Elections divide Senate, empower GOP

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November 11, 2011

12:02 AM

Election night was intense for those watching Virginia General Assembly poll results come in Tuesday. While four of the six offices proffered for election on Williamsburg City ballots were uncontested, the state House of Delegates and Senate seats were contested and narrowly decided.

Elections were different from those last year because districts were recently redrawn. Another change resulted from Republican candidate Mike Watson’s win over incumbent Del. Robin Abbott J.D. ’01 (D) for the 93rd district of the Virginia General Assembly. Incumbent state senator John Miller (D-1) retained his seat, beating out opposing Republican candidate Mickey Chohany by a slim margin.

“I would hope that people would take away [from this election] that elections can be about the issues, not about character assasinations or policies of personal attacks as my opponent and the Republican Party used against me,” Miller said.

While Miller fared well in the state Senate election, winning with 51 percent of the vote, the polls told a different story for Abbott. Though the contestants ran neck-to-neck, Abbott’s opponent, Watson, attained 52 percent of the ballots cast, ousting the single-term incumbent.

The combined $816,000 spent by Watson and Abbott for this election was decided in the end by 480 votes. A combined $1.66 million was spent between the two Senate candidates. The Senate race was also hotly contested until the end and was decided by only 985 votes.

“My background is in business, and I want to apply what I have learned as a businessman to be a better leader,” Watson said, echoing the refrain of private enterprise that became a hallmark of his campaign. “As soon as I can take a leadership role, I will.”

Some students expressed reservations about this election.

“I would like to have seen greater student understanding of specific issues,” William and Mary Young Democrats President Katie Deabler ’12 said. “No matter what happens though, we are very pleased with student turnout — especially in an odd election year.”

Despite a win in the General Assembly House of Delegates, some College Republicans hoped for more success.

“We put up a good fight,” College Republican First Vice Chairman Chandler Crenshaw ’14 said. “It was an uphill battle all the way. Unfortunately, it did not turn out the way we had hoped.”

This gain in seats will alter party control in the state Senate.

“It is going to be interesting to see how the relationship works out . . . We look forward to seeing both parties work together to pass legislation,” Crenshaw said.

The previously Democrat-controlled House is now under the co-reign of both parties with 20 seats each. This will increase the significance of Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (R) in the legislative process, as he will be called to cast his decisive vote should the Senate come to a tie.

“Make no mistake about it, there is a Republican majority in the state Senate,” Bolling said Wednesday to reporters in Richmond.

The GOP will have a more empowered position in the new government, given its control of the House of Delegates and co-majority in the state Senate, as well as Republican control of the offices of governor, lieutenant governor and state attorney general.

“It is critically important that we do not be arrogant, but that we govern effectively and reflect the will of the people,” Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said in Richmond Wednesday.

In response, Democrats may be preparing for a recount in the 17th state Senate district, previously held by Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-17). His Republican challenger, Bryce Reeves, won the seat by a slim margin of 222 votes out of more than 45,000 cast.

Abbott understood that she faced stiff opposition from the start.

“There was an eight-point swing in the 93rd from Democrat to Republican [due to redistricting],” she said. “I knew it would be a difficult race . . . There was large turnout in James City County and Kings Mill for the County Supervisor race there — with low turnout out in the Newport News area.”

Abbott won the Newport News vote, but lost in James City County.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to represent the people of the 93rd district, and I wish Mike Watson the best of luck,” she said.

The campaign office of Chohany did not respond to requests for comment.

In the uncontested elections for James City County and Williamsburg incumbents, Nathan R. Green J.D. ’98 (R) was re-elected as the Commonwealth’s attorney with 98 percent of ballots cast. Robert J. Deeds (R) was re-elected as sheriff with 98 percent of ballots cast. M. Ann Davis (I) was re-elected treasurer for James City County with 99 percent of ballots cast. Leslie Bowie (I) was elected Soil and Water Conservation director, Colonial District with 92 percent of ballots cast.

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