NEWS- Purple haze: Albemarle tilts blue-- and red... and purple?
Election night was pretty heady for Democrats in Albemarle County– probably the most exhilarating since, well, 2005. That's when Dem unknown David Slutzky slam-dunked Republican Gary Grant for the Rio District seat on the Board of Supervisors. Two upsets in the traditionally Republican stronghold raise the question, is Albemarle turning blue?
Denise Lunsford's decisive victory over Republican incumbent Jim Camblos in the commonwealth's attorney race was a big blue win for the Democrats, as was Debbie Shipp taking 54 percent of the vote in the three-way clerk's race. But then Republican Chip Harding cut a big red swath in the sheriff's race, preventing a Dem sweep of the constitutional offices.
A similar pattern emerged in the Board of Supervisor races: Democrat Ann Mallek upset incumbent Republican David Wyant in White Hall by the largest margin– garnering almost 56 percent of the votes. Democrat Marcia Joseph was unable to unseat Republican incumbent Ken Boyd, who, with 51.5 percent of the vote, narrowly held the Rivanna District seat by only 149 votes.
And both sides claim Lindsay Dorrier, a conservative Democrat who, with 55.7 percent of the vote, fended off two challengers in the Scottsville District.
The Republicans are so fond of Dorrier that "If he wasn't a Democrat, we would have endorsed him," says Republican vice chair Christian Schoenewald.
As for Albemarle's allegedly azure status, the election "didn't definitively answer the question," says Schoenewald. "We returned two people to the board– one fiscally conservative Republican and one fiscally conservative Democrat. The people of Albemarle are still fundamentally conservative."
"I think it's been in the process of turning blue for several years," counters Democratic chair Fred Hudson. And this election "is one more example of a county in transition."
"We get a sense of what the election is all about– a sense of people not liking the direction of government in Albemarle County," says Hudson, speaking from his experience canvassing the county with the candidates. The 3-3 tie frequently found on the BOS "causes frustration because it looks like deadlock," he explains.
Republican Rob Bell chalked up an easy, uncontested victory for his 58th District House of Delegates seat, as did Democrat David Toscano in the 57th.
Bell acknowledges that demographic changes in the county have purpled what 12 years ago had a definite red tinge. "Precincts that would swing back and forth," he says, "have become more reliably Democratic."
Schoenewald points to a bigger picture– specifically the Fifth Congressional District, where Republican Virgil Goode rules, and Dem challengers haven't been able to pull even 40 percent of the vote. That was Democrat Connie Brennan's experience last week running against independent but very conservative Delegate Watkins Abbitt. She mustered only 39.66 percent of the vote in the district, but carried Albemarle.
"Albemarle is out of step with Southside Virginia," says Schoenewald.