Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The Republicans retained control of the Virginia General Assembly when voters elected all 140 members of the House and Senate, in most cases settling hotly contested races by returning incumbents to Richmond.

Based on preliminary returns, Republican Party officials expected to improve their slim majority in the Senate by one seat and possibly lose two seats from their large majority in the House.

“Virginians sent a clear message that they continue to support the Republican Party’s leadership as a majority party,” said state Republican Party spokesman Shawn Smith.

The party appeared to pick up a Senate seat with the victory of Jeannemarie A. Devolites in the 34th District. With 61.7 percent of the precincts reporting, Mrs. Devolites received 53.9 percent of the vote over Democrat Ronald R. Christian.

The two House seats the party expected to lose were “competitive, open seats,” Mr. Smith said. They included the House seat vacated by Mrs. Devolites to run for the Senate and the seat left by retiring Delegate Robert S. Bloxom of the 100th District.

Republicans had been expected to maintain or increase their majorities in the General Assembly because the new voting districts favor the party and about two-thirds of the races are running uncontested.

More Republican voters in some of the once-heavily Democratic districts in Northern Virginia were expected to help the party. However, the redistricting also helped some Democrats because the changes further centralized the party’s power in some traditional strongholds.

The near 80-degree temperatures brought voters to polls in short sleeves and other summer clothing. Elections officials reported a steady stream of Northern Virginia voters arriving at the polls. However, the turnout was expected to be low because this was a non-presidential election.

Sen. Linda T. “Toddy” Puller, Fairfax Democrat, won a tough race against Republican antitax candidate Christian N. Braunlich.

Mrs. Puller received 57.35 percent of the vote with 75 percent of the precincts reporting, according to unofficial results from the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Sen. Charles J. Colgan, a Prince William Democrat and consummate pro-business politician who is the Senate’s longest-serving member, defeated Republican challenger David C. Mabie in the 29th District, which includes Manassas, Manassas Park and parts of Prince William County.

With 89 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Colgan won 57 percent of the votes. Mr. Mabie is a clerk of the Circuit Court in Manassas and ran as a pro-life and gun-rights candidate.

Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, an Arlington Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Kamal M. Nawash, whose campaign raised more money than the incumbent’s.

With 70 percent of the precincts reporting, Mrs. Whipple received 69.91 percent of the vote in the heavily Democratic 31st District, which includes Falls Church and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties.

Some of the region’s Republican incumbents in tight races also prevailed.

Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, Prince William Republican and one of the legislature’s most conservative members, fended off a challenge by David G. Brickley, a former Democratic lawmaker who also worked in the Republican administration of former Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

With 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Lingamfelter had 55.77 percent of the vote to Mr. Brickley’s 44.23 percent, according to the election board’s unofficial results.

In the 49th House District, which includes Alexandria and parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, voters elected Adam P. Ebbin, a Democrat and the state’s first openly homosexual state legislator. Mr. Ebbin, 39, ran unopposed to replace Delegate L. Karen Darner, a fellow Democrat who is stepping down after more than a decade in the legislature.

“It really doesn’t raise interest in most of the voters,” Mr. Ebbin said of his sexual orientation. “People are much more concerned about my interest in tax restructuring.”

With 66 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Ebbin unofficially won 96.67 percent of the vote.

The most prominent among dozens of key countywide offices decided in Northern Virginian yesterday was the race for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors between Providence District Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat, and Republican Mychele B. Brickner. Mr. Connolly won.

What began as a couple of issue-oriented campaigns degenerated into exchanges of personal attacks and became the most expensive and bitter race in recent memory in Fairfax County. Mr. Connolly called his rival an “extremist” intent on banning books at public libraries and Mrs. Brickner, a longtime School Board member, called Mr. Connolly a tax-and-spend politician responsible for the county’s soaring property taxes.

Yesterday’s elections also included mayoral and council elections in five Maryland cities.

Virginians elected all 140 members of the General Assembly yesterday, though 80 of the House and Senate races were uncontested and many of the remaining 60 races were waged in either Democratic or Republican strongholds.

In the Senate, where the Republicans control 23 of the 40 seats, the party had 12 uncontested races. The Democrats had seven, which left 21 seats at stake.

House Republicans, who had held a 64-34 majority in the 100-member chamber, were uncontested in 38 races, and Democrats were uncontested in 23 House races. With challenges to the two independent delegates, a total of 39 seats were at stake yesterday.

Republicans controlled redistricting two years ago for the first time in state history, redrawing district boundaries to protect and strengthen their domination of the legislature. The GOP’s majority in the House grew by a dozen seats in the first election after redistricting in November 2001. This was first Senate election since the new district map.

Staff writers Jim , Judith Person, Robert Redding Jr. and Arlo Wagner contributed to this story, which was based in part on wire service reports.

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