Voters in Northern Virginia reelected all of their members of Congress yesterday, rejecting several aggressive challengers amid heavy turnout.
Statewide, Republicans retained their 8-3 lead over Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives as President Bush cruised to an easy victory over Sen. John F. Kerry for Virginia's 13 electoral votes.
Virginia Rep. Jim Moran (D) takes to the podium as the crowd acknowledges his victory over Lisa Marie Cheney (R) during a victory party in Alexandria.
(Ricky Carioti - The Washington Post)
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Republican Frank R. Wolf easily defeated Democrat James R. Socas despite the challenger's repeated attacks on Wolf's integrity. Democrat James P. Moran Jr., whose ethical behavior was questioned repeatedly, turned back Republican Lisa Marie Cheney.
"I feel good. I feel very grateful for the support of the voters in the district," Wolf said last night. "I come home to my district every single night. I know the people, and I think the people know me."
Moran thanked the voters who stuck with him during a divisive Democratic primary and a hard-fought general election.
"I'm proud that we had the kind of support we did, with 6,000 volunteers who worked so hard for all the right reasons," Moran said. "And I was pleased to see the kind of turnout -- the largest I've ever seen. It provided the true sentiment of the district.''
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R), one of Northern Virginia's best-known political figures, turned back a spirited if underpowered challenge by Democrat Ken Longmyer, a retired foreign service officer.
"We're happy. We won," Davis said. "We ran well ahead of the president. I appreciate the confidence that voters had in me."
Republicans prevailed in Hampton Roads, where Democrats had hoped to pick up the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Edward L. Schrock (R). Schrock announced in September that he would not seek reelection after a gay activist claimed on his Web site that Schrock had solicited gay sex. His successor on the ballot, state Del. Thelma B. Drake (R-Norfolk), defeated Democrat David B. Ashe, a former U.S. Marine.
Republican Reps. Jo Ann S. Davis and Eric I. Cantor won reelection, as did three other GOP incumbents in the southern part of the state. Voters also overwhelmingly approved two amendments to the state Constitution. One extended the line of succession for the governor, and the other changed election rules following redistricting.
Throughout the state, registrars reported heavy voter turnout. At polling places in Northern Virginia, voters often waited patiently in long lines for hours. Alice Taylor, an editor at an environmental organization, waited in a football-field-long line at her Arlington polling place yesterday morning.
"I wish we would have gotten an alternative to Jim Moran, but given him or the Republican he's running against, I'd rather have him," said Taylor, 47.
In Purcellville, volunteer firefighter Margaret Horgan, 42, said she voted for Bush and Wolf. She said her support for the Republicans was based largely on tax and foreign policy issues.
"The Democrats are going to wipe you out, and the Republicans will send you to war," she said. "The Republicans will stand up and say, 'You're not going to keep slapping us in the face.' "
Bush won comfortably in the state, rebuffing Democrats' early hopes that they could pull an upset. Kerry's top campaign advisers said in the spring that they hoped to be competitive in the traditionally conservative southern state.
In May, Kerry bought close to $1 million worth of television advertisements in Virginia, part of a 19-state effort to introduce him to voters. The decision to invest in Virginia, which has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, energized activists in the state's Democratic Party.
Kerry aides believed he could appeal to three pools of voters: military veterans in the Hampton Roads area; rural voters whose communities had been rocked by job losses; and voters in Northern Virginia, where demographics have been shifting in ways that tend to favor Democrats.
But Bush's traditional strength in rural parts of the state and in the conservative suburbs overwhelmed Kerry's support in Northern Virginia and the state's cities. Bush also did well among veterans.
Republican Party Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin called the vote "a clear message in overwhelming numbers that they are united behind the values and principles of the Republican Party."
Griffin also called the Bush victory "a tremendous setback" for Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and for Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who is running to replace Warner next year.
"The top two elected officials in the Virginia Democrat Party put their personal credibility and political organizations on the line, and they failed miserably," Griffin said. "The Democrat policies of increased taxes and added government regulation have been convincingly rejected."
Kerry's effort in Virginia was made, in part, at Warner's urging. The popular Democratic governor, who was elected in 2001 by breaking the Republican Party's stranglehold on regions outside of Northern Virginia, encouraged Kerry not to believe that all was lost there.
Warner said yesterday that Kerry's campaign in Virginia was undermined by attacks on his Vietnam War service and by the improving economy in the state.
"We always knew it would be a tall order . . . to unseat an incumbent president during wartime," Warner said one day after predicting a "surprise" at a Richmond rally. Responding to Griffin, he said, "That's the kind of political hyperbole that we hear often from the Republican chairperson."
Leaders of both parties said that Virginia's vote in the presidential race would be critical as they prepare to elect a new governor next year. Republicans had said they were hoping that a Bush victory would stem the tide of bad news for their party, including Warner's 2001 victory, scandals involving top party officials and their failure to prevent tax increases this year.
Democrats said they hoped that a Kerry victory would be proof of their belief that the state is becoming more politically competitive.
Democratic Party Chairman Kerry J. Donley said he was proud of his party's effort.
"We mounted a historic campaign in Virginia, and we can all be proud of our efforts on behalf of John Kerry, John Edwards and our congressional candidates," Donley said. "This campaign in Virginia is very good news for our 2005 races and beyond."
Jean Jensen, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said turnout appeared to be headed much higher than four years ago.
"It's huge," she said.
Jensen said that more than 200,000 absentee ballots had been requested across the state. In 2000, 68 percent of registered voters -- or about 2.8 million people -- cast ballots. And this year, both parties said they had registered thousands of new voters.