David Englin won the Democratic primary for the 45th district of the House of Delegates with 2,092 votes, 30 percent of electorate in Alexandria, Arlington and Mount Vernon. He carried nine of the 13 precincts in Alexandria and four of the six precincts in Mount Vernon.
"This was a real grassroots effort, and we wanted to make all of our volunteers feel like they were personally empowered," said Englin at his victory party in Del Ray. He was surrounded by supporters who worked during the campaign knocking on doors, calling potential voters and handing out campaign literature. "We had a message of not apologizing for our progressive views, and I think that resonated with voters."
Englin, 30, was raised by a single mother who was a special education teacher on American bases overseas. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He joined the Air Force at 17, and voluntarily deployed to the Balkans to participate in counter-genocide and peacekeeping operation. On Sept. 11, 2001, Englin was on duty at the Pentagon when it was struck by American Airlines Flight 77.
After moving to Del Ray, he became a member of the Alexandria Democratic Committee and the Del Ray Citizens Association, where he chairs the Traffic Committee. Englin and his family are active congregants at Alexandria's Beth El Hebrew Congregation, where their son attends religious school. In 2003, he was appointed by the City Council to serve on Alexandria's Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, and affordable housing was a recurring theme in his campaign for the House of Delegates.
Englin's six-month campaign focused on creating layers of identification and making multiple contact with individual voters. Potential Democratic voters were identified, and volunteers would appear several times at their door to talk about Englin and his campaign for the House of Delegates. Finally, after the campaign had made several contacts in person and on the telephone, the candidate would arrive to make that final layer of contact.
"In the military, we always say that hope is not a plan," said Englin. "We put together a solid plan and had a dedicated and wonderful army of supporters who went out and did the hard work."
FUNDRAISING REPORTS on file with the State Board of Elections show that the Englin campaign raised $102,793, spending $50 for every vote. Jim Lay has the biggest fundraising total — $135,209, spending $166 for each vote. Laura Mandala raised $117,226, spending $142 per vote.
"These candidates certainly raised a lot of money — I think it's about half a million dollars if you add all the candidates together," said Del. Marian Van Landingham, the retiring incumbent for the 45th district. She was resting under the shade of several trees in Market Square at midday, talking to voters on their way to the City Hall precinct — analyzing the election and sizing up the candidates.
"I was at home a few minutes ago and got another robocall from Laura Mandala," she said, referring to the automated calls that were used by several campaigns. "I just slammed the phone down."
IN THE END, old-fashioned grassroots campaigning won the day. Englin's campaign team set out early to conduct a door-to-door campaign that engaged potential voters several times. In January, the Englin team set a goal of identifying 2,040 supporters before the election. On Election Day, Englin received 2,092 votes — surpassing their initial goal, and winning the election by a margin of 366 votes.
"We set a goal that probably seemed just out of reach," said campaign manager Stephen Davis. "But we put together a wonderful team of hard-working volunteers to make it happen. Some of these volunteers have worked more than 30 hours a week, and that's in addition to having a full-time job."
At the campaign victory party at Englin's house in Del Ray, about 100 supporters and volunteers celebrated the end of a six-month effort. When asked the key to Englin's success, Davis pointed at Englin's house. Since January, the 1500 block of Wayne Street has been the Englin campaign headquarters.
"We had well over 200 volunteers," said Davis. "We wanted to make volunteering an empowering activity, and we wanted the volunteers to feel like they were making a difference. On Tuesdays, we would have volunteer night — and that was very popular. People would come to volunteer and end up staying until late in the evening."
VOTERS RESPONDED to the personal style of retail politics that was used by the campaign. After voting at the Lee Center, Susan Lampshire put on her "I voted" sticker and headed over to the Starbucks at the corner of King Street and St. Asaph Street. Sipping a coffee and talking about the candidates, she felt that Englin had the qualities that she was looking for in a candidate.
"I voted for Englin because I think he understands the issues that are important in this part of Virginia — solving transportation problems and doing something about affordable housing," she said. "He seems like the kind of person who can get things done."
Barbara Bamford is another voter who was won over by Englin. She arrived at the Ladrey precinct in the heat of the afternoon to vote.
"More than anything, I'm sorry that we are losing Marian Van Landingham because she has been such a wonderful asset to this community," she said. "But, after reading all of the literature and the campaign coverage in the Alexandria Gazette Packet, I decided to vote for David Englin. I agree with the issues he put forward, and I think we need some young people in the House of Delegates."