Newcomers Push Outer Suburbs Left
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Not since L. Douglas Wilder's historic run for governor in 1989 has a Democrat captured a majority of the vote for governor in Loudoun County. Democrats in Prince William County have been waiting even longer.
But Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine (D) won both in Tuesday's election. Republicans needed to win big in the outer suburbs to offset heavy support for Kaine in areas closer to Washington, and their failure to do so was one of the keys to the defeat of Republican Jerry W. Kilgore.
Kilgore slipped in areas where Republicans have been so dominant that they control the local boards of supervisors, sheriff's offices, commonwealth's attorney posts and most delegate seats.
Kaine reached out to voters in these rapidly growing outer communities who are accustomed to the dust and traffic that come with new homes. The Democratic candidate proposed new tools for local governments to slow growth if they found that traffic would overwhelm the roads.
"Kaine ran this commercial on a big ad buy that showed bulldozers and said: 'I hear you. I'm on your side with this,' " said Robert E. Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. "He said what needed to be said, and he showed those bulldozers -- and people got that."
Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (I), who parted ways with the local Republican Party after advocating slowing growth, called the maneuver a "brave" introduction of a hard issue of concern only to local voters.
"These are issues that are concerning folks, and it's not about Republicans or Democrats," he said.
Kaine won Loudoun by almost 6 percentage points and Prince William by 2. He bettered Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner's tallies from 2001 in the two counties by more than 16,000 votes, while Kilgore added only 4,768 votes over 2001 Republican candidate Mark L. Earley.
More than 23,000 additional votes were cast in the two counties this year compared with the 2001 statewide elections, a function of the home construction that has brought thousands of new voters to the region and made Loudoun one of the fastest growing counties in the country, with Prince William not far behind.
Loudoun County's Precinct 813, with more than 5,800 registered voters, backed President Bush over Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) by 53 to 46 percent, but its voters picked Kaine over Kilgore by 55 to 43 percent.
As voters emerged from their polling place at an elementary school, they were met by representatives of Campaign for Loudoun's Future, a group advocating restrictions on development. They stood next to a map of the county showing areas approved for new subdivisions and handing out stickers saying "Don't Supersize Loudoun."
"To me, the growth issue and the roads issue are almost one and the same," said David Smith, 46, a resident of the precinct who voted for Kaine in part because of the issue. "They didn't plan for the growth here. The roads should have [been] built a long time ago. [If they keep building] you'll have a quagmire here, and it's really going to hurt the quality of life."