UPDATE: Steve Hunt pulls out a big win with 51% of the vote!
A pretty respectable turnout tonight in the 37th District as between 1,700 and 1,900 voters showed up for the Republican primary. Surprisingly the race seems to between Will Nance, who mounted a pretty aggressive turnout effort, and Steve Hunt. Marianne Horinko looks to be trailing considerably despite spending what looks to be about five times more than anyone else in the race. This one looks like it’s going to be close.
Centrevile High School was a madhouse this evening as turnout greatly exceeded expectations. Lines were long, and it took people almost an hour to vote even after they managed to get into the parking lot after navigating the traffic jam that developed in front of the school. The Hunt and Nance campaigns ran very strong operations at the poll and for quite some time it looked as if this was a Hunt/Nance race as Nance stickers and signs were all over the place.
I spoke with Steve Hunt’s campaign manager soon after the last votes were cast, and his impression at the time was that this was going to be a close race between Hunt and Nance, who outspent Hunt by about 2:1. Marianne Horinko didn’t seem to have much presence at the poll, with few volunteers and very weak signage, quite a surprise for someone who appears to have spent five times what Nance did in the race.
In the end, Hunt got 51% of the votes, and Horinko got 25% and Nance narrowly trailed with 24%. In a three way race in a special election, that margin of victory is darned impressive. Despite getting heavily outspent, Hunt seems to have borrowed a few pages out of the Cuccinelli playbook and ran a nearly perfect ground game that trumped money, national figures weighing in on behalf of his opponents, and the army of consultants behind Horinko and to a lesser degree, Nance. Hunt had the energy and the volunteers, and that trumps all sorts of disadvantages.
Dave Marsden is going to have a hard time if tonight’s firehouse primary is any indication, which I believe it is. Republicans haven’t fallen on the couch thinking their job wasn’t done on November 3rd by any means. They showed up in force, in numbers far exceeding expectations, and are clearly engaged in this race. Meanwhile as Democrats remain indefinitely fractured over Marsden’s candidacy, Marsden isn’t doing much of anything to engage voters and get them energized for the special election. In many ways there’s only one candidate actually running for this seat, and one pretending to run.
That doesn’t mean Republicans can cruise until January when the special election is going to happen – far from it. This election still has to be actively won. It’s just a lot easier to get that victory when Democrats are infighting, their candidate is flawed and weak, and Republicans have been pushing hard to connect with the electorate and get them engaged in a campaign where turnout will be just as important for the special election as it was for tonight’s primary.
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