Herring Wins Loudoun Senate Seat

Mark R. Herring (D) greets voter Murray Kasman at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn.
Mark R. Herring (D) greets voter Murray Kasman at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Democrat Mark R. Herring, a lawyer and former Loudoun County supervisor, was elected to the state Senate yesterday after a campaign that spoke to the frustration of many residents over unchecked growth and traffic.

Herring, 44, defeated Supervisor Mick Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run) with 62 percent of the vote to his opponent's 38 percent, according to unofficial results from the 33rd Senate District, which encompasses most Loudoun precincts and a sliver of western Fairfax.

Staton, 35, a fiscal and social conservative who has opposed strict new controls on growth in Loudoun, promised voters during the two-week campaign for the special election that he would do more than Democrats to improve roads and discourage high-density development.

But Staton lost in many of the same precincts in eastern Loudoun that brought down his father-in-law, former delegate Richard H. Black (R), in November. They are also the precincts where Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) surprised observers from both parties by winning on the same slow-growth, improve-traffic message espoused in yesterday's election by Herring.

"Voters are serious about wanting to make sure that their legislators are focused on the right priorities," a jubilant Herring said by cell phone last evening after unofficial results were posted. Those issues, Herring added, are: transportation, growth management and education.

Turnout was poor in most precincts, election officials said -- with notable exceptions in Leesburg, where Herring lives. Overall, about 14 percent of registered voters went to the polls, according to unofficial results.

But those who did vote provided more evidence that a demographic shift, first noticed in the November elections, may be under way in Loudoun -- a shift toward the political center. Particularly in the hotly contested eastern precincts, those interviewed who said they were voting for Herring tended to be newcomers to Loudoun, and those who said they were voting Republican tended to be longtime residents.

"I just want somebody who isn't going to roll over on their back when the developers show up waving money in their faces," said Frances Barrineau, 59, an artist who moved to Ashburn with her husband less than a year ago. "The government has a right to say, 'What about the quality of life?' "

Those supporting Staton, meanwhile, were less focused on growth and traffic and were more attracted either to the candidate's social conservatism or to his credentials as a member of the GOP.

"I believe in fiscal responsibility," said Jerry Cimarella, 63, a retiree living in Broadlands. "I believe he'll help the Republican Senate, and I believe he will support the president and what he's trying to do overseas."

Herring will report to work immediately. Assuming state election officials certify the results early today, he will be sworn in this morning in Richmond, where the General Assembly is in session. Herring replaces William C. Mims, a Republican who left the Senate to become Virginia's chief deputy attorney general.

The 33rd District includes the eastern half of Loudoun but the vast majority -- about 116,000 -- of the county's total registered voters. The district also includes 31,000 voters in western Fairfax.

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