Don't expect to see mainstream media correspondents descending on Loudoun County in 2020. We are no longer national bellwether territory.
During the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns, we witnessed national – even international – news outlets drop into Loudoun in attempts to catch the “pulse of the nation.” In 2012, that ended up being a fruitful endeavor. In 2016, not so much.
For much of the 2010s, Loudoun has been known as Swing County, U.S.A. We were a politically dynamic county in a politically fickle state. In statewide elections, local voters gravitated to Democrats. In lower turnout, off-year elections, Republicans fared well.
After Tuesday night's Democratic dominance in off-year contests, make no mistake: Loudoun County is not purple – it is firmly, blindingly blue. From Democratic Chairwoman Phyllis Randall in 2015 to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Ralph Northam in 2017 and Jennifer Wexton in 2018, Loudoun as a whole appears comfortably Democratic.
Indeed, the rural west remains conservative territory, and that will likely ensure Republicans have a voice in the local dialogue in the years ahead. But that voice, we suspect, will be calling out from a minority that continues to shrink.
Randall on Tuesday cruised to a second term in a race that many people – ourselves included – thought could be tight. It wasn't. Randall claimed nearly 57 percent of the electorate to Republican John Whitbeck's 39 percent.
Moreover, a Board of Supervisors on which Republicans held a 6-3 majority flipped to 6-3 in favor of the Democrats – and it wasn't even close. Again, we thought two out of three districts of Ashburn, Broad Run and Algonkian could go blue, but we wouldn't have bet the mixed-use development on all three – and certainly not by the healthy margins they did.
On the School Board, while technically non-partisan, seven of the nine winners had the backing of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee.
What does this all mean? Well, for one, local Republicans have some soul searching to do if they want to stay (be?) relevant in countywide politics. 2019 Loudoun County is not a place where you can cover your eyes and plug your ears to the issues of violence involving guns, stray bullets striking homes or the Equal Rights Amendment. And it isn't a place where a lack of compassion for the LGBTQ community and censoring literature plays well.
We aren't suggesting any one solution or unified stance on these issues, but we are adamant candidates should be willing and able to speak to them, offer up proposals and not kowtow to extreme political machines.
Tuesday's continuing blue wave also served as a reminder of just how unpopular President Donald Trump remains in Loudoun County – a locality he lost to Hillary Clinton by 16 percent. While Whitbeck was wise to steer clear of his cozy past with the president, Randall was equally wise, from a strategy standpoint, to insist voters didn't forget it.
Still, even with the Trump factor, after examining Whitbeck's campaign it's hard to imagine how another Republican nominee could've fared better.
Elsewhere, two more women, including one African American, joining the Board of Supervisors is welcome news for a body that has historically been framed through the eyes of old white men. New and diverse perspectives for a new and diverse county should be a good thing.
We urge the new Board of Supervisors and School Board to keep the focus on issues impacting the daily lives of Loudouners. Find fixes for the Route 15 mess. Take care of our students and hold the Loudoun County Public Schools administration accountable for frequent missteps. Pursue and implement responsible budget policies. Do your homework on the upcoming zoning ordinance re-write.
We agree with Randall that some state and federal issues can affect local decision-making – and others are simply too important to ignore – but they aren't the bread and butter of local governance.
So a hearty congrats to all of Tuesday's winners, and a sincere thanks to everyone who stepped up to the plate to run. To the winners, enjoy the moment this week, and get ready to get to work.
Clarification: This editorial has been updated with the final election result totals for Phyllis Randall (D) and John Whitbeck (R).