In some editions yesterday, a Metro article on the Virginia legislative elections incorrectly identified Ginny Peters. She is the campaign manager for Democrat Kristen J. Amundson, newly elected delegate from the 44th House District. (Published 11/04/1999)
The two major political parties each toppled an entrenched legislator in turbulent Northern Virginia elections yesterday, but Republicans claimed a greater victory by aiding in the GOP's historic takeover of state government in Richmond.
Democrat Leslie L. Byrne, a former congresswoman and Virginia delegate, eked out a 41-vote victory over two-term state Sen. Jane H. Woods (R-Fairfax) in one of the state's most expensive and nasty campaigns. The spoiler in the race was Virginia T. Dobey, an independent antiabortion candidate who grabbed nearly 10 percent of the vote, siphoning off some conservative support for Woods.
A recount of the razor-thin tally is expected.
Republicans notched an upset victory of their own when insurance agent Thomas M. Bolvin succeeded in ousting 11-term House member Gladys B. Keating (D-Fairfax). Bolvin, who twice before was defeated by Keating, attributed his third-time-works-a-charm victory to voter discontent over traffic and other issues.
Elsewhere, it was a good night for Northern Virginia incumbents. Of 30 contested seats in the Senate and House, Woods and Keating were the only two incumbents to fall. Democrats also held on to the Fairfax seat of retiring Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (Fairfax).
Yesterday's history-making GOP takeover of state government will bring unprecedented power and clout to Northern Virginia, which is home to a cadre of key Republican legislative leaders.
That could mean more money for road construction, new schools and other projects in the region, GOP officials said.
"We will be taking on an awesome responsibility," said Jeannemarie A. Devolites (R-Fairfax), who handily won reelection. "The power shifts to Northern Virginia and will enable us to bring more dollars here."
Bolvin said: "We have a historic moment for the Republican Party."
Northern Virginia House members who successfully fended off challenges included James H. "Jim" Dillard II (R-Fairfax), Roger J. McClure (R-Fairfax), Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) and Richard H. "Dick" Black (R-Loudoun).
In addition, the Democrats held on to two seats that the GOP had vowed to steal: Del. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-Fairfax) defeated Republican Daniel F. Rinzel for Gartlan's seat, and Kristen J. Amundson kept Puller's House seat in the Democratic column by fending off the well-funded challenge of Republican Scott T. Klein.
"We saved the Democratic House seat and won the Democratic Senate seat," Puller said after arriving to cheers at Amundson's campaign headquarters last night. "We did our part."
Most of this year's campaigns in Northern Virginia focused on issues near and dear to the concerns of suburban voters, as candidates from both parties pledged to secure more money for schools and major transportation projects. In the waning weeks of their campaigns, Byrne and other Democrats stumped hard for stricter gun-control laws in the wake of school shootings in Richmond and elsewhere.
Most party leaders, meanwhile, focused on the political ramifications of yesterday's elections, in which Republicans took control of Virginia state government for the first time in history.
Gov. James S. Gilmore III, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III and other key GOP leaders funneled unprecedented amounts of money into a handful of Northern Virginia races--including the Woods and Bolvin contests--deeming them vital to the GOP's bid for control of state government.
In addition to shaping legislation coming out of the General Assembly next year, yesterday's elections mean Republicans will control the redrawing of state and federal legislative boundaries after the 2000 Census.
Given Northern Virginia's booming population, the final map is certain to give more weight to the Washington suburbs.
"Setting party issues aside, redistricting is what is most at stake in these elections," said Mark Looney, government affairs manager for the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
"That's going to set the tone for what direction the legislature will go in for years to come."
Many GOP officials said their party's triumph also means greater power and influence for Northern Virginia. The legislature's three key money committees will be co-chaired by longtime Republicans from Northern Virginia: Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (Fairfax) at House Appropriations, Del. Harry J. Parrish (Prince William) at House Finance and state Sen. John H. Chichester (Stafford) at Senate Finance.
Other Northern Virginia Republicans will hold leadership posts on several key transportation and education committees, while Fairfax Republican Del. John H. "Jack" Rust Jr., who was unopposed for reelection, is campaigning to become speaker of the House.
For their part, Democrats had hoped to hold onto slim parity with Republicans in the House, arguing that one-party dominance would end up hurting the interests of Northern Virginians. Going into yesterday's elections, the Senate had a 21 to 19 GOP tilt, while the House numbered 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one GOP-leaning independent.
The Republican surge could result in more regional flare-ups between the prosperous Washington suburbs and less well-to-do rural areas of the state, some observers said, exacerbating tensions between moderate Northern Virginia legislators and Gilmore, whose socially and fiscally conservative agenda has proven particularly appealing downstate.
"I don't foresee a love fest between Northern Virginia Republicans and Governor Gilmore," said Mark J. Rozell, a Catholic University professor who closely follows Virginia politics.
"When all the dust settles from the elections and the victory parties, they have to talk about policy priorities. . . . Regional divisions may ultimately trump partisanship."
For many voters yesterday, pragmatic issues such as transportation and education were key to their decisions.
"Fix the doggone Beltway. Fix the Woodrow Wilson Bridge," said Fairfax retiree Carl Cathey, 68. "Highways impact us more than anything else."
His wife, Marcia, 68, added that they were voting Republican because they felt the Democrats failed to address these problems in the years they controlled the legislature.
"When we came here in 1970, the Wilson Bridge was falling down, and 30 years later, they're still talking," she said.
Democratic voters, by and large, said they were voting for particular candidates, not the party. "I don't vote a party ticket necessarily," said lawyer Charles Kinney, 47.
He said he opted for Democratic candidates Puller and Amundson because they "have proven themselves in previous offices," Puller as a state delegate and Amundson as a Fairfax County School Board member.
CAPTION: At the Fairfax Democratic Party headquarters at the Tysons Corner Sheraton Premiere, supporters anxiously tally poll results. It was a good night for Northern Virginia incumbents.
CAPTION: Democrat Leslie L. Byrne greets supporters.
CAPTION: Former Virginia governor George Allen greets the crowd at the Marriott Richmond after the GOP took control of the General Assembly.
CAPTION: Republican Thomas M. Bolvin is congratulated after ousting 11-term House member Gladys B. Keating (D-Fairfax). Bolvin, an insurance agent who twice before was defeated by Keating, attributed his victory to voter discontent over traffic and other issues. "We have a historic moment for the Republican Party," Bolvin said.