Tables turn, governors suffer rebukes, and a mayor needs to plant some roots -- fast. What a night.
Start with this bit of topsy-turvy: The budget-slashing governor of anti-tax Virginia is a Democrat, and the new, pro-gambling governor of Maryland is a Republican who sees no burning need to slash the state's generous spending.
But the big story election night was this: Who would have predicted that it would be Northern Virginians who slammed the brakes on road building and, beyond the immediate impact of Tuesday's No vote, pretty well doomed chances for a new Potomac River crossing? And who would have thought that it would be those liberal environmentalists of Montgomery County who elected a heavily pro-intercounty connector council, now bolstered by a GOP governor committed to the new highway?
Voters mashed Mark Warner's transportation sales tax into road kill, eviscerating the governor's only opportunity to create a legacy other than the massive budget cuts that he has undertaken forthrightly and admirably. Repudiated by his home base, Warner conceded by e-mail and sulked for most of the next day before letting on that he was chastened.
Next, we'll hear politicians demonize the voters, saying, well, if that's the way you vote, then you don't deserve any new roads or transit, because obviously you don't see any problems here.
But that would be a willful misreading of the voters' message, which is clear: We elected you to fight for this region's fair share of state funds, not to throw up your hands and turn the problem back to the voters. Do your jobs.
This was no blind rage against spending. In every Northern Virginia jurisdiction, the same voters who rejected the sales tax said a firm Yes to bonds to boost higher education and acquire more parkland. People simply did not believe that the proposed road and transit spending would make a significant difference in their daily lives.
Warner's reaction seemed positively gracious next to the breathtaking gall of Parris Glendening, the lame duck who waddled out of his honeymoon hiatus to blast his erstwhile partner, Kathleen KENNEDY Townsend, for mounting "one of the worst-run campaigns in the country."
Look who's talking. It was Glendening's decision to play house with his top aide and create a soap opera in the governor's mansion that undermined Townsend even before she had a chance to damage herself.
Townsend managed to pull 63,000 fewer votes Tuesday than Glendening did in 1998, even though 91,000 more Marylanders voted this year than in the last governor's race. People really didn't like her.
Finally, in the District, where the election returns indicate life must be a frolic in paradise, Mayor Williams easily won a second term and once more crowed about how he's learned his lesson and will be much more closely connected to the people from now on, scout's honor.
But Williams still has not bought a house in his adopted city. For years, the First Tenant has assured all that he's hunting for a fixer-upper in LeDroit Park. Back in August, Williams claimed to be closing in on a house in that fast-gentrifying neighborhood near Howard University.
"I am not a carpetbagger," Williams told audiences this fall. "I'm a part of you, and you're a part of me." Pardon us if we don't join the mayor in song. After all, it was back in 1999 that the mayor told us he had finally sold his condo in St. Louis because "I want to make my roots here."
It is long since time for the mayor to leave his Foggy Bottom apartment and join the city's tax base. But maybe the matter has once again slipped his mind. After all, isn't he getting a fancy mansion on Foxhall Road NW, courtesy of that megamillions gift from Betty Casey? Ah, but the official residence for the mayor, which was supposed to have been completed by now, is nowhere to be seen, construction having not even begun.
No more excuses, Mr. Mayor. Just to help out, I'll provide occasional reminders in this space. Hurry, sir, I've already picked out your housewarming gift.
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