1,100 votes so far in 37th Senate race
The single best indicator of who will win the 37th state Senate race in southwestern Fairfax County on Tuesday will likely be voter turnout. While both parties are hoping for a strong showing among their faithful, comparatively high turnouts in Fairfax's last two special elections, in February and March of last year, made for close finishes.
The 37th, which includes Chantilly and Centreville and parts of Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Burke and Springfield, has historically leaned Republican. And Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell (R) won the district in November over state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath). Both parties are supplying Del. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax) and Stephen M. "Steve" Hunt, a Republican former Fairfax County School Board member, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, paid staffers and ads.
But on Tuesday, it will simply depend on who shows up. As of the end of Saturday, the Fairfax County Registrar's office has received 510 absentee ballots out of the 1,182 that were mailed out and 583 have voted in person, for a total of 1,093 votes thus far. Officials expect another 200 to 300 ballots in the mail between now and Tuesday.
As far what that means for voter turnout in the 37th state Senate district, here's a brief rundown of previous special elections in Fairfax County over the past several years:
In the March 2009 special election for Braddock District supervisor, there were 789 absentee voters out of 13,133 total votes. That election, with its 25 precincts, had an 18.6 percent turnout.
In that race, Supervisor John C. Cook (R) narrowly beat out Fairfax School Board member Ilryong Moon (D) by 89 votes, along with independent Carey Campbell.
In the February 2009 special election for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman, there were 8,611 absentee voters out of 107,743 total votes cast. That countywide election had a 16.1 percent turnout.
Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D) narrowly defeated Supervisor Pat S. Herrity (R-Springfield) by 1,217 votes in that contest.
In the January 2006 special election for state senator in the 33rd district, which straddles Loudoun and Fairfax counties, there were 178 absentee voters out of 3,521 votes in Fairfax. That election, with only 10 precincts, had an 11.3 percent turnout.
State Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Leesburg) handily beat Republican Mick Staton to succeed Sen. Bill Mims, who has left the state Senate to become Virginia's deputy attorney general.
And, finally, in the December 2002 special election for the 40th district's state delegate, there were 59 absentee votes out of 4,359 total. That election, with 14 precincts, had a 9.9 percent turnout.
Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax) easily won that race over three opponents.
So, there's a few more absentee voters this year but this might be part of the larger trend of increasing absentee voting. Still, with nearly 1,100 absentee votes so far, there could be a turnout figure somewhere in the 16 to 18 percent range despite the cold winter weather.
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