As few would not have predicted, the three Democratic candidates for Charlottesville City Council swept to victory on Tuesday, maintaining the monopoly on power that that political party has enjoyed for the bulk of the past generation. (Only two Republicans have been elected to public office in Charlottesville since 1982.)
Despite voter disquiet about a taxpayer-funded trip to Italy set to begin today, Mayor David Brown and his ticketmates trounced the two independents in the race, Barbara Haskins and Peter Kleeman.
The two top-of-the-ballot races, for state Senate and the House of Delegates, were uncontested, while many voters were surprised to find a three-way race for two seats on the Thomas Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District, an office that heretofore had not been presented to voters for their choices on election day.
This was also the first time that City Council and School Board elections took place in Charlottesville in November rather than May. Turnout in the city on Tuesday was comparable to that of the last time three City Council seats were up, in May 2004 (when Mayor Brown was first elected, along with retiring council members Kendra Hamilton and Kevin Lynch). As a matter of fact, the fraction of voters who came out to the polls was precisely the same at 27 percent, although (because we now have a greater number of registered voters) the raw number of voters was larger. In May 2004, 5,339 people voted, and on Tuesday there were 6,085. (These figures are based on unofficial totals, subject to change after the canvass of results on Wednesday.)
One highlight for me on Tuesday was meeting a person who is perhaps Charlottesville's oldest living voter: Mr. William Duren, Jr., who is 102 years old. He came out to Alumni Hall Precinct to vote in person, and kindly granted my wish to photograph him (see below) for posterity:
Imagine: Mr. Duren was already eligible to vote when Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States, and Harry F. Byrd, Sr., was Governor of Virginia!
Tuesday was also a busy media day. I was interviewed twice by Lisa Ferrari of WCAV-TV (Channel 19), twice by WVIR-TV (Channel 29) -- in the morning by Jenn McDaniel and in the afternoon by David Douglas -- as well as by WMRA-FM in Harrisonburg and by Carlos Santos of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
During the 6:00 p.m. hour, two TV stations had simultaneous live shots at Recreation Precinct, with David Douglas interviewing General Registrar Sheri Iachetta and Lisa Ferrari interviewing me. Here's David and Sheri:
As usual, there were an array of interesting, amusing, provocative, and bawdy write-in votes for various offices. This was, as one might expect, an especially expansive phenomenon on November 6 because the first two races on the ballot were uncontested. Here are a few examples from the state Senate race:
Former Charlottesville Mayor Blake Caravati, former Charlottesville GOP chairman Bob Hodous, Bozo (2 votes for the clown), real estate magnate and entertainment mogul Coran Capshaw, radio personality Dick Mountjoy, the late Republican councilmember (and park namesake) Darden Towe, "Gay Rights," former Senator George Allen, Gumby, local Libertarian activist James Lark, Albemarle County Republican chairman Keith Drake, king of the pundits Larry Sabato, Mickey Mouse (5 votes), Osama Bin Laden, former City Council member Rob Schilling (5 votes), Delegate Rob Bell, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (3 votes), and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.
Also cast in this contest for the 25th District Senate Race were votes for two candidates running in the neighboring 24th District: Democrat David Cox and Libertarian Arin Sime (who had two votes). Full disclosure: I also received two votes in this race, but I haven't a clue as to who cast them. (There were 97 write-in votes in this contest.)
In the race for the 57th District of the House of Delegates, there were write-in votes for Anybody Else (2 votes), 59th District House candidate Connie Brennan, two more for Bob Hodous, Darth Vader, City Councilman Dave Norris, Donald Duck (2 votes), retiring Albemarle Sheriff Ed Robb, "Fair Tax," another for George Allen, God, another for James Lark, Jesus Christ, Councilman Kevin Lynch, three more for Mickey Mouse, the sophomoric homophone Mike Hunt, "Not Toscano," another for the world's most-wanted terrorist (Osama Bin Laden), five more for Rob Schilling, Reason magazine science correspondent Ron Bailey, two more for Congressman Ron Paul, Spoiled Yappy Dog, two for David Toscano's 2005 opponent Tom McCrystal, and one for blogger Waldo Jaquith. There were 107 total write-in votes in this contest.
There were comparatively few -- only 69 -- write-in votes for the Soil & Water District Commissioner race. This is a surprise given that most voters knew little about either the office or the candidates seeking it.
Once again, Bob Hodous shows up, alongside Bob Newhart (presumably the Mark Twain-award winning comic actor), Bozo, and Britney Spears. Others with ticks next to their name were Dolly Parton, "Old Relish Packet," former state climatologist Patrick Michaels, Delegate Rob Bell, Scottish poet Robert Burns, Rob Schilling, South Park fourth-grader Stan Marsh, and (once again) Stephen Colbert.
One would expect that in the highly-contested race for City Council, fewer voters would cast a write-in, since they were able to choose from among five highly-qualified candidates already on the ballot. Yet 97 write-ins were cast for Charlottesville City Council. Among them:
"A Better Candidate Please," School Board chairman Alvin Edwards, former Mayor Francis Fife, "Italian Junket" (and the related "Poggio a Caiano") James Lark (again), local social activists Joy Johnson and Karen Waters (4 votes for her), outgoing City Councilors Kendra Hamilton and Kevin Lynch, former Delegate Paul Harris, former Councilor Meredith Richards, Republican activist Randolph Byrd, former President Richard Nixon, Rob Schilling (11 votes), and "Save Crow Pool."
Finally, in the 7-person race for four School Board seats, there were 98 write-in votes, including several for various versions of current School Board member Charlie Kollmansperger (who chose not to seek a full term on the board after being appointed earlier this year to fill a vacancy). Other votes went to Helen Keller, "Hey Babe Babe," the ubiquitous James Lark, Frodo (the hobbit, I suppose), Dr. Ron Paul, Melinda St. Ours, school-choice proponent and Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman, Rob Schilling (2 votes for him and one for his wife, Joan), "Outskirts Guy," and that champion race horse, Sea Biscuit.
I should add that Robert Brandon Smith, who announced that he was a write in candidate for virtually all offices on the ballot, received various votes in different configurations of his name for each of the available contests, though it is difficult to determine precisely how many of these votes were meant to be his.
All in all, this was quite an election, and now it is time for me to go to bed after a day that began with a wake-up call at 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday and ends at 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday.