Election reflections

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Random post-election observations …

– “Two’s company; three’s a crowd” may apply as much to politics as to romance.

In Southampton County’s Newsoms District, where voters seem to either love or despise Supervisor Walt Brown, the Republican incumbent was re-elected despite getting just 44 percent of the vote.

Brown’s victory by plurality — instead of the traditional majority — was possible due to his having two opponents rather than one. Had challengers Glenn Updike and Burt Blythe consolidated the anti-Brown vote, the Newsoms District would have a new representative on the Board of Supervisors come January. Maybe next time Updike and Blythe should draw straws for the opportunity to take on Brown.

– Virginia Democrats, in their ultimately successful quest to wrest control of the state Senate, miscalculated in targeting Sen. Fred Quayle, R-Suffolk, as a vulnerable incumbent. Despite an influx of big bucks from outside the district for challenger Steve Heretick, Quayle made his bid for a fifth term look easy.

Quayle captured 59 percent of the votes in District 13 to rout Heretick, a Portsmouth city councilman. The incumbent even beat Heretick in the Democrat’s current hometown and in his native Hopewell. Heretick prevailed only in Prince George County. Quayle won easily in Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County.

– Quayle’s victory was a rare setback for Virginia Democrats on a night when they captured control of the state Senate and reduced the GOP majority in the House of Delegates by four. The Democratic majority in the Senate means Quayle will lose his chairmanship of the Local Government Committee.

Conversely, Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who represents the portions of Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight that Quayle doesn’t, stands to gain a committee chairmanship. Lucas was unopposed Tuesday in her bid for a fifth term.

– The old notion that a good, competitive sheriff’s race will guarantee high voter turnout may no longer apply. In Isle of Wight County, where incumbent Sheriff Charlie Phelps fought off an aggressive challenge, turnout (39 percent) was no better than in neighboring Southampton County, where popular incumbent Sheriff Vernie Francis was unopposed.

– On a night that was otherwise good for area incumbents, Isle of Wight Smithfield District Supervisor Tom Ivy lost handily to challenger Al Casteen. Ivy’s fate was sealed by his support of the controversial Hampton Roads Transportation Authority and its associated fees and taxes, which didn’t sit well with Isle of Wight voters. The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors, which was divided itself on the issue, cast a decisive swing vote among the localities that had to approve the Transportation Authority.

Say what you will about the transportation issue, but give Ivy some credit for sticking to his convictions. He declared his support early for the Transportation Authority and never wavered, despite intense opposition. Increasingly rare in politics is the principled vote. Ivy cast it, and the voters who disagreed exercised their right to punish him for it.