On the frontier between Blue and Red America.
After one of the nation’s hardest fought congressional campaigns, Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly is leading by less than 1,000 votes ahead of Republican businessman and challenger, Keith Fimian in northern Virginia’s 11th congressional district, part of suburban Washington, D.C.
Connolly is ahead with the narrowest of margins, 49.2 percent versus Fimian’s 48.8 percent. Over 220,000 votes were cast in the race.
I have previously observed on this site that, if Keith Fimian won this race, the Republicans would far exceed their success in 1994. As it turns out, a recount is a very real possibility. Whatever the outcome, the tenacity of Fimian’s campaign in a district heavily populated by federal employees and employees of federal contractors was consistent with the remarkable victory of the GOP throughout the nation.
While Connolly will most likely be declared the victor, Fimian is not conceding the race. His campaign manager, Tim Edson, sent out an e-mail letter on November 3 informing supporters that they had hired “an experienced election lawyer and continue paying staff to engage a strike force of several dozen volunteers who are vigilantly monitoring the process.”
A campaign insider told me that the lawyer is Chris Ashby, one of the best in the country for this kind of thing. He has been involved in previous recounts in Virginia. Moreover, the campaign is calling and e-mailing supporters for additional contributions in order to stay in the game until its final resolution, whatever that may be.
Fairfax County (VA) Republican Committee Chair Anthony Bedell sent out an e-mail on Friday, November 5, noting that the Connolly-Fimian contest “remains one of the closest elections in the country,” and citing several developments which may or may not give Fimian supporters some measure of hope for a successful recount, or at least justifying a closer look and playing out the hand.
In Fairfax County voting machines failed to register over 800 ballots. In several precincts there were actually more votes than voters with voting machines reporting higher numbers of votes than the number of voters marked on the pollbooks as having voted. And there were 1,150 absentee ballots that had been mailed out to military personnel and other overseas voters but not yet received or tallied. Finally, adjoining Prince William County rejected over 280 absentee ballots. Fairfax County rejected another 200-300.
Approximately 1.8 percent of the vote was taken by three independent including one Libertarian. This is just a small indicator of how fortunate the Republicans were that the Tea Party movement stayed within the fold, even at the cost of a few unsettling primary results, rather than undertake third-party campaigns such as those by Ross Perot or George Wallace in previous presidential races.
Moreover, the national Democratic Party seemed to put more value on the 11th congressional district than the Republicans given the last minute deployment of $1 million in negative advertising against Fimian, bringing the total support to $1.5 million, a substantial sum not matched by the national Republican Party. This was a measure of how Democratic the district has become over the past few years and the desperation with which that party fought to hold on to the seat.
The GOP either did not have the extra cash or thought the race less competitive than it turned out to be.
Charles Krauthammer has a point, up to a point, when he says that this election was a reversion to the norm in that the Republicans recovered ground lost in 2006 and 2008 and then some. But this election also reflected a hardening of areas both blue and red. The coasts and urban areas are still very much Democratic. Moreover, the South is almost completely purged of Democrats of any stripe. The Midwest and Pennsylvania, however, were game changers.
It is interesting to speculate whether or not the Midwest, Pennsylvania, as well as Virginia’s 11th district, will be as competitive for Republicans in a full-blown presidential election year with its much higher voter turnout.
Virginia’s 11th, located in the expanding suburbs of Washington, D.C., is on the frontier between red and blue Virginia with Democratic and Republican districts on either side of it. It is the crest of the suburban wave. Again, it is unique because it’s a bedroom community for the federal workforce and workplace for those who support them. If there is any place in America that gains hard economic value from a growing, expanding government it is here. In addition, GOP gains by statewide candidates (governor, attorney general, etc.) and well as Fimian’s strong showing came in non-presidential years with lower turnouts, presumably an advantage to them. 2012 will be a different story.
After 9/11 the federal government grew larger. After the Great Recession, it grew some more. Keith Fimian represents a fearful future for many residents in northern Virginia. Congressman Connolly embodies the unsatisfactory present for many others.
A Republican majority in Congress is a problem for the former group and deliverance for the latter.
Hence the importance of a ballot recount that tilts the race Keith Fimian’s way.
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