The Henrico County Board of Supervisors will have a Republican majority again following Dan Schmitt’s victory over Danny Plaugher in Tuesday’s special election for the Brookland District seat.
In his first bid for public office, Schmitt won the district after Democrats converted the seat last year. He will succeed Courtney Lynch, who resigned in June after winning in a special election last year that gave Democrats a majority on the board for the first time in decades.
According to preliminary returns from the Virginia Department of Elections, Schmitt won about 54 percent of the vote, while Plaugher received 46 percent.
In an interview Tuesday evening, Schmitt said he felt excitement and jubilation after being announced the winner.
“This whole run ... it wasn’t about me. It was about the folks in this district,” he said. “The message we sent from day one — about positivity, people, about a better Brookland and consensus building — I was proud to see that resonate with them.”
Schmitt, the founder and CEO of RMC Events, said he was compelled to run for the seat after Lynch criticized county officials for not supporting her proposal to increase school funding by $4 million to increase teacher pay on top of raises for all county employees.
County officials later decided to add $3 million to increase bus driver pay and hire more teachers, but Lynch’s approach vexed her colleagues, especially after she voted against adopting the budget for this year.
The Brookland seat became open last year after the death of longtime Republican Supervisor Richard “Dick” Glover. Since Lynch’s departure, the seat has been occupied by Harvey Hinson, a former deputy county manager appointed by the board.
With Schmitt’s win, Republicans will hold at least a temporary majority on the board. All five seats on the board will be on the ballot next year.
The county historically has been a Republican stronghold, but local and state elections have seen a shift toward the left in recent years.
Plaugher, the executive director of Virginians for High Speed Rail, lost to Glover in the 2015 election by nearly 20 percentage points, but Lynch won last year by more than 11 points.
“We worked hard and left everything out on the field, so to speak, but it was a weird election year and campaign cycle,” he said.
Plaugher said he does not plan to run for the seat next year.
Plaugher and Schmitt saw little of each other during the campaign and avoided attacking each other. Several political observers said Lynch’s brief, contentious tenure and Schmitt’s fundraising totals may have given him a slight advantage over Plaugher during the abbreviated campaign.
The Republican Party of Virginia created some controversy last year and drew attention to the race after it sent mailers panning Lynch for her support of mass transit expansion and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s endorsement of her campaign.
Schmitt did not receive funding from the Republican Party of Virginia, avoided partisan talking points and did not reveal his party affiliation on much of his campaign material.
“It was a guiding principle,” he said when asked about why he chose to not highlight his party affiliation. “We’re not longer Republicans or Democrats. We’re the Party of Henrico County.”