Archive: Chesterbrook Precinct

Posted at 8:40 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Swing Fairfax polling place voted for Deeds

Democrat R. Creigh Deeds lost the statewide race, but defeated his Republican rival Robert F. McDonnell at McLean's Chesterbrook precinct, according to officials at the polling place who just finished tabulating ballots.

McDonnell received 612 votes (47%) to Deeds' 685 (53%) at the Fairfax County polling place we've been reporting from these last 15 hours.

Just over 1,300 ballots were cast here today, a fraction of last year's total turnout in the presidential election and about 5 percent fewer than in the governor's race four years ago.

Deeds' victory at this precinctin the heart of a Democratic-leaning district with an independent streak might bring some solace to Democrats on an otherwise bad night. Despite big GOP gains in a year that wasn't favorable for the president's party, the Democrats retain strong appeal to voters in the growing and affluent area of McLean south of Route 123.

The forceful Democratic turnout also signals that those not enthused with Deeds personally turned out to support the Democratic ticket.

Deeds did not fare as well in this precinct as either President Obama or Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). Obama won 54.6 percent at Chesterbrook last November, a small piece in a puzzle that helped him become the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964. Kaine won here with an even more resounding 60 percent in 2005. Deeds did outperform Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who narrowly defeated George W. Bush in the precinct with 51 percent five years ago.

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Posted at 7:19 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: The stragglers

Less than five minutes before the polls closed, Brian Zimmer screeched up to the entrance of the Chesterbrook precinct on his bicycle. The 63-year-old had biked from his office at 11th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue - where he's the president of a think tank - all the way to the heart of McLean.

"I've never made it this fast," he said, taking off his helmet as he collected his ballot.

Then, just after a poll worker announced one minute remained before the polls closed, Dave Burg rushed in with his two-year-old daughter Caroline. A consultant who had spent the day in Miami, he didn't land at Reagan National Airport until 5:30 p.m.

"I thought I could squeeze in just before seven," said Burg, 40. "And it worked."

Neither would say which gubernatorial candidate he voted for.

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Posted at 6:46 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: An independent sides with McDonnell

Paul M. Hanafin, a 54-year-old executive at a commercial real estate firm, is an independent. He said he voted for Barack Obama one year ago, but he decided to cast his ballot for Republican candidate Robert McDonnell in the final 45 minutes of voting at McLean's Chesterbrook precinct.

In the end, his decision was more about the candidate's "temperament" than a national vote of confidence on Obama, he said.

Hanafin explained in the darkness outside the polling site that his two most important priorities are Northern Virginia getting more of its share in tax dollars from Richmond and better area roads.

He chastised Democrat Creigh Deeds for not getting specific about his transportation plan. "It's almost, in my mind, grounds for disqualification when his major plan for dealing with a big problem is a blue-ribbon commission," Hanafin said.

He also faulted McDonnell, though, for saying that he will privatize ABC stores to pay for roads when this objectively wouldn't be enough to support infrastructure projects he calls for.

"Both of them punted on it," he said.

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Posted at 6:05 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: McDonnell voters laud his transportation plan

Partisan volunteers say they're surprised by how small the line is here at McLean's Chesterbrook precinct at 6 p.m., considering that this is a time many people would normally begin stopping by after work. It's now chilly and dark outside, and some speculate that people may figure that the gubernatorial election isn't competitive.

Interviews suggest that Republican candidate Robert McDonnell and Democrat Creigh Deeds are running about evenly with this crowd in the penultimate hour of balloting.

Transportation is an issue that's important to many McDonnell backers, especially at this hour of night. Magaly B. Torres, 53 of McLean, is a Republican backing McDonnell. She's convinced Deeds would raise her taxes and wouldn't fix transportation problems.

"They raised our taxes too much, and we're not happy with that," she said. "I'm certain he would do it. The government already has a lot of money now so we need to stop that."

