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Votes

Democrats Pick Wilson

With only 5 weeks to campaign, intensity will be key.

As expected Justin Wilson won the Alexandria Democratic Party caucus vote Saturday by a margin of 118 votes over his closest competitor following a heavy turnout for the special nomination. He will now face Republican candidate and former vice mayor William Cleveland in a July 17 special election to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald.

Wilson, 28, drew 655 votes of the 2,011 cast. He was followed by James Lay with 537; Boyd Walker with 466; Lenny Harris with 208; and Mark Feldheim with 145. Wilson had been endorsed by the entire Democrat City Council as well as former mayor Kerry Donley, former City councilman David Speck and former City manager Vola Lawson.

"This was a particularly heavy turnout for a special caucus. We had 13 hours of voting overall with three hours last Thursday night at Democratic Headquarters," said Susan B. Kellom, chair, Alexandria Democratic Committee.

"I am so proud of our candidates and our volunteers. I'm proud to be a Democrat," she said in announcing the vote totals in the Minnie Howard School cafeteria area just before 10:30 p.m. Saturday's voting took place between noon and 10 p.m.

BALLOTS WERE counted in three batches, according to Kellom. The first was counted Thursday night after the headquarters poll closed. Votes cast between noon and 8 p.m. Saturday were counted next and those cast between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. were tallied last. "We did it this way so that we were not here so late," Kellom explained.

Prior to the tally, candidates and their volunteers lined the school parking lot and the outer corridor to the cafeteria polling place, touting their agendas and qualifications to voters. "We used every method at our disposal — phones, door knocking, you name it — to get our message out," said Lay.

"I feel very good about this outcome. I've worked particularly hard in the West End," said Walker as a volunteer worker held up a sign reading "Dogs Vote Boyd Walker."

"We've done a lot of work. Now all we can do is wait and see," said Feldheim.

"There's been a noticeable surge in Jewish voters after sundown. I think it was a very smart move to keep the voting going after the Jewish Sabbath. It shows an inclusiveness," said Del. David Englin (D-45).

Following Kellom's results announcement the losers put on the necessary happy faces but also expressed disappointment. "I must admit I was somewhat surprised at the outcome. I thought we were doing a lot better. I was feeling confident all day and tonight," Walker said.

For his part, Wilson was exceptionally effusive after being declared the winner. "Thank you everyone. Thank you so much. I'm going to make you proud," he said as his first official candidate statement.

"I want to thank everyone who had the courage to run for this nomination. Tomorrow morning we are going to unite and make sure this seat remains in Democratic hands. It's too important to lose," he said.

Assessing the new Democratic standard bearer, Alexandria's new — and former — vice mayor Redella "Del" Pepper said, "He will be a really good campaigner. And, that's exactly what we need for this short time span before the general election."

"This is a candidate that the party can enthusiastically unite behind. He will be very energetic. We need someone with that kind of energy for this race."