HANOVER -- If the Commonwealth of Virginia turned blue last Tuesday, a majority of voters in Hanover County didn’t get the message.
While Democrats recorded a number of upsets and defeated several Republican incumbents statewide, elections in Hanover County held to a more traditional role with Republicans registering wins in most local contests.
“Hanover Republicans did their part on Tuesday by sweeping every single race on the ballot from State Senate to the [Hanover County] Board of Supervisors,” said Nick Collette, chairman of the Hanover Republican Committee. “Each campaign should be proud of the results.”
A coordinated effort by GOP candidates, coupled with a strong turnout of Republican base voters, made the difference according to the man at the helm of the county Republican Party.
“I was particularly impressed with the amount of coordination we saw from the campaigns for General Assembly to the local candidates running for Board of Supervisors,” Collette said.
He credited that strong turnout with providing the edge in a closely contested Senate race where challenger Debra Rodman was barely defeated by incumbent Siobhan Dunnavant.
“The strong turnout from conservatives across Hanover resulted in retaining a very tough Senate seat in the 12th District, but the real credit for that goes to Senator Dunnavant herself and the incredible team she put together,” Collette said.
“She was plugged into our local races despite only having a handful of precincts in Hanover, and her leadership helped us turn out the vote in that part of the county, ultimately resulting in a big win for a candidate who has a very bright future in Virginia politics.”
In contested races for the Hanover County Board of Supervisors, Republicans Aubrey “Bucky” Stanley, Beaverdam; Sean Davis, Henry; Michael Herzberg, Cold Harbor; and Sue Dibble, South Anna; defeated Democratic challengers.
Faye Prichard, the lone Democrat on the board, was re-elected to her Ashland District seat in an unopposed contest.
Canova Peterson, Mechanicsvlle, and Angela Kelly-Wiecek, Chickahominy; also ran unopposed and retained their seats on the board.
Despite the predicted losses, Hanover Democratic chair Toni Radler said this election was meaningful for Hanover and the Commonwealth.
“This was one of the most exciting elections for Hanover in decades,” Radler said. “First, we want to congratulate our winning Democrats, Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Ashland District Supervisor Faye Prichard. Both of these candidates are among the smartest and hardest working elected officials who put constituents above politics; and that always serves constituents best.”
Radler noted that an energized write-in ballot for the 97th District House seat and the close race with Rodman and Dunnavant drove voters to the polls, a double-edged sword for Democratic candidates in Hanover.
“The Chris Peace write-in campaign in the eastern end of the county energized voters, and in the western end of the county, the Rodman-Dunnavant energized voters there,” Radler said.
“We are always happy to see high voter turnouts, but the high turnout impacted our local races. We had some of the very best candidates you could hope for – but, even for the local Board of Supervisor elections, people voted along party lines,” she continued. “It can be discouraging when you see the alternatives, but we Hanover Democrats are treating it as a dress rehearsal for 2020.”
Collette said the Democratic message didn’t play well in Hanover County.
“Democrats continue to focus on hyper-partisan, divisive issues like third trimester abortions and limiting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, but that kind of message doesn't work in Hanover and I think Tuesday's results proved that,” Collette said.
Hanover’s choices last Tuesday could provide an important voice when the Democrats take control of the Virginia General Assembly in January, according to Collette.
“When Democrats take control of the General Assembly in January, there will be a lot to be concerned about, but here in Hanover we have strong, conservative representation, and I have no doubt that our elected officials will be fighting for the very constituents that elected them and pushing back against the extreme agenda we are sure to see from the Democrats,” Collette said.
Radler described the upcoming legislative agenda differently.
“I think we can look forward to sensible gun control legislation...legislation that won't take people's guns from them, but will at least ensure some protection preventing mentally or emotionally disturbed people from buying guns, Radler said.
She said there are other important issues on that agenda. “I think the ERA will at least come up for a vote, rather than being killed in committee by Del. [Buddy] Fowler, as it was last year,” she said. “We hope that progress will be made on education funding, roads and relieving overcrowding in mental health facilities.”
Regarding redistricting and the reality that Democrats will now be drawing legislative district lines, the two local leaders had a different take on the situation.
“As for redistricting, it will be very interesting to see if the Democrats put their money where their mouth is on this issue,” Collette said. “For years now, they have talked about "nonpartisan" redistricting; now that they hold all the power, we'll see if those were empty lies or genuine concerns. It is far too early to determine what effect redistricting will have on Hanover's legislative districts,” he added.
Radler said it’s time for adjustments to what she described as extreme gerrymandering that took place under Republican control.
“Statewide, we are thrilled that Democrats now control both houses in the General Assembly,” she said. “This means that after the census, when redistricting occurs, we won't see the extreme gerrymandering that has left so many localities in a no win situation for Democrats and minorities.”
Radler said it’s unclear where those redistricting efforts will be focused, but noted there could be a need for changes in Hanover.
“ It's hard to know what redistricting might occur in Hanover, but we have some crazy county districts ... Beaverdam, for instance, runs from the far west end of the County on the Louisa line across 95 to Hanover Courthouse and south on 301... not exactly a cohesive district. Also, we'll probably be in play again as to whether Hanover ends up in the first or the seventh congressional district,” she said.
The Democratic chair said she is excited about the possibilities.”
Collette indicated he hopes the change in control could affect what he considered positive gains made under Republican control of the legislature.
“Because of Republican leadership in the General Assembly, Virginia currently has the strongest economy in the United States. That is sure to change under the Democrats if they allow the fringe left to take full control of their caucuses, which appears to be the case in the days after the election.”
Radler said she’s looking forward to a new direction in the Commonwealth’s legislative bodies.
“We are excited to look forward to a General Assembly that will be working for all of us, not the gun lobby or the energy lobby or other special interest groups that drown out constituent voices and rob us from being the focus of our duly elected representatives.”