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The Connection: Republican Comstock Ousts Vanderhye in Close Race
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Republican Comstock Ousts Vanderhye in Close Race
Candidate becomes part of region’s new Republican majority.

By Mike DiCicco
Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Republican Barbara Comstock said it was a broad coalition of residents and volunteers, along with a lot of legwork, that enabled her to oust freshman Del. Margi Vanderhye (D-34) in Tuesday’s election. “It was a great grassroots effort,” she said at a victory party in a private home in McLean, adding that she had started knocking on doors in February and never let up. 

Comstock was one of several Republican challengers from the region who won seats in the General Assembly in what turned out to be a difficult election year for Democrats. In one of the most closely watched delegate races, though, hers was a narrow victory. Long after the statewide races had been called for the Republican candidates, she and Vanderhye were in a dead heat, with only 25 votes separating them after 80 percent of the precincts had reported. But after about 10:30 p.m., as the final polling places phoned in their numbers, Comstock pulled ahead and ended up taking 50.64 percent of the vote to Vanderhye’s 49.24 percent. The margin was 316 votes, with a total of 22,581 votes cast, 25 of which were for write-in candidates. 

On the campaign trail, Comstock said she had asked people what their priorities were and shaped her platform accordingly, focusing in on jobs, transportation and education. “When you look at the victories tonight, it’s folks who just want to get the job done,” she said. 

With Republicans now the majority in the Northern Virginia delegation, she said, “We’ll be a really strong voice for getting our fair share [of tax dollars] up here.” 

One of the people who she had listened to while campaigning was Great Falls resident and lifelong Democrat Charlie Ambrus. He said they had talked for about 45 minutes when she first stopped at his house. “She actually did more listening than talking,” he said. Soon, he was part of her campaign. It was not her stand on the issues so much as her personality that drew his support, he said, adding that he found Comstock to be gracious, open-minded and a strong leader. “We definitely agree that we disagree on certain issues, but my view is that we elect people to lead,” Ambrus said. 

Having worked on numerous Democratic campaigns, he credited both Comstock’s charisma and her campaign manager Sean Harrison’s ability to manage personalities for the large number of volunteers that ended up working for her. And, he said, “There’s no substitute for what she did, and that’s go and knock on 14 or 15 hundred doors.” 

“I really think she’ll build a strong coalition of people to work with her, if for no other reason than that she’s such a likeable person,” Ambrus said. 

He acknowledged that the political wind that had helped so many other Republicans into office that day had also played a role in such a close race. 

Charles Proctor, who is the Fairfax County Republican Committee’s point person for the Dranesville District, also said he thought Harrison had been an “excellent choice” as Comstock’s campaign manager, and he said Comstock had provided voters with a “wonderful, competent, professional” candidate who would represent all of the 34th District’s residents while balancing the needs of the district and the state. 

In 2007, Vanderhye beat Republican Dave Hunt by three percentage points, but Proctor said he didn’t think the district had changed since then. “I think two years ago the national atmosphere was anti-Bush, and therefore anyone who was a Republican inherited some of that,” he said. Without that stigma, he said, “Barbara was able to be judged on her merits and was found to be the superior candidate.” 

http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=334585&paper=88&cat=104








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