A political tidal wave

Published 9:04 am Friday, November 11, 2011

Tuesday was a bad day to be an incumbent.

Throughout Western Tidewater, voters tossed one incumbent after another out of office — a wave of dissatisfaction with the status quo unlike anything we’ve ever seen in local politics.

Nowhere was the anti-incumbent fervor more pronounced than in Southampton County, where voters unseated four members of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors.

A recent pattern of rising taxes and indebtedness — and a lack of results to show for the significant investment the county has made in economic development — were too much for Walter Brown, Anita Felts, Moses Wyche and Walter Young to overcome.

Incumbents in neighboring Isle of Wight County fared just marginally better.

Smithfield District Supervisor Al Casteen kept his seat, but Newport District Supervisor Stan Clark and Windsor District Supervisor Thomas Wright were defeated in their re-election bids, as was embattled Sheriff Charlie Phelps. Voter rebellion extended even to the school board, where Windsor District representative T. Hayes Griffin was ousted.

One of the region’s longest-serving and most respected politicians — state Delegate Bill Barlow, D-Smithfield — was dumped from office after a rough-and-tumble campaign that saw major involvement by Virginia’s Republican and Democratic parties and a number of special-interest groups. Republican challenger Rick Morris alone spent more than $400,000 in winning the 64th District seat. Collectively, the two candidates spent well over a half-million bucks, and in keeping with the prevailing winds on Tuesday, it was the challenger who prevailed.

The results were a powerful reminder that it’s still the voters who hold the power in a democracy. They wanted change and got it.