Despite the downpour of rain on Tuesday, a steady stream of voters cast their votes at Armstrong Elementary School in Reston. As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 209,223 residents of Fairfax County voted in Virginia’s election.
The state is only of of two in the United States with statewide elections this year. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam are vying for governor in what is expected to be a narrow contest, according to The New York Times. Libertarian Cliff Hyra is also running.
In the last election in 2013, turnout rested at 46.8 percent. With a little more than four hours before polls close, turnout this year sits at 30.6 percent, according to the county.
A record number of absentee ballots were cast this year, according to Fairfax County officials. More than 41,000 Virginians participated in early voting, up by roughly 61 percent from voting in 2013. Absentee voting was up in every jurisdictions in Virginia, except three, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-profit organization that provides information about local politics.
There are more than 684,041 active registered voters in Fairfax County. Throughout the day, voters trickled in at various polling sites throughout Reston and Fairfax County. By 10 a.m., nearly 16 percent or roughly 109,000 of registered voters already casted their ballot.
All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are up for election. Fifty-five of those seats are contested.
Reston’s current Delegate, Democrat Ken Plum, is running without opposition in this election. Plum is currently serving his 36th year as the local Delegate for the 36th District, which includes Reston. Prior to his political appointment, he served for roughly 20 years as a public school teacher and administrator. Plum recently commented on his unopposed race for re-election in his weekly commentary.
Two candidates, Republican Jill Vogel and Justin Fairfax are running to replace Ralph Northam as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, a role which often presides over the State Senate, and has the power to break tie votes. The race for attorney general is between the current attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring, and his opponent, Republican John Adams.
The Board of Supervisors has asked residents to approve the sale of $315 million in bonds. If approved, the county has published a list of school improvement projects they would use the money to pay for.
The American Civil Liberties Union received multiple reports from Virginia voters who said that they received calls falsely saying their polling place had changed. The civil liberties organization advised voters to confirm polling locations at elections.virginia.gov and report any issues by calling the organization at 804-644-8080.
Photo by Fatimah Waseem
Among the questions: the Affordable Care Act, balancing the budget, the Marketplace Fairness Act, Virginia’s economy and student loan debt.
But the answers seemed to return to two themes: Gillespie pairing Warner with President Barack Obama and Warner pointing out his record of bipartisanship.
The event — sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, along with chambers from Loudoun, Fredericksburg, and Prince William — was not a debate. The candidates appeared separately and were asked questions from a panel of chamber reps, as well as follow-ups from moderator Derek McGinty from WUSA 9 TV.
Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chair, said Warner, first elected to the Senate in 2008, is not representing Virginia’s best interests.
“He has voted 97 percent of time with Obama,” said Gillespie. “Instead of being a vote for us, he has been a blank check for president Obama. Since Warner and Obama took office, we have nearly twice as many people go on food stamps than we have had jobs created.”
Warner pointed out that every piece of legislation he has worked on in the Senate has been alongside a Republican counterpart. He said Gillespie comes from a partisan world where it is always Republican vs. Democrats.
“If there is ever a time to drop partisanship and come together, that time is now,” said Warner. “If you want someone able to take arrows from both sides, I would respectfully ask you to rehire me. Don’t lose heart — there are more good people with goodwill in both parties. We have just got to and make it safe for them to work together again.”
Gillespie said too many Virginians are being squeezed in an economy with rising food and energy costs and slow job growth. “Some say we have to accept economic conditions as the new normal,” he said. “The new normal is the old mediocre — and we can do better. This is the result of bad policies and government grown too big.”
Gillespie repeatedly referred to his five-point plan, called EG2 (“Ed Gillespie’s Agenda for Economic Growth). His main points: Replace the Affordable Care Act, which he calls the single biggest drag on our economy; Unleash energy, starting with drilling off Virginia’s coast; Provide tax and regulatory relief; education reform and cutting wasteful spending and concentrate on beefing up defense.
Warner says his career record speaks for itself. He referred to his term as Virginia governor (2002-2006), in which he inherited a deficit and left with a $1 billion surplus, a ranking as the best state in which to do business and the creation of 130,000 new jobs.
“As senator, I have tried to take that same approach,” he said. “My record is simple. When I agree with the president, I work with him. When I don’t, I step up.”
Warner cited across-the-aisle examples such as calling on the administration to stand up to Russian President Vladmir Putin and to build broader coalition against ISIL. Meanwhile, Warner called last year’s sequestration “stupidity on steroids,” even though he was among the 74 senators — a bipartisan mix — that voted in favor of it.
“The alternative was another government shut down, which would have been worse,” he said. “We have got to take on entitlement reform and tax reform. Until we grapple with that, we are not going to get our balance sheet in order.”
He also said the ACA is flawed and the challenge is now to fix it, not repeal it.
“What I hear constantly in Virginia is ‘we are tired of being a political football — just fix it’, ” he said. “They want to keep prexisting conditions, women treated equally as men, keeping kids on the plan till they are 26. But there is a lot Congress did not get right.
“I would remind folks everyone loves Medicare now. Congress did not get Medicare right the first time 49 years ago. I have never invested in a business that met its business plan. The ones that work know how to adjust and change. We have got to have people who are willing to work together and change it.”
Recent polls have Warner ahead of Gillespie by as many as 22 points. Election Day is Nov. 4. Photos: Mark Warner, left, and Ed Gillespie, right, at Friday’s Forum at Center for Innovative Technology
U.S. Senate candidates Mark Warner (D) and Ed Gillespie (R) will talk about Virginia’s role in business and technology at a “Battleground Forum” sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
The forum — not a debate — will take place at the Center for Innovative Technology, 2214 Rock Hill Road, Herndon, at 11 a.m. Visit the Chamber website for ticket information.
Incumbent Warner, first elected to the Senate in 2008, and challenger Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chair, have made similar appearances around Northern Virginia in recent weeks, including another Reston forum last week. at that event, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Warner defended his reputation as a centrist when Gillespie said that Warner’s voting record showed across-the-board support for President Obama.
A poll released last week by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University showed Warner leading Gillespie 53 percent to 31 percent.
Friday’s event is presented in partnership with the Loudoun County, Prince William and Fredricksburg Regional Chambers of Commerce.
Photos: Top, Sen. Mark Warner/file photo; Bottom, Ed Gillespie/file photo