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November 11, 2014 Published in Editorials

Choice 2014: Virginia Speaks

Virginia, along with much of the nation, went to the polls last week to select a senator and members of congress. Former Virginia Lieutenant Governor Don Beyer easily won the open congressional seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Jim Moran. Mark Warner won reelection to the Senate in a close race with Republican Ed Gillespie who lost by about 16,000 votes. We congratulate the winners and wish them well in their terms of office.

Don Beyer's victory was expected. The Eighth District is heavily Democratic and his polling nearly 63% of the vote shows that clearly. He faced four challengers including Republican Micah Edmund. None had served previously in elected office at any level. Don Beyer ran a strong issue-oriented campaign and, in fact, all candidates seemed to mostly stick to the issues.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the third place finish of Gwendolyn Beck, an independent, who finished ahead of the Libertarian Party and Independent Green candidates. We would not be surprised if Ms. Beck surfaces again as a candidate of a major party to continue her political career.

If the race for the Eighth Congressional District was predictable, the race for the United States Senate presented a major surprise. Polls gave Senator Warner a comfortable lead of 3-7 points over Mr. Gillespie the week before the election. Warner's actual margin of victory was less than 1% at 0.77%.

Mr. Gillespie had strong appeal to Republicans and to independents who believe that President Obama has failed to accomplish much. Mr. Gillespie painted Senator Warner as an Obama "yes" man much the way that former Senator Jim Webb earned his victory over Senator George Allen by portraying him as a George W. Bush "yes" man. Tying Democrats to the President was a national strategy for Republican candidates and worked well here. Virginia voters prize independence among their national representatives and those who consistently vote with a president whose popularity is in decline can lose voter support.

Mr. Gillespie also campaigned hard for his program to boost the economy and jobs. That clearly struck a responsive chord and is evidence that the recovery since the economic collapse under former President Bush has been very unevenly spread among the population.

Economic and social shifts are occurring in America and throughout the world and change makes people uncomfortable. In the eyes of the voters, the sitting President bears responsibility for the state of the country regardless of party. We believe that was the case in Virginia, where Senator Warner barely survived Mr. Gillespie's challenge.

The Republicans increased their House majority and took control of the Senate. It remains to be seen if the new alignment reduces the gridlock of American politics. With the presidential election now two years away and with polarizing figures in both parties looking to run, it is not easy to foresee an easing of partisanship politics.

Alexandria had a great turnout of voters for this election. We congratulate everyone who cast a ballot. Virginia citizens made their voices heard.

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