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Votes

NoVa Leads Political Shift

Northern Virginia played a pivotal role in Jim Webb's victory last week over U.S. Sen. George Allen (R), giving the Democrat enough votes to unseat the popular incumbent.

Webb brought in 59 percent of the votes in Fairfax County, 73 percent in Arlington, 71 percent in Alexandria, 50 percent in Loudoun County and 50.5 percent in Prince William County.

One of Allen's key missteps during the campaign was to largely ignore Northern Virginia, said Toni-Michelle Travis, a politics professor at George Mason University. Webb, on the other hand, spent much of his campaign's time and money in vote-rich Northern Virginia.

"There's been a huge new voter influx in Northern Virginia," Travis said. "You can't run the old game with so many new voters. We are in a state of flux. Change is coming. And, so far, it's been good to the Democrats."

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly, one of the region's top Democrats, said a string of Democratic victories shows that Northern Virginia Ñ including traditionally Republican exurbs like Loudoun and Prince William counties Ñ is becoming solidly blue.

"You can no longer say this is a fluke," said Connolly, pointing to the region's influential role in Gov. Tim Kaine's (D) victory last year and Webb's victory last week. "Northern Virginia is turning Virginia into a purple state."

WEBB'S VICTORY may foreshadow Democratic gains in next year's General Assembly contests. If Democrats nominate credible challengers, they have a shot at unseating several Republicans in Northern Virginia.

Travis mentioned Del. David Albo (R-42) as an example of a Republican incumbent who may be in jeopardy in 2007 if Democrats nominate strong challengers, such as Greg Werkheiser, who ran against Albo in 2005. Albo's district voted for Webb by a margin of 2,673 votes Ñ or 56 percent. Webb carried all but one precinct in Albo's district last week.

Larry Byrne, a top Webb campaign aide, agreed. Democrats have a good chance of unseating Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37) next year, Byrne said. Cuccinelli's district also voted in favor of Webb.

"Northern Virginia is delivering huge margins to Democrats," Byrne said. "There are a number of [GOP delegates and senators] who are going to be in trouble."

Eric Lundberg, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, said GOP lawmakers from Northern Virginia must be able to show a record of accomplishment on quality-of-life issues Ñ like U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf's success in tackling gangs and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis' efforts to increase Metrorail funding.

"You have to deliver. You have to show a real record of accomplishment on issues like transportation," Lundberg said. "I would hope the legislators from Northern Virginia are taking note of that."

MANY NORTHERN VIRGINIA voters split their votes last week, supporting U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11) and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) but opposing Allen on the top of the ticket.

In Davis' district, nearly 25,700 voters appear to have backed Davis and Webb. In Wolf's district, it appears that more than 20,000 voters voted for Wolf and Webb.

Davis' Democratic challenger, Andy Hurst, and Wolf's challenger, Democrat Judy Feder, came closer to unseating the GOP incumbents than any other Democrat in recent memory.

Statewide, Davis and Wolf were re-elected with the lowest margins of victory among any incumbent congressman this year.

A substantial numbers of voters in Northern Virginia also apparently supported both the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage but did not vote for Allen. In Fairfax County, there were 44,559 fewer votes cast for Allen than there were for the amendment.

INTERNET BLOGGERS played a fundamental role in this year's election season. Bloggers ran a "draft Webb" petition, which helped convince Webb to run.

Blogs also helped showcase the candidates' fumbles on the campaign trail. Following Allen's macaca gaffe, the ÒNot Larry SabatoÓ blog Ñ run by Ben Tribbett of Burke Ñ broke the story. When Allen's supporters tackled a Webb supporter at a Charlottesville campaign stop, blogs linked to the video, giving it more exposure.

"With blogs, anything on the campaign trail is instantly disseminated," Travis said. "Any slip, any peculiar gesture will instantly be seen around the state."

Tribbett, whose blog averaged between 50,000 and 75,000 unique visitors per day in the final stretch of the campaign, said undecided voters were clearly turning to blogs for information about Allen and Webb. In the last week of the campaign, Tribbett said, at least 80,000 people stumbled upon his blog via Google searches about the candidates.

"I feel good about saying blogs had an impact, based just upon the numbers,Ó he said. "It was a really fun cycle and voters got a lot of additional information because of blogs."