Polls Closing: 5 Key Races To Watch Tonight
That gong you're about to hear closes shop on today's Virginia elections (the Maryland municipal races end at 8.) Now it's all up to the computers.
I'll be over in our Live Online room through most of this evening, talking with you about the returns at the top of each hour starting at 8 p.m. until we have all the major results.
For now, let's take a quick look at the five key races that will be a powerful guide to what today's elections mean:
1) Virginia Senate District 34 (Fairfax County): Republican incumbent Jeannemarie Devolites Davis is facing a tough challenge from Democrat and former Delegate Chap Petersen. Davis is scrambling hard, sensing that the district, a relatively transient place with a large immigrant population, is veering toward the Dems.
This is the ideologically oddest race in the state, with Davis trying to run to Petersen's left, accusing him of being too conservative for the district on social issues such as guns, gays and God. Petersen responds by charging Davis with revisionism, portraying herself as more moderate than she really is; the Democrat is also pushing the party issue hard, arguing that a change in who controls the Senate is what this election is all about. If Petersen prevails, the Democrats' chances of taking over the Senate gain enormously; if Davis wins, you'll hear a huge sigh of relief from her husband, congressman Tom Davis, whose own political future is up for grabs next year.
2) Virginia Senate District 37 (Fairfax County): School Board member Janet Oleszek is waging an expensive, energetic and ultimately unimpressive campaign to unseat one of the last doctrinaire, true believer Christian conservative legislators to represent increasingly Democratic Fairfax County, Sen. Ken Cuccinelli.
Cooch, as he's affectionately known in Richmond, is by far the better campaigner, by far the more attractive candidate when it comes to knowledge of the issues, ability to debate and willingness to spell out her proposals. But Oleszek is offering a stark ideological alternative, and in a part of the county where new developments are populated largely by newcomers to the area who want to see greater state investment in roads, education and other services, Cuccinelli sometimes seems out of step with his constituents. If Cuccinelli holds on here, it's hard to see how the Democrats can take the Senate.
3) Virginia Senate District 27 (Loudoun, Fauquier, Clarke, Winchester and Frederick counties): Perhaps the hardest-fought and ugliest campaign in a year of many such mudfests, this contest to succeed Sen. Russ Potts, the wily, moderate Republican who has held the seat since 1992, pits Democrat Karen Schultz against Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel, with independent Donald Marro tossed in to make things a bit more unpredictable.
The notion of millions of dollars being raised and spent for a campaign in this rapidly suburbanizing but still largely rural district is mind-boggling. Potts, who retired from the Senate in frustration over watching his beloved Republican party shift to the right and focus on social issues far afield from the daily stresses in most voters' lives, has declined to endorse in this race, but his last-minute comments to local newspapers consisted mainly of criticism of Vogel, a conservative lawyer who is trying to portray herself as a moderate in this race. Vogel's relatively weak opponent is Schultz, a professor of pharmacy who has fought back rather ineffectively against some slick and tough tactics from the Vogel side. Schultz is trying to win as a conservative Democrat who favors gun rights, cracking down on illegal immigrants and keeping taxes low. The campaign ended with a sleazy mailer from Vogel that tries to smear Schultz by linking her to other clients of a political consultancy that has done work for a Muslim candidate and a lesbian candidate. Add Vogel's TV spot in which she pointedly notes that she is a Christian--wouldn't want anyone to be misled by her name, would we?--and you have a campaign that is about as low as they come these days.
4) Virginia Senate District 1 (Hampton Roads): Anti-tax activist Tricia Stall shocked the state's GOP establishment by knocking off Sen. Marty Williams in a primary, forcing the state party to rally around a divisive hardliner at just the point when some Republicans believed they needed to tack toward the center to keep seats in big metropolitan areas such as Hampton Roads. Stall is running against Democrat John Miller, a former TV reporter and university official, who is focusing on improving schools while Stall centers on illegal immigration and tax cutting. Miller has more money but Stall has a devoted following and a reputation as a principled and authentic fighter. If the Democrats win this seat in a heavily Republican district, they'll coast to control of the Senate.
5) Loudoun Supervisors Bruce Tulloch, Steve Snow and Eugene Delgaudio are among the core members of a gung-ho pro-growth majority that has led the county deeper into an unbridled and increasingly unpopular expansion of population and the accompanying road and school crowding. The race between Tulloch, whose efforts to turn his official contacts into personal gain were the subject of a Washington Post investigation, and Andrea McGimsey, a longtime smart growth activist in the county, will be a strong indicator of the mood of the nation's fastest growing suburb. The Tulloch-McGimsey race is one of several highly competitive battles in Loudoun.
Steve Snow, perhaps the most outspoken advocate for big growth on the board, faces Stevens Miller, a Broadlands resident who is running to place tough restrictions on growth and restore integrity to the board. Snow has raised vastly more money than Miller, but the electorate remains highly polarized on development issues and Snow has done little to reach out to the other side. Watch for a Miller upset.
In Sterling, the continuing political success of Eugene Delgaudio demonstrates either deep disaffection on the part of voters or an admirably subversive bent. Delgaudio, who is being challenged by Democrat Jeanne West, is the kind of local politician who makes news reporters' lives rich and rewarding: He's a zealot who is, depending on whether you share his deeply conservative worldview, either entertainingly aggressive or downright dangerous. In his day job, whether he's bashing gays, diving into the U.S. Senate fountain in scuba gear as part of the "Ted Kennedy Swim Team," acting out a wedding between a man and a donkey to protest same-sex marriage, or holding news conferences for "Flashers for Clinton," Delgaudio is a master of political theater and a guy who knows how to infuriate his opponents. West, by contrast, is mild and quiet. We'll see if Sterling voters are looking for something to calm them or want to continue to make a splash. I bet they stick with the zany guy.
It's all up to the voters....
By Marc Fisher |
November 6, 2007; 6:44 PM ET
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