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Votes

Sending a Message

Democrats hope a last minute write-in campaign makes a statement about Republican incumbent’s service.

When returns initially started to pour in after the polls closed Nov. 6, there was something a little bit curious about some of the results in the House of Delegates 42nd District race.

Del. Dave Albo (R-42), who had no major or minor party opposition of the vote, had less than 70 percent of the vote as the first few precincts in his district started to report. By the end of the night, he had 87.64 percent of the district’s overall vote, even though several incumbents running without competition earned over 90 percent of the vote.

“There was a semi-coordinated write-in campaign in a couple of the precincts. It almost didn’t come together,” said Alan Salisbury, a Mount Vernon resident attending the Democratic Party of Virginia’s victory party on election night.

Salisbury and his other “co-conspirators” were excited about the Democratic Party’s wins in the Virginia State Senate but the write-in campaign against Albo was another reason to celebrate. They considered the effort to oust Albo very successful, considering it was pulled together at the last minute over a couple of beers, said Scott Sourvel, head of the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee.

A small group of Mount Vernon Democrats wrote “Dump Albo” across the back of a Democratic Party sample ballot and Xeroxed it the night before the polls opened. On Election Day, they passed out the revised sample ballots at four of Albo’s 16 precincts, urging Mount Vernon voters to write a person in to vote for instead of Albo, said Sourvel.

In the Lorton precinct, where the anti-Albo flyers were distributed, the incumbent only received 60 percent of the vote, said Chris Ambrose, who said voters substituted names like “A. Democrat” and “Anyone But Elbow” for an actual candidate.

ALBO SAID he does not think much of the write-in effort against him.

“They ran what I characterize as an eighth-grade campaign with flyers. They are trying to create something out of nothing,” he said.

Albo added that three or four people from the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee, all of who were involved in the write-in campaign, appeared to fixate on him and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (D-11). Their opposition to the delegate does reflect the electorate’s feelings.

“They couldn’t find anyone to run against me. … I wrote, with my own computer, the largest transportation bill in Virginia’s history during the last session,” said Albo.

Albo’s uncontested incumbency this year was particularly frustrating, said a few of the Mount Vernon Democrats involved in the write-in campaign.

Albo was the only Republican incumbent in Northern Virginia to run without a Democratic challenger. The Democratic Party had thought one candidate would probably run and then that person decided not to enter the race right before the filing deadline in June, according to Sourvel and other party activists.

A few days after the final deadline to get candidates on the ballot had passed, residents across Virginia expressed outrage over "abusive driver fees," or the possibility being charged with fees over $1,000 for offenses like reckless driving.

Albo, as one of the architects and main proponents of the notorious fees, would have been particularly vulnerable if he had had an opponent in his race, according to many party activists.

Some Mount Vernon Democrats had thought about launching a more serious write-in campaign as the abusive driver fee issue heated up in the summer but were discouraged. Some party officials worried that a write-in campaign against Albo might distract from the competitive 39th District State Senate race, where Democrat George Barker was taking on Republican incumbent Jay O’Brien, said some of the people involved in the last-minute write-in campaign.

The abusive driver fees would not have made a big difference in a contested race. Once the public understood they only applied to people who commit crimes, most people did not object to them, Albo said.