In Northern Virginia

In the Suburbs, Backlash Against Republicans Hits Hard

By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

An anti-Republican sentiment spread across Northern Virginia yesterday as voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Democrats, sweeping aside the traditional Virginia formula in which Republicans carry the outer suburbs and Democrats win the inner ones.

In winning the election for governor, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) took Loudoun and Prince William counties, something Mark R. Warner (D) couldn't accomplish when he was elected governor four years ago. Kaine also received nearly three in four votes in Arlington and seven in 10 in Alexandria.

Kaine, a Richmond native with no ties to the region, collected a higher percentage of Northern Virginia votes -- nearly six in 10 -- than that compiled by Alexandria resident Warner when he won the governorship.

Meanwhile, several area House of Delegates races that were expected to be close or go to Republicans were instead won easily by Democrats.

Del. Richard H. "Dick" Black, one of the House's most conservative members, lost to David E. Poisson in a Loudoun district dominated for years by the GOP.

In western Fairfax County, C. Chuck Caputo had little trouble beating Chris S. Craddock, and David L. Bulova defeated John Mason by a solid margin.

Democrats nearly picked up a seat in Prince William, but county Supervisor Hilda M. Barg was edged by incumbent Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick.

"I feel that the anti-Republican tide was too strong to fight," said James E. Hyland, a Republican House candidate who lost in Fairfax County. "I personally knocked on thousands of doors . . . but it was difficult to overcome a Democratic tide like this."

Hyland, who lost to District 32 incumbent Stephen C. Shannon, said he suspected that problems on the other side of the Potomac River hurt Republican chances. "We're close to Washington . . . so we're closer to national trends," he said.

Democrats agreed, saying voters in the region were strongly motivated to send a message of dissatisfaction with President Bush and the direction of the country -- a point made repeatedly at Kaine rallies in the final days of his race against Republicans Jerry W. Kilgore and Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., who ran as an independent.

"Obviously, the president's ratings hurt Kilgore seriously," said Mary A. "Mame" Reiley, who runs Warner's political action committee. "People like the message of Tim Kaine."

Political observers said the vote totals were a reflection of a changing Northern Virginia, where thousands of new residents are tilting the political landscape to the left.

Kaine's success in the exurbs, it was suggested, could be explained by his proposal to tighten restrictions on development.

But local voters said yesterday that Kilgore's campaign was as much a factor as anything Kaine did.

Calvin Spratley, an insurance salesman in Fairfax County, said he has backed Republicans in recent elections. But he said he was turned off by Kilgore's campaign, and, as a fan of Warner's, he was swayed by the governor's endorsement of Kaine.

"On a lot of the ads, [Kilgore] was more attack than substance," Spratley said at a Herndon precinct.

Loudoun voters Jorge Sanchez, 42, and his wife, Marleny Palacios, 38, said they used to vote Republican pretty reliably -- until this year. Kilgore's strong stance on illegal immigration bothered the two, each of whom immigrated to the United States from El Salvador more than 20 years ago.

"They tried to use scare tactics. We have bigger problems than immigration," Sanchez said at a precinct in Leesburg. "Right now, the biggest problem we have is the economy and the war we have. The biggest problem is not people trying to work for a living."

Republicans were able to hold several area House seats, including District 42, where incumbent David B. Albo fought back a challenge from Gregory A. Werkheiser.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company