The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Kilgore handily defeats Fitch as most voters shun polls; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The Northern Shenandoah Valley looked a lot like the rest of the commonwealth on primary day.

Turnout was low across the state and locally Tuesday — less than 10 percent statewide, peaking at 9.87 percent in Clarke County. And there were no serious variations from the rest of the commonwealth here.

GOP voters in the region went along with the rest of the state in selecting former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore to run for governor, state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, for lieutenant governor and Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, for attorney general.

The trio swept all of the Northern Shenandoah Valley’s jurisdictions, except for Bolling, who narrowly lost to Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton in Winchester. Connaughton had received the endorsement of state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, who is mounting an independent bid for governor.

On the Democratic side, former Rep. Leslie Byrne won her bid for the lieutenant governor nomination around the area with margins that reflected her statewide win.

She’ll be the second chair on a ticket that will also include Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, who is seeking the governor’s office, and attorney general hopeful state Sen. Creigh Deeds, R-Bath County.

More than twice as many valley residents voted in the Republican primary than the Democratic one.

In Shenandoah County, 5.02 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Some 884 people voted in the Republican primary while 272 cast ballots in the Democratic vote.

The Kilgore camp declared victory early, talking to reporters on a conference call just 30 minutes after the polls closed.

Kilgore compared his win Tuesday to “a round in the NCAA basketball tournament.”

“It’s not about the margin of victory, it’s about advancing to the next round,” he said.

But, for those keeping score, the margin of victory wasn’t shabby. Statewide, Kilgore took the lead 10 minutes after the close of the polls and never looked back, finishing with some 82 percent of the vote, according to unofficial tallies from the State Board of Elections.

“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said Joe David, a spokesman for Warrenton Mayor George Fitch, whose campaign held out hope for an upset over Kilgore until the very end.

Looking past the primary to November was a gamble for Kilgore, according to Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

“It [didn’t] sound like Kilgore’s running against anyone [in Tuesday’s primary],” he said. Instead, he’s running against Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.”

The plan harkens back to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s plan in 2000. Bush ran his entire primary campaign as if he were already the nominee in a race against Vice President Al Gore.

Kilgore’s “presidential strategy” had the potential to backfire, according to Brians.

“The risk is you might not mobilize your base,” he said. And if your base doesn’t show up, “you’ve got a problem.”

For all the talk about taxes during the House of Delegates primary, the results indicated that the average person wasn’t that upset, according to two key Democratic leaders in the House of Delegates.

Del. Brian Moran, D-Alexandria, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and House Minority Leader Del. Frank Hall, D-Richmond, both said the results in the Republican primary proved voters were happy with the 2004 budget deal.

Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, and five other Republicans who crossed the aisle to approve the $1.6 billion tax increase were challenged Tuesday.

May, who represents Clarke County and part of Loudoun County, defeated Leesburg attorney Chris Oprison, 60 percent to 40 percent.

“It’s a vindication of our work of last year,” said Moran, and a vindication of Gov. Mark R. Warner’s legacy. “[Voters] have supported the Republicans that voted for that compromise. And that’s reflected in the election results.”

Late endorsements of the compromise Republicans by Potts, who will run against Kaine and Kilgore in November, were never a cause for alarm.

“He’s giving Jerry Kilgore more heartburn than he’s giving us,” Hall said.

Both primaries passed quietly in the northern valley — with all 57 actual precincts reporting their complete results within two hours of the close of polls.

But the day before did see some fireworks at one area polling place.

Lightning struck the steeple of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Toms Brook on Monday, as a line of strong thunderstorms moved through the area, according to church treasurer and member Phil Fauber.

Toms Brook and Strasburg fire departments responded to the scene, but they found no fire, he said.

“It sounded like a large cannon going off,” said Fauber, who lives across the street from the church. Voting went on normally.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Staff writer Laura Davis contributed to this story.