- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fairfax CountyBoard of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly last night defeated former Rep. Leslie L. Byrne in a key Democratic primary that came during a series of congressional contests with low voter turnout.

With 165 of 166 precincts reporting in the 11th Congressional District - which includes Fairfax City and parts of Fairfax County and Prince William counties - Mr. Connolly had 13,856 votes, or 57.8 percent, compared with 8,004 votes, or 33.4 percent, for Mrs. Byrne.

Two other candidates - physical therapist Lori P. Alexander and Iraq war veteran Douglas J. Denneny - received 616 and 1,482 votes, respectively.

The victory assures Mr. Connolly of the chance to take over the seat of Republican Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, who has represented the competitive district since 1995. Mr. Davis’ seat is seen by some as a prime opportunity for Democrats to pick up a congressional seat.

“I think it’s going to be hard-fought, but I think it’s going to be very doable and I’m looking forward to doing it,” said Mr. Connolly, who will face Republican businessman Keith S. Fimian in the November general election.

Last night’s vote also followed a bitter race between Mr. Connolly and Mrs. Byrne, in which the two campaigned on similar issues like ending the war in Iraq and health care reform, but traded barbs about campaign donations and related campaign-related mailings.

Byrne spokesman Joe Fox said his candidate last night called Mr. Connolly and “wished him the best of luck.”

“She said she’ll do whatever she can to help Gerry Connolly get elected in November,” Mr. Fox said.

Mr. Davis on Tuesday said Mrs. Byrne likely would prove an easier candidate for Mr. Fimian to defeat, but that the race would not end in a landslide either way.

“I suspect it’ll be competitive at this point,” Mr. Davis said. “I think it’s going to depend how the campaigns go. It certainly will not be a wipeout the way it was in the last Senate race or gubernatorial race.”

Northern Virginia voters also chose candidates in four other primaries Tuesday.

Rep. James P. Moran, 63, a Democrat, won the first leg of his bid for a 10th term in Congress by defeating lawyer Matthew T. Famiglietti, 55, in the 8th District Democratic primary.

With 154 of 155 precincts reporting, Mr. Moran had 11,665 votes, or 86.6 percent, compared with 1,799, or 13.4 percent, for Mr. Famiglietti.

The 8th District includes precincts in Alexandria and Falls Church, as well as Arlington and Fairfax counties.

Mr. Moran in November will face financial executive and consultant Mark W. Ellmore, 49, who defeated small-business owner Amit Singh, 33, in the 8th District Republican primary.

With 154 of 155 precincts reporting, Mr. Ellmore had 3,240 votes, or 55.9 percent, compared with 2,558, or 44.1 percent, for Mr. Singh.

In the 10th District Republican primary, 14-term incumbent Rep. Frank R. Wolf easily defeated legal and policy adviser Vern P. McKinley to earn a rematch of his 2006 race against professor Judy M. Feder, who again won the district’s Democratic Party nod.

With 193 of 194 precincts reporting in the 10th District - which includes precincts in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Manassas City and Prince William County - Mr. Wolf had 16,559 votes, or 91.3 percent, compared with 1,585, or 8.7 percent, for Mr. McKinley.

“We’ve run this campaign the same way I have in the past, on what I have done whether it be fighting gangs, or transportation, or whatever the issue may be and then how I’ve done it,” Mr. Wolf said Tuesday night. “It’s a record of honesty and openness.”

Mrs. Feder, the former dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, defeated retired Air Force Col. Mike R. Turner.

With 193 of 194 precincts reporting, Mrs. Feder had 5,365 votes, or 61.7 percent, compared with 3,336, or 38.3 percent, for Mr. Turner.

Meanwhile, voter turnout in all of the races ranged between roughly 1 and 5 percent, according to early election returns.

Voter numbers in the 8th District Republican race were more than 1 percent, and the 10th District Democratic race saw a similar slow crawl to the polls. The 10th District Republican race reported just under a 4 percent turnout.

“I really just think this is under everybody’s radar,” Rokey W. Suleman II, general registrar for Fairfax County, said of the low turnout. “For whatever reason, either a lot of people just aren’t noticing there’s an election or don’t care that there’s an election. I hope that they’re just not noticing.”

Election officials in the region said turnout at precincts in Fairfax and Prince William counties also appeared meager in the afternoon - perhaps a product of hot temperatures, lack of information or simply voter fatigue.

Mr. Suleman said 15 precincts he polled Tuesday afternoon averaged a combined voter turnout of 3.4 percent. Seven precincts reported turnout of under 2 percent, while three reported turnout of 8 percent or above.

The totals were not a far cry from the 5.8 percent turnout Mr. Suleman said was reported by the county during the 2006 Senate primaries.

But Prince William County Registrar Betty Weimer said Tuesday afternoon that precincts there had averaged between 2 percent and 3 percent turnout, and officials had received fewer than 200 absentee ballots for the primaries.

“It’s very low,” she said. “Primaries in June are at a time when you have graduations and weddings, and people aren’t around.”

Low voter totals cause some candidates to worry that their base did not have a strong enough showing to push them to victory, said Bob Holsworth, a political scientist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

“People always think that in low-turnout races, there’s a potential advantage that goes to the group of supporters that are the most passionate and ideologically committed,” Mr. Holsworth said.

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