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LTM Editorial: Who’s election was it anyway?

Those simply hoping to get past election season have had a tough week. Not only is the attorney general race likely heading for a recount, but the 2014 midterm election campaigns are starting to ramp up.

Even so, we’d like to take a moment to review the lessons from Loudoun in 2013 … lessons not dissimilar to what we saw examining the post-game of election 2012.

Turnout matters

The party who can get their voters to the polls will win every year – and it would appear that we’re seeing strong turnout machines from both political parties.

Loudoun turnout this year was 43.06 percent, the highest percentage turnout for a non-presidential election since 2006. But in terms of sheer numbers, more voters cast their ballot than in any non-presidential election in Loudoun’s history.

Conventional wisdom states that high turnout elections favor Democrats. In Loudoun, this may not be true as the margin for governor turned out to be much smaller than anticipated.

Instead, we may be looking at an ongoing battle between the turnout machines employed by local Democrats and Republicans.

Tickets get split

For all the talk of a
united ticket of candidates, Loudoun voters have no problem splitting their votes between political parties when it suits them.

That’s why we saw a strong showing in Loudoun for Democrats running for statewide races, but a unified Republican victory for the House of Delegates.

Some of this relates to incumbency, but lieutenant governor-elect Ralph Northam’s margin of victory in Loudoun was nearly twice that of Terry McAuliffe. Voters pay attention.

We’ve already seen this in the 10th District House of Representatives elections with Frank Wolf (R) winning at the same time voters came out for Barack Obama and Tim Kaine.

Blue in the east, red in the west

Part of what makes Loudoun so interesting is that with its rural west and suburban east, the county can be seen as a microcosm of Virginia as a whole.

This happens on Election Day, too. Just like most suburban and urban areas weighed in for McAuliffe, so too did the eastern and central districts of Loudoun County. And just like much of rural Virginia supported Ken Cuccinelli, the Blue Ridge and Catoctin districts were the only two magisterial districts where the GOP candidate outperformed his opponent.

It’s a repeat of 2012, where Mitt Romney strongly carried those two districts.

On the delegate level, the incumbent Republicans in the eastern Loudoun districts won re-election by unpredictably thin margins, while Del. Randy Minchew and delegate-elect Dave LaRock won handily in western Loudoun.

Reign of Northern Virginia

Perhaps more interestingly, 2013 was Northern Virginia’s election. McAuliffe and Herring both hail from the region, a marked difference from the slate of candidates in 2009. Four years ago, only the two attorney general candidates hailed from Northern Virginia and Cuccinelli’s campaign didn’t particularly focus on it.

This was the year where Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads gave the Democratic ticket the push to get them over the top. It is perhaps for that reason that arguments over who was for or against the coal industry didn’t swing the election as it certainly would have before the population explosion in the suburbs.

Likewise, candidates arguing against investments in transportation (and the transportation compromise this past session of the General Assembly) often found themselves receiving the cold shoulder from voters and financial donors.


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