John Berik, a 36-year-old consultant, and his wife, Courtney, voted straight-ticket Republican. Asked why earlier in the afternoon, Berik cited the candidate's promise to widen Interstate 66 - which runs near here.

"That thing should have four lanes, not two," he said, "and it should have been that way 10 years ago."

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Posted at 5:21 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Late support for Deeds?

Republicans are said to vote early, as Democrats vote late. Afternoon turnout here at the Chesterbrook precinct in McLean has stayed fairly low since about noon. But many who have come say they're backing Democrat Creigh Deeds.

In fact, we just talked with nine Democrats in a row who backed Creigh Deeds. Statistically, especially given the polls, the chances of this are quite small. But, as statisticians also would say, the group that turns out from 4:30 to 5 p.m. self-selects.

"I think it's going to be very close in the end," said David Hunt, a 55-year-old Democrat who backed Deeds.

"It's a real late push here," said Louise Klein Hodin, 70, who still thinks Deeds might win. "He came out of nowhere, and he was running against some very prominent Democrats and then he fell asleep at the wheel."

"I was not tremendously impressed with Deeds, but there's high negatives for McDonnell," said Democrat William Weisberg, 47, who stuck with his party's pick.

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Posted at 4:01 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: A happy, if divided, marriage

Pat and Beth Echols are happily married, even though he voted for Robert McDonnell and she voted for Creigh Deeds at the Chesterbrook precinct near their home in McLean this afternoon.

"Even though we vote differently, we still have a good marriage," said Beth Echols, 85, a self-described "liberal Democrat."

Pat Echols, 84, served in the state senate in the late 1960s and always votes for the GOP. These days, he's assisted by a walker.

"All this stuff they brought out about him didn't matter," he said, of McDonnell. "You judge a man by his record, not by his thesis. He's done right.

Beth Echols said she appreciated Deeds' candor on his transportation plan.

"I believe in raising taxes," she said. "I think that's the way to go right now, and he's been very straightforward in saying that's something he'd consider."

After each took a turn explaining their vote, the husband laughed.

"That's more politics than we've talked in six weeks," he said, revealing what may be the secret to an across-the-aisle marriage.

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Posted at 3:49 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Deeds voters turning out, even if they think he'll lose

The early afternoon has been much quieter than the first seven hours of the day at the Chesterbrook precinct here in McLean. Only a few dozen people came through between 2 and 3 p.m. The crowd is starting to pick up as 4 p.m. approaches, and workers leave offices.

It appears that Deeds may have a narrow majority of those who showed up during this select period early this afternoon, based on interviews and a close watch of who takes the Republican or Democratic sample ballots.

While loyal Democrats are turning out, few Deeds voters are confident that their man will win - a trend that we have noticed throughout the day.

It seems that only about a dozen people younger than 35 have came to this polling site so far today.

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Posted at 3:39 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Women divided over meaning of McDonnell thesis

We've been asking mothers with daughters at the Chesterbrook polling place in McLean what impact Republican candidate Robert McDonnell's 1989 graduate school thesis had on their voting decision. While Republicans downplay it and Democrats cite it as proof that McDonnell's out of the mainstream, independents don't seem strongly influenced by it.

Ann Merchant, 37, is a Democrat who just voted for Deeds. She didn't vote in June's Democratic primary because she didn't feel strongly about any of the three candidates, and she remains lukewarm for Deeds. She's alarmed, though, about McDonnell.

"The thesis is a serious problem for me - as a feminist and someone who supports gay rights," she said. "Definitely I feel like he's a reactionary."

Tracie Becker, 45, a registered Democrat, is backing McDonnell. In fact, she picked her party's candidate for every office except governor. She said that she doesn't think the Republican really believes what he wrote 20 years ago.

"Unlike most of the talking head pundits, I view McDonnell as someone who has moved to the center," Becker said, as her six-year-old daughter Shelby munched on a chocolate cookie that a Republican volunteer gave her. "With his own daughters, he as much as anyone wants a fair playing ground for gender equality issues."

