Foster, Pons win City Council seats

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May 4, 2010

7:10 PM

_Flat Hat News Editor Ian Brickey and Chief Staff Writer Sam Sutton contributed to this report._

College of William and Mary student Scott Foster ’10 and Williamsburg Planning Commission Chairman Doug Pons were elected to the Williamsburg City Council Tuesday.

Foster, the front-runner with 1,559 votes, nearly doubled the total of the closest candidate. He was followed by Pons, who received 818 votes. Planning Commission Member Sean Driscoll was a close third with 801 votes, followed by incumbent Councilman Bobby Braxton with 756 votes and Dr. David Dafashy, a physician at the College’s student health center, with 733 votes.

“I’m a little overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to expect,” Foster said outside the Green Leafe Cafe, where a victory party was in full swing. “Student turnout was huge, but we got a lot of resident votes too.”

Pons hosted his own party Tuesday at the Yorkshire Restaurant on York Street.

“I’m amazed, I’m excited. I couldn’t believe that I won,” he said. “Going door to door, one thing I heard from residents is that … they want transparency. There is a large segment among residents that think their opinions don’t matter, I want to change that.”

He added that he is excited to work with Foster, who will be the first student to serve on the council in the city’s history.

“It really is democracy in action,” Pons said.

Foster received 1,313 votes at the Stryker Precinct, where students were shuttled to the polls by bus and carload. Dafashy had a strong showing at Stryker as well, with 559 votes. He was followed by Pons with 426, Driscoll with 411 and Braxton with 400.

Voter turnout at the Stryker Precinct was strong, with a heavy turnout from students. The Student Assembly provided transportation to and from the polling station, and reminded students throughout the day to vote.

“Today it showed that William and Mary students really care about what is going on in Williamsburg,” SA President Chrissy Scott ’11 said. “Personally, I’m really excited to work with Scott next year.”

From the absentee ballots, Braxton received 49, Pons received 43 votes, Driscoll received 41, Foster received 19 and Dafashy received 10.

However, at the Berkeley Precinct, comprised mostly of city residents, Driscoll and Pons tied for 349 votes, Braxton got 313, Foster got 227 and Dafashy got 164.

Erik Houser ’10, a member of Foster’s campaign, said that the campaign estimated that a third-place showing at the Berkeley precinct would be necessary to win the race. The poor showing in Berkeley, which reported its results prior to the Stryker precinct, left many with the Foster campaign worrying about their chances of victory.

“We were in fourth place there, down by 123 votes,” Houser said. “We thought we needed to come in third place to win. I guess we underestimated how great the support was going to be from the Stryker precinct.”

Within an hour of the polls closing, the results of the Stryker precinct were announced showing Foster and Pons as the victors.

“This is an absolutely historic day for the College and this city,” Houser said. “I couldn’t have predicted this ever happening, but I’m ecstatic with the results. An almost a 2-1 margin. Absolutely unprecedented, absolutely unheard of. This is quite essentially history in the making.”

Houser said that Foster’s convincing victory could largely be attributed to the effectiveness and organization of the campaign.

“Everything was done perfectly,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to how much we did here that we won by such a large margin, and that we gained support not just from the College but from the city as well. Quite simply, we put together the most professional campaign staff in Williamsburg history. We raised the most money until the last week. We knocked on more doors. We contacted more voters. We had the only warm-lit drop. We put warm lit at every single house in the entire city on Saturday in the space of seven hours. No body else had the operational ability to do this.”

The campaign also organized a large get-out-the-vote effort throughout election day.

“The day-of activities were huge,” Foster said. “It involved a lot of text messaging, a lot of phone banking.”

Foster himself spent most of the day campaigning at the Berkeley precinct.

“That’s where I needed to do well,” he said. “That’s where I finished all the doors. Typically you need to come in first second or third to win there. So I was out there making sure the folks knew I was there and remembered me because that was the earliest place that I walked to. There was a steady trickle of folks coming up to me all day telling me ‘you’ve got my vote.’”

In the days before the election, some suggested that students only cast ballots for Foster, in a so-called “single-shot” election effort to maximize vote totals. Foster’s campaign did not know what impact, if any, these efforts had in the election.

“We really don’t know yet. It has to be a significant amount,” Foster said. “By tomorrow we’ll have better estimates of the student turnout. But even with the student turnout we’re not sure that they were one-shot. In many ways we’ll never know.”

Members of the Williamsburg community also reacted positively to Foster’s election Tuesday night.

“This is an historic election,” Vice Mayor Clyde Haulman said. “Scott’s really a terrific young man.”

In a statement, College President Taylor Reveley said that Foster’s election was a significant moment for both the city and the College.

“In my view, it’s important to have a graduating W&M senior join the Council, especially one with the civility and good sense that Scott Foster brings to the table,” he said.

He went on to congratulate Pons as well, adding that he is looking forward to working with both the newly elected council members.

Both men will now begin four-year terms on the city council. While their platforms differed, Foster said that he was excited to work with Pons on the council.

“I think he and I are both going to come into the council with a whole lot of energy,” Foster said. “He wants to get a lot of things done, and there are a lot of things that I want to get done, so I think we can work together on our commonalities. I’m on board with giving tourism a shot in the arm. He definitely wants that.”

Houser agreed that Pons and Foster shared views on increasing business within the city.

“I think that Doug Pons and Scott will find common ground on being pro-business,” he said. “That’s one place where they’re going to agree a lot, because, to be honest, being pro-business is functionally identical to being pro student. Businesses in this town benefit students, so they’re both the same thing.”

He went on to say that one of Foster’s main priorities would be representing the interests of students at the College.

“He’s going to have four years on city council where he’s going to be as pro-student as possible,” Houser said. “Voting with the students on nearly every issue. That’s what he got elected to do that’s why students showed up and that’s what he’s going to do.”

Houser also suggested that Foster’s campaign would not be the last student-centered effort in city politics.

“The other three people would be wise to take note of these results because we’re going to be back in two years with another student candidate, if not more, and this is going to happen again,” Houser said. “This is not the last student winner. There will be more.”

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