Republicans Hang On After Gains by Democrats

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007


Here are the answers to the election questions asked in the Oct. 25 Virginia Notebook after Democrats won the four seats needed to reclaim control of the state Senate and also make inroads in the House of Delegates.

Q Can a Republican still win inside the Beltway?

A Maybe. With Democrat Margaret G. Vanderhye's victory over Republican David M. Hunt for the seat of retiring Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), there will be no elected Republican state official next year representing an inside-the-Beltway district. Hunt lost by just 540 votes, however. In Alexandria, Del. David L. Englin (D) beat Republican challenger Mark S. Allen by nearly 2 to 1. Even so, I wouldn't write off a Republican candidate's chance to someday prevail in Arlington, Alexandria or Fairfax.

Will 177,000 people who signed a petition against the abusive-driver fees show up and vote?

The State Board of Elections has not released official voter turnout statistics, but preliminary data suggest turnout was no higher than in 2003, when 31 percent of registered voters showed up. Democrats say abusive-driver fees helped defeat Republican Sens. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and James K. "Jay" O'Brien, both of Fairfax, and D. Nick Rerras of Norfolk. All three lost to Democratic challengers who campaigned against the incumbents' vote in favor of the fees. But Republicans point to Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-Fairfax) as proof that the fees didn't hurt their candidates. Rust, one of the sponsors of the fees, beat Democrat Jay P. Donahue by six percentage points.

Is Corey A. Stewart the savior of the Republican Party in Prince William County?

Prince William slowed its march toward Democrats on Nov. 6. Once reliably Republican, Prince William voters supported Timothy M. Kaine (D) for governor in 2005 and James Webb (D) over Republican George Allen last year for U.S. Senate. Based on those results, Democrats were hoping to unseat several GOP legislators from Prince William. Stewart's push to crack down on illegal immigration doomed Democrats' chances of making big gains. Democrats did pick up one open seat in Prince William after Paul Nichols defeated Republican Faisal Gill. Republicans also failed to unseat Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), despite his opponent's efforts to label him as soft on immigration.

Can Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) translate his popularity into votes for Democrats?

Even though Kaine has a 63 percent approval rating, Virginia governors traditionally have had a hard time translating their popularity into votes for other candidates. Democrats picked up four House and four Senate seats in Hampton Roads and in Northern Virginia, two regions where Kaine ran strongest in 2005. Although demographic changes and local issues probably contributed to those victories, Kaine will be known as the governor who helped Democrats win back the Senate after a decade of GOP control.

Can a candidate in Virginia win if he or she once advocated an end to public education?

No. Democrat John C. Miller defeated Patricia B. "Tricia" Stall, a Republican candidate for the Senate in the Tidewater area who once signed a petition expressing support for "ending government involvement in education."

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