Everything went pretty much as predicted in Alexandria with US Senator John Warner and US Representative James Moran winning their re-election bids easily with only token opposition.
The bond and constitutional issues also sailed through easily to victory. But while the one-half cent sales tax increase won in the city, it did so by a smaller margin than supporters had hoped.
“I knew that if we won, it wouldn’t be by much,” said Delegate Brian Moran (D-46). “I fear that this near victory will spur the anti-tax crowd on.”
Senator Warner got 22,294 votes while his competitors Nancy Spannaus and J. Hornberger, Jr. received 4,517 and 2,002 votes respectively. Five hundred and ninety-nine Alexandrians chose to write in some other name.
Representative Moran got 20,859 votes while his Republican challenger Scott Tate received 12,047. The independent candidate, Ron Crickenberger received 887 votes.
ON VOTER TURNOUT as compared with 1998, the last general, nonpresidential election, according to Alexandria Voter Registra Tom Parkins, about 28,000 people voted in the city in 1998 and this time around about 34,000 voted. "So, around 47 percent of the registered voters voted as opposed to 42 percent in 1998. The Northern Virginia tax question, in particular, brought people out, said Parkins.
"One of the things we noticed was that there were a lot of people who didn’t vote a year ago voted this time. There were lines at 7 p.m. and, while you see that in presidential elections, you don’t normally see that in an off year. People were still voting about 20 to 30 minutes after the polls technically closed. People went to the wrong precincts, probably because they didn’t vote last year. There were significant changes since 2000. All day long yesterday, it felt to me like it was a different mix of people who were voting. The dynamics were interesting."
Moran got 1,500 more votes this year than he did 1998. At the same time, Scott Tate, Moran's Republican opponent this year, got 5,000 more votes than did Moran's 1998 challenger, Demaris Miller.
Parkins said he has seen an increase in absentee voting. Even though Virginians who wish to vote absentee must sign a form stating why they cannot get to the polls on election day, they are voting in larger numbers with absentee ballots. Absentee totals this year were 50 percent higher than in 1998.
"Rules have been relaxed and you can vote absentee just because you want to do so. In Virginia this is not the case and you have to sign a document that says you can’t get to the polls for some reason but the upward trend in absentee voting is higher than turnout.
THE PROPOSED Constitutional amendment regarding case review when new technology makes additional evidence available in criminal cases, won by 26,073 to 6,732. The Constitutional Amendment that would exempt some property belonging to nonprofit organizations from property taxes won, received 23,041 votes for and 10,023 against.
The bond issue that will raise nearly $1 billion in funds for capital needs at colleges and universities throughout Virginia won, receiving 27,453 in favor and 5,597 against. The other bond issue that will raise $119 million for the capital needs of Virginia’s parks and recreational facilities won as well, receiving 26,235 for and 6,704 votes against.
The sales tax referendum also passed in the city. Alexandrians cast 17,211 votes for the one-half cent sales tax increase and 16,763 voted against.
Overall, the region-wide sales tax referendum failed, disappointing many officials. One of those was State Senator Patricia "Patsy" Ticer (D-30).
I think it's just a terrible lost opportunity. We won’t have the opportunity again to take control of our own destiny in our own region. This is not the whole answer to the congestion problem and nobody ever said it was but it was an opportunity to begin with some basic remediations," Ticer said.
"The biggest loser was public transportation and that’s what people have been asking for and needing for a long time. Planning is the key but we can’t plan right now for our current situation; we can only plan for the future. Land use and transportation need to be on the table but at the same time that you are discussing the future and how the system works, you need to solve the current problem that is so bad that it can only be exacerbated by doing nothing.
"I KNEW IT WAS going to be close but I didn’t expect it to be defeated as resoundingly as it was,” said Mayor Kerry J. Donley who played a key role in getting out the message in support of the referendum. “This is a missed opportunity for the region to begin to deal with our transit needs and our traffic problems. Neither the opponents nor the proponents did a very good job of articulating a Plan B. This is going to be a very interesting session of the General Assembly as they wrestle with balancing the budget and transportation needs.”
“Members of the Alexandria and Arlington delegations said last year that not having education as a component of this measure was going to hurt its likelihood of passing,” said Delegate Marian Van Landingham (D-45). “This would have provided money to help defray a good portion of Alexandria’s and Fairfax County’s contribution to Metro. That will now have to come out of local dollars.
"There is also a greater likelihood that the localities will have to consider floating bonds to cover some of the transportation needs. While these are local decisions, it is clear that there will be no additional money for anything coming from the state.
“Land use planning and transportation are important,” she said. “However, we must deal with the issues that confront us today. It has taken 20 years for development around the Arlington Metro stations to be smart growth.”
WHILE VAN LANDINGHAM was pleased that the two statewide bond issues and the two Constitutional amendments passed, she offered a word of caution. “We could end up with new facilities on our college campuses and in our parks and have no money to operate them,” she said. “Already at Northern Virginia Community College, they are having problems finding funds to operate the new Health Sciences facility,” she said.
“One of the greatest betrayals of the public trust was Jim Gilmore’s campaign for governor,” said Councilman David Speck. “He told people what they wanted to hear, it got him elected, and the consequences be damned. I fear that too many people have taken their cue from that experience and will buy into any message that says we can solve our problems without any pain.
"Northern Virginia’s credibility in Richmond has suffered a setback that will take years to repair. Our mass transit needs will be unfounded. And tomorrow morning, people will get in their cars and complain about congestion. I grieve for our future.”
“One message that was not effectively communicated to the voters is that tourists and visitors would have paid a good portion of this tax,” said Councilwoman Claire Eberwein. “Now all dollars come from Northern Virginia taxpayers and go to Richmond where they will be redistributed statewide. With the current state budget crisis, there really aren’t any dollars to redistribute anyway. The impact on education and local services is nothing but negative.
“I think this will be a very short-lived victory,” Eberwein said. “The opposition promoted smart growth principles and I agree with them. But that is a very, very long-term solution. What the opponents do not understand or chose to ignore is that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state where power is parceled out by the General Assembly in dribs and drabs. We have to go to Richmond for permission as to how we elect our local School Board. I am not convinced that any new land use powers will be forthcoming."
“This was never a perfect solution but it was the one on which the diverse Northern Virginia legislative delegation could agree,” said Delegate Brian Moran (D-46). “It would have allowed the region to at least begin to deal with some of our mass transit needs.”