd, who doesn't see his reelection as necessarily a referendum on the Bypass. "I like to think there were other issues involved," says Boyd. "I concentrated on jobs, keeping taxes low, and fiscal responsibility."
"It's obvious it's about the Bypass," counters Neff. "It makes me a bit crazy. You won't find anyone going: 'this is a great road, it's the right road.' But it's a road."
She sees a perception among voters that projects are studied for years but don't get built in Charlottesville and Albemarle, and lists the Meadowcreek Parkway and water plan as examples. "No one's saying the Bypass is a great road, but it's funded, let's build it," Neff interprets the populace as thinking.
"The Bypass was the biggest issue in this election," agrees Rachel Schoenewald, Albemarle Republican chair. "Ken Boyd stayed the course."
But if the Rivanna race was a referendum on the Bypass, then how to explain the Scottsville race, where Bypass opponent and Democrat Chris Dumler took the district's seat left open by Lindsay Dorrier by trumping Bypass supporter Jim Norwood?
"That's a hard one," says Schoenewald.
"Chris ran a good campaign and is energetic," says Boyd of his new fellow supe. "It did surprise me Mr. Dumler won after only living here three years. And he certainly out-raised Norwood in money. That's a sad outcome when whoever raises the most money wins," says Boyd, acknowledging that his own race was the most expensive he's been in.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to go back to a 3-3 split, with Dumler joining Ann Mallek, who was uncontested in the White Hall District, and Dennis Rooker, while Republicans Boyd, Rodney Thomas, and Duane Snow fall on the other side of issues like the Bypass.
"I'm not thrilled about being back 3-3," says Schoenewald, but she sees it as not necessarily bad for the county. "We'll have discussions. We'll be forced to evaluate everything."
In the Albemarle School Board in which three candidates vied for the at-large seat, Brown Auto manager Ned Gallaway won that race.
Less surprising: Charlottesville
Not too many people are expressing shock that the three Democratic candidates– incumbent Satyendra Huja, Kathy Galvin, and Dede Smith– were elected by wide margins to City Council over independents Scott Bandy, Brandon Collins, Bob Fenwick, and Andrew Williams.
Radio host Rob Schilling, the last non-Dem to be elected to Council, calls the race "highly predictable."
Of the independents, Fenwick polled the highest with 12 percent of the vote (more than 70 percent higher than the closest indie), and there had been talk that some water plan, pro-dredging voters would double-shot him and Smith, who's also been active in opposing the Ragged Mountain dam, rather than casting three votes for the three open seats.
"I think Bob shot himself in the foot when he endorsed Dede Smith," opines Schilling. "A vote for her took a vote from him. He should have kept with a single shot."
One thing that did surprise Schilling in the city races was the election of former Democratic chair Jennifer McKeever to the School Board. Schilling calls her "anti-establishment" for the changes she brought to the city party, such as the firehouse primary. "She rocked the boat," says Schilling.
School Board incumbent Colette Blount, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Dem nomination for City Council in August, was reelected, and will be joined by newcomers Amy Laufer and Willa Neale, who both pulled in more votes than Blount and McKeever. Not doing so well was Guian McKee, who had been appointed to the Board, but came in fifth for the four open seats.
Another non-surprise was public defender Llezelle Dugger winning the clerk of circuit court race with 76 percent of the vote over Dem-turned-independent Pam Melampy. Dugger unseated longtime incumbent Paul Garrett in the August Democratic primary.
State of change
The General Assembly balance of power shifted in the Senate to the Republicans with what appears to be Democrat Edd Houck's narrow loss– initial counts say 86 votes– to Bryce Reeves in the 17th Senate District, which now includes a northeast corner of Albemarle.
"I do know that law on recounts inside and out," says State Senator Creigh Deeds, who lost a statewide race for attorney general by 360 votes in 2005 to current governor Bob McDonnell.
Deeds represents the rest of Albemarle and easily fended off another Republican newcomer, T.J. Aldous, who challenged him for the 25th Senate District.
With Houck's apparent loss and the Senate's addition of the Republican Tom Garrett, the Dems lose control of that house with a 20-20 split because Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling will cast tie-breaking votes. "The Republicans have every intention to use the lieutenant governor as a bully pulpit," predicts Deeds.
The most interesting House of Delegates race was the 59th District, in which scandal-plagued Republican Matt Fariss overcame arrests for hunting violations, a DUI, and an emergency protective order taken out by a Lynchburg woman in 2002 to crush Dem favorite Connie Brennan with 53 percent of the vote to her 41 percent.
The district, which stretches down from southern Albemarle past Lynchburg and Appomattox, is very conservative, Rachel Schoenewald points out. "He's been part of the Campbell County community," she says. "He's asked for forgiveness, and they know him as a person."
And in Greene County, where issues of the Hook frequently disappear when there are stories about political candidates there, in the sheriff's race, Steve Smith defeated Major Randall Snead, who crossed the Albemarle county line and was one of seven cops to fatally blast cop-car-stealing teen Colby Eppard on New Year's Day 2010, and who has also been accused of extracting an alleged false confession that in 2003 sent Crozet youth Robert Davis to prison, where he remains.Read more on: 2011 election