My good friend Chris Royse lost in his election bid for Woodbridge Supervisor last evening, a tough blow in what was an incredible opportunity to build new leadership in Woodbridge that would cooperate with the other major transportation corridor in the county (Gainesville, the I-66 corridor) and deliver a long-term strategy for the county to transition from a bedroom into a major regional employment center. With half of that needed leadership now missing, the Woodbridge District will likely continue to be an anchor that drags the county’s economic performance as Principi pushes it to become a high-rise, residentially-focused area that will drain county tax revenues while the western side of the county will be the only economic engine that actually moves ahead.
So how did this happen?
That question forebodes a tough reckoning for Republicans in the county, who have for a long time given up on the district and failed to establish the political consensus to promote economic recovery and jobs, dismissing it as a stronghold for the far left that couldn’t be economically cracked from a political standpoint. Republican holdouts in the district still exist — for now — but fractured efforts to motivate and unify this block haven’t been undertaken for so long that hardly anyone seems to know how to do that. Lists of Republicans in Woodbridge that could change the equation are a closely guarded secret by campaigns, leaving challengers little if anything to work with, and delivering some wildly differing results between candidate performance in the same precinct.
Of course it’s campaigns and candidates that make the difference in any district, and some work more effectively than others. In Woodbridge Corey Stewart didn’t back off from his aggressive positions on immigration and hammered Babur Lateef, allowing him to carry seven of the nine precinct with a net +305 votes in this district dominated by Democrats. Jeff Frederick also carried three precincts (out of 7 that were in the 36th) with a campaign that criticized Puller’s record pretty strongly and came within 50 votes of winning in Woodbridge. Chris Royse’s almost entirely positive campaign failed to carry any precincts, including absentee ballots, and ended up coming short by over 1,200 votes.
The adage that you don’t hire challengers in Virginia, you fire incumbents, is no more proven than by these numbers. As much as people might complain about negative campaigning, you can’t take out an incumbent without some significant degree of it. You might be the greatest visionary ever to arrive on the political scene, but unless voters decide the incumbent needs to go, you’re not getting the job. That was proven across the state on Tuesday, and the election before that, and countless elections before that. Challenger candidates might sleep well at night knowing they ran the kind of campaign their grandmother would absolutely approve of, but it doesn’t give them the win.
Within the results out of Woodbridge there are some opportunities that could offer a path forward for Republicans to effectively compete in what they have written off for so long and allowed someone like former Tenants and Worker’s United neo-communist Esteban Garces to carry the precincts within the 2nd House District with a net 378 votes. Corey Stewart’s strong performance hinged on his aggressive platform that not only included jobs and the economy, but cracking down on illegal immigration. Instead of the conventional wisdom that suggests that minority communities don’t support such policies, the results demonstrate it’s a winner there just as anywhere else as minority communities probably suffer even more from employment and public safety issues that illegal aliens cause. Candidates for House of Delegates got a net vote total of -818 and Senate candidates got a net total of -859 despite taking this conventionally “safer” course of shying away from the topic. Chris Royse, running his positive campaign mentioned it hardly at all.
Where Royse did comparatively well compared to the average Republican performance was in the precincts with significant Route 1 frontage, such as Freedom, Lynn and River Oaks, and apparently the economic message started to resonate there but didn’t have enough time to fully develop in this very short campaign. Belmont and Library offer similar opportunities for conservatives in Woodbridge to start developing some grass-roots counterweights to fight Principi’s “vision” of planting high-rise residential units with “affordable housing” in the area where Metro is supposedly going to show up in about 20 years. Since that base of voters and activists hasn’t been identified and developed yet in any real sense all we have is the indication there’s an opportunity here rather than an ability to actually start turning elections. But that can come with time.
Turnout in Woodbridge, despite the activity in overlapping House and Senate races that drove turnout elsewhere in the county, was pathetic. It ranged from an abysmal 14% to an underperforming 26% when contested races elsewhere were typically seeing precinct turnouts in the 25-30% range and higher. Too many voters are sitting on their hands in Woodbridge allowing the better organized left to control the outcome of elections, and undoubtedly a number of those absent voters would vote Republican. If that could change, so would the outcome of elections like this.
If that is to happen, and Woodbridge become more of a swing district than a relatively safe district for Democrats, the effort better begin soon. The next elections for supervisor are in four years, and the next elections for House are in two, and it’ll take all that time to make this happen. It’s not as far away as it seems.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
Leave a Reply