Many downplayed the social issues, including independent Shirley Camp, who said personality mattered more than policy. She decided to support Deeds after watching a televised debate about two weeks ago.

"I really wouldn't mind either way," said Camp, 75. "It was mannerisms as much as anything. [Deeds is] modest. I find that kind of person who doesn't think they know it all very attractive. In these jobs, nobody can know all the answers."

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Posted at 1:41 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Comstock makes her pitch in delegate race

Eager to shore up her own support at the key Chesterbrook precinct in McLean, Republican delegate candidate Barbara J. Comstock has arrived to join her mom, shake hands and cheer on five of her supporters actively campaigning here on her behalf.

Loose and cheerful - still wearing a warm red coat she put on before heading out to do last-minute campaigning in the frigid predawn hours - Comstock told voters she was "very excited" about the results of tonight's election, in which she hopes to unseat Del. Margaret Vanderhye (D). But Comstock didn't go nearly as far as her mother in predicting a landslide victory.

The Comstock campaign has aggressively targeted voters in this precinct. The candidate said that her campaign had knocked on every door in Precinct 302. She visited the back-to-school nights and attended meet-and-greets in the neighborhood.

"It's been a good response," Comstock said.

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Posted at 1:16 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Deeds voters frustrated with Deeds

Many voters for Creigh Deeds here at the Chesterbrook precinct in McLean are to varying degrees, publicly and privately, expressing a range of dissatisfaction - from frustration to disdain - with the way that the Democrat ran his campaign after winning his party's June primary.

The line has thinned out here, and we're in the midday doldrums before an expected afternoon rush. Many voters - a majority of the perhaps 20 or so we spoke with in the last hour - are indeed backing Deeds, but they aren't particularly confident about his chances. And they're frustrated about what they expect will be a significant setback in their quest to build a self-sustaining Democratic coalition that can control the Commonwealth.

Greg McLerran, a 75-year-old Democrat, said he voted against Republican Robert McDonnell as much as he voted for Deeds, whom he described as a "terrible candidate" devoid of charisma.

"I didn't get the feeling he had any ideas," he said. "What's he planning to do? Every ad he ran on TV was always knocking another guy on his polices."

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Posted at 1:13 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Comstock's mom predicts big win

Republican challenger Barbara Comstock's mother said outside the Chesterbrook polling place this afternoon that she predicts her daughter will unseat the incumbent, Del. Margaret Vanderhye (D), with 58 percent of the vote today.

Sally Burns, 71, is confident Comstock will win. She was one of seven Republicans pushing the party's candidates here, standing in the same spot as her daughter's opponent did one hour before, in a swing precinct of one of the Commonwealth's most competitive delegate races.

"It's a family affair," said Burns, who lives with her daughter for half the year in McLean, as she passed out sample ballots in front of the polling places entrance. "There's power in numbers. Barbara has lots of friends. To know her is to love her."

Comstock's other relatives are aggressively helping her too, across Fairfax County's 34th district. Her three children--one flew in from his job in California where he works for Republican gubernatorial helpful Meg Whitman, another works for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) at the Capitol and a third is a senior at Villanova University--are all barnstorming around the district. A sister is in town from Philadelphia.

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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Republicans say today is a referendum on Obama

When Republican supporters of candidate Robert McDonnell are asked why they voted, a surprising number here refer to "he" or "him." The folks at the Chesterbrook polling place in McLean are not talking about McDonnell or his Democratic rival, Creigh Deeds, but President Barack Obama.

McDonnell voter Christina Hoag, a 58-year-old who owns a catering business with about 25 employees, said that she hopes a Republican victory would slow the growth of government and send the message to Democrats that they don't have the mandate in Washington they think they do to remake the economy.

"There's anger right now within ourselves, and I think most of that comes from uncertainty and fear," she said. "As a nation, we've lost our optimism."

Michael Barron, 60, said he's a Republican who has been willing to vote for Democrats occasionally over the years. Not this year.

