- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Virginia state Senate candidate Barbara Favola cruised to a Democratic primary victory Tuesday on an election day marked by light turnout and overshadowed by an earthquake that jarred the eastern United States.

The race between Mrs. Favola, an Arlington County Board member, and Jaime Areizaga-Soto for the Democratic nod in the 31st District, composed of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, quickly descended into a nasty back-and-forth.

Mrs. Favola had the backing of the Democratic establishment, including retiring Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, whom she is seeking to replace. Some Democrats had grumbled about their leaders pumping money into a primary that should be a safe seat for the party as it tries to preserve a 22-18 advantage in the Senate.

More than $750,000 had been spent in the race as of Aug. 10, and Mrs. Favola was left with just shy of $35,000 in the bank for the Nov. 8 general election, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics. Mrs. Favola will square off against McLean businesswoman Caren Merrick, who had about $126,000 on hand as of Aug. 10.

But a 5.8-magnitude earthquake just before 2 p.m. that was centered near Mineral, Va., and felt in much of the eastern part of the country drove many voters and poll workers outdoors. Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday afternoon that some polling places were closed for up to 30 minutes.

Some Alexandria polling places were evacuated briefly, said Alexandria Registrar Tom Parkins, but no voters were turned away. The City Hall polling place was moved across the street to the city’s voter registration office, for example.

Meanwhile, in the deeply Democratic 30th District, comprising the city of Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax counties, Delegate Adam Ebbin, Alexandria Democrat, defeated Alexandria council member Rob Krupicka and Arlington County School Board member Libby Garvey in the primary for the seat of retiring Sen. Patricia S. Ticer, Alexandria Democrat. Should Mr. Ebbin defeat Republican Tim McGhee in the general election, he would become the first openly gay member of the General Assembly’s upper chamber.

In the new 13th District, encompassing Loudoun and Prince William counties, staunchly conservative former Delegate Dick Black, who once infamously irked colleagues by passing out plastic fetuses before a crucial abortion vote, could be heading back to Richmond. Mr. Black narrowly defeated Prince William County Supervisor John Stirrup, along with Prince William Deputy Clerk Bob FitzSimmonds, and will square off against Ashburn, Va., businessman Shawn Mitchell in the Republican-leaning district.

Former Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, another controversial GOP figure, easily defeated Tito Munoz, who gained fleeting fame after being dubbed “Tito the Builder” by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a 2008 rally during the presidential campaign. Mr. Frederick, who was ousted from his post as Republican Party of Virginia chairman in 2009, will face an uphill climb against longtime Democratic incumbent Linda “Toddy” Puller in a district that now runs from Fairfax to parts of Stafford County.

Republicans are also eyeing possible pickups in the Fairfax-based 39th and 37th district races, represented by George Barker and Dave Marsden, respectively. The two districts were made slightly more Democratic during the General Assembly’s once-a-decade redistricting process this year.

Lawyer Miller Baker defeated George Mason University professor Scott Martin and will square off against Mr. Barker. Jason Flanary, a former aide to Delegate Tim Hugo, Fairfax Republican, scored a victory against Steve Hunt and will take on Mr. Marsden in November.

With primaries out of the way, parties will now turn their focus to November. Republicans are expected to maintain their majority in the House of Delegates, where they control 59 seats. Should the GOP pick up a net gain of two seats in the Senate, though, it would effectively give them complete control of state government for the first time in 10 years.

Republicans held a huge cash advantage over Democrats. Including political action committees, they had $13.7 million on hand as of June 30 compared with $7.4 million for Democrats, according to VPAP.

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