"It's not local politics that's driving this," he said. "I'm concerned with the Democrats in Congress and, mostly, I'm concerned with sending them a message."

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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Comstock wins sign war

More than $1 million will probably have been spent on the House of Delegates 34th district contest when the final reports are filed. It's clear from driving around McLean that a good chunk of that money - at least from Republican candidate Barbara J. Comstock -has gone to buy signs.

Comstock dominates her Democratic opponent, incumbent Margaret D. Vanderhye (D), in the contest for most signs near the Chesterbrook polling place, where we've set up shop today.

From the entrance off Kirby Road to the entrance into the hall where ballots are cast here in the Chesterbrook precinct, Vanderhye has nine signs and Comstock has 64. That's a greater than seven-to-one advantage.

On the other roads leading up to the polling site, Comstock's signs are ubiquitous.
At Chesterbrook, Comstock has about as many signs here as the two gubernatorial nominees - Creigh Deeds and Robert McDonnell -- combined.

Vanderhye downplayed the sign war, saying her handshakes at the polling place are worth more.

"Signs don't vote," she said. "I've never seen an election where stuff buys votes."

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Posted at 11:17 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Vulnerable incumbent delegate visits

Del. Margaret Vanderhye (D), an incumbent facing a tough reelection battle against Republican challenger Barbara Comstock, just finished a visit that lasted more than an hour at McLean's Chesterbrook precinct, pressing the flesh and making a last-dash appeal for votes.

It was the delegate's third stop of the morning, which began shortly before 6 a.m. inside her own polling place at Langley High School. She and her campaign aides decided to spend time at this polling place because turnout is usually high here, and she recently had a reception with residents of the Vinson Hall retirement community that went well.

Vanderhye is especially perky this morning - giving hugs to her supporters and shaking as many hands as she can. Some are telling her they won't vote for her. A sign touting her endorsements is set up near the entrance to the polling place.

"At this point in the day, we're feeling pretty good," she said. "We've done everything we can do. We've made our case: there's a big difference between my opponent and me. And the voters here have a big choice."

About 20 feet away from Vanderhye were three teenagers who handed out flyers for Vanderhye's Republican rival.

Will Mannon, a 16-year-old junior at Langley High School, has been volunteering for Comstock and Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonnell through the young Republican club at his school. Monday and Tuesday are teacher development days so he and his 14-year-old sister, Caroline, have been stumping for the GOP.

Mannon likes that the two candidates support offshore drilling, right-to-work laws and low taxes.

The Democratic delegate said she's already making plans for legislation she wants to introduce in the next session. To one voter, she touted that he has endorsements from both the Sierra Club and a homebuilder's association. Her background as a state appointee who worked on transportation issues seemed to appeal to a few of the voters she talked with.

Democrat Tom Van Waver, a 49-year-old attorney, is not as confident about Vanderhye's chances as she is. He's found other Democrats "lukewarm" in their support for her. He said he'd hope more rank-and-file party members would have rallied behind her because she's done a good job and is vulnerable in her first bid for reelection.

He said he saw Comstock recently at a McLean High School football game. She was nice, and he talked to her father. "I won't vote for your daughter because it will give Republicans a larger majority," he said, recalling his conversation.

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Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Observers say turnout is good

It's shaping up to be a spectacular day in Northern Virginia, with blue skies and warm-but-not-hot temperatures, a great combination for big turnout. People who have stood outside the polling place in previous years said they're surprised by how many people are out after 10 a.m., even after the workday has started. While the suit-and-tie crowd is gone for the morning, there has been a continuing and steady stream of people moving through the Chesterbrook polling place in McLean.

At this moment, there are 16 voters in line to cast ballots here. Many who have voted in the last four-and-a-half hours are older -- with kids or grandkids. Very few voters at this particular precinct have been under 35 years old, and a fair number have said they were over 70. That fits with the demographics for this area, where fairly expensive homes keep younger families away and a retirement facility keeps the voting base fairly gentrified.

The lines aren't nearly as long as last year, but it's definitely not a dismal turnout.

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Posted at 9:54 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Video: Chesterbrook voters explain their choices

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Posted at 8:56 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Most Deeds voters aren't too confident

Democrats are definitely turning out to vote for Creigh Deeds here at the Chesterbrook precinct in McLean, but they are fewer in number than the Republicans and independents backing Robert McDonnell. And most aren't very confident that Deeds or Democrats down the ticket will perform well when the count is taken at the end of the day.

Nancy Trainer, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom, voted for all the Democrats on the ballot, but she doesn't think they'll win. She said it's important to turn out so that the Republicans don't feel like they have an outsized mandate.

"It's going to be a very tough year for the Democrats, so it's important for us to show our support," she said, accompanied by her 5-year-old daughter Rachel.

Wally Larimore, a 66-year-old Democrat who supported Deeds in the primary and general election, is a statistician who runs his own small business from home. He's taking a "wait and see" approach, but he's the first to point to a series of indicators that it won't end well.

"Being a statistician myself, I do have some belief in the predictions," he said, referring to a recent Washington Post poll that shows Republican candidate Robert McDonnell ahead by a double-digit margin.

Brenda Frank, who works for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, has been driving around to the 28 precincts in the Dranesville district of Fairfax County. She was the very face of defiance as she visited Chesterbrook.

"Polls? I don't care about polls. I care about winning. I allow no negativity among my volunteers," she said. "I personally disregard polls because if I cared about polls I wouldn't do as well as I do."

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Posted at 8:51 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Polling place takes swine flu precautions

There's not one person in the entire Vinson Hall Retirement Community who has the flu right now, according to officials here. And they want to keep it that way.

At the entrance to the Chesterbrook Precinct in McLean, workers at the assisted care facility on the ground here have set out an oak table with a box full of masks for people to wear if they have flu-like symptoms.

Also on the table is a big bottle of Purell hand sanitizer, two signs that advise people to cough carefully and a framed photograph of stuffed animals wearing masks.

"We know everyone's nervous about flu so we want folks to feel safe so they can leverage their right to vote without fear of catching the flu," said Donna J. Duss, the director of health care services for the expansive retirement community.

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Posted at 8:51 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

What was your voting experience like? Send your stories and photos.

We've been telling you all morning what McLean voters at the Chesterbook precinct are saying as they leave the polling place. Now we want to hear from you!

Please be our eyes and ears at other polling places, whether in Northern Virginia or elsewhere. Use the comments section to report the on-the-ground conditions where you are.

Have you noticed a lot of Deeds backers elsewhere? Are people turning out in droves, or is your polling place quieter than you expected this morning? How does it compare to last year when President Obama won Virginia or, to 2005, when Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) won statewide? Also let us know about any irregularities you see and send us your best Election Day photos.

-- James Hohmann

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Posted at 7:48 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Democratic volunteers say there's less energy this year

The mood in the air at the Chesterbrook polling place during the first hours of voting is very different from what t was a year ago, when Barack Obama won this McLean precinct and Virginia.

Phyllis Jacobson, 58, had never been politically active until she watched Obama speak last year. Now she considers herself a grassroots Democratic activist. She volunteered at this precinct one year ago today for the then-Illinois senator.

She was one of three Democrats volunteering outside the Chesterbrook polling place in McLean.

"When I did the Obama campaign, I think everyone was taking sample ballots, and there was just more electricity in the area," she said.

But this is a different crowd, she said. Many turned down sample ballots that she tried to hand out with candidates endorsed by the Democrats. She think it's because the people voting in the off-year election are more politically active and know more about who they want to vote for ahead of time in all the races than those who came to vote for Obama one year ago.

Meanwhile, the Democratic precinct captain said that the Democrats are more energized for Deeds than the press has reported.

"I think the rank-and-file Democrats certainly are [engaged]," said Lisa Transgrud, 58. "Maybe not the independents. I don't know. I think Creigh Deeds is a great candidate."

"I don't think we have anything to be ashamed of," she volunteered.

The Republicans are more energized and excited because they see victory in their grasps.

Ann Winsor, 69, wants to send a message to the president with big Republican victories.
"A lot of people here are military," she said, surveying the early crowd. "A lot of them are bureaucrats too, and they usually vote Democratic."

Republican activist Sheila Gildea, 79, jus got a new metal knee. Her doctor told her to take it easy. So she signed up for only two hours, from 6 to 8 a.m., to hand out sample ballots at the polling place. Her husband, a retired Naval officer, will volunteer from 4 to 6 p.m.

Wearing big black mittens and a big black coat, with her breath visible in the cool morning air, she tried to figure out how far 40 feet was from the polling site entrance - the distance that party activists must keep legally. A retired foot surgeon, she lives across the street from the assisted living home.

"I see light," she said, as the first morning light appeared just after 6 a.m.

But that might just as well be a metaphor for Republicans hoping to make inroads back in Northern Virginia.

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Posted at 7:46 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: Early votes trend McDonnell

The first vote cast at the Chesterbrook polling site in McLean this morning was for Republican candidate Robert McDonnell. Betsy Gadaire, a self-described independent conservative, wanted to get to her job as an office manager in the District by 6:30 a.m., so she lined up just before the polling place opened at 6 a.m.

She likes McDonnell personally, but his positions on the issues are more important to her.

"Stop spending money," she said. "We're killing our country with deficits."

Across about two-dozen interviews during the first hour of polling at the Chesterbrook Precinct, the early morning crowd seems to lean Republican. They are rushing through the polling place in dress clothes, hoping to cast their ballots so they don't have to wait in longer lines this evening.

She was one of several early voters who discussed national issues when asked about her votes on Virginia races. Several McDonnell voters said they want to send Obama a message.

There were several Creigh Deeds supporters who turned out early to vote though, too.

McDonnell's 1989 graduate school thesis sealed the deal for Jim Nedohan, a 54-year-old nonprofit executive who considers himself a conservative Democrat, who voted at 6:40 a.m.

"It was much more scary than even the negative advertisements were," he said, describing its sections on women and gays. "That's not an individual that I think represents the state of Virginia."

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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/ 3/2009

Chesterbrook Precinct: A barometer for what's coming

Good morning! We've set up shop here at Fairfax County's Chesterbrook precinct, south of Route 123 in McLean, to get a sense of how today's elections are shaking out.

Precinct 302, which opened at 6 a.m. inside an assisted living home called Arleigh Burke Pavilion, is in the heart of a Democratic-leaning district with an independent streak. So the results here will serve as a barometer for the key Dranesville district, in vote-rich Northern Virginia.

If GOP candidate Robert F. McDonnell wins this precinct, which appears quite possible based on recent statewide polling that showed him ahead overall by 11 points, would portend very well for the Republicans' chances. A forceful Democratic turnout might signal that the Republican sweep hoped for by GOP officials will not materialize.

President Obama won 54.6 percent in this precinct last November, a small piece in a puzzle that helped him become the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) won here by an even more resounding margin of 60 percent in 2005. And, in 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) defeated George W. Bush in the precinct with 51 percent.

Nevertheless, voters here are willing to back a Republican. Frank Wolf, the Republican congressman from the 10th district, beat Judy M. Feder in this precinct last year, even though it's near her home.

Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has shown he can win at Chesterbrook. In his party's June primary, Deeds picked up 61 percent. His rivals, Terry McAulliffe and Brian Moran, each received about 20 percent of the votes.

But McDonnell grew up not far from here, something that's been touted by the candidate in his visits and local ads.

Republicans hope that today represents a reversal of years of Democratic gains across the Commonwealth and in Fairfax County, where an influx of new residents shifted the region's political map.

What we're watching for at this precinct:

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