Election Day offers little to cheer about
Dawn breaks on Election Day in the United States of America. The smell of freedom wafts from local polling places. Brotherly love abounds as citizens embrace their inalienable right to pursue happiness by selecting a representative from among their own number. The staccato slap of high-fives echoes across the fruited plain. An 18-year-old takes the tiller of democracy for the first time. Goodwill abounds.
Or maybe not.
Judging by the reactions of local voters, yesterday’s election was something to be endured rather than celebrated. Not everyone felt the need to hold their nose as they cast a ballot, but a smattering of comments suggested that this was one of the more odious elections in memory.
Still, there were choices to make, and duty-bound Virginians made those choices for their own unique reasons.
Although there were plenty of voters who had reservations about the candidates they voted for, there were just as many who were staunch supporters of their party’s nominees.
In Fredericksburg, U.S. Postal Service employee LaTrenda Adgers voted for Democrats across the board.
“I feel like Democrats are for the people,” she said, pointing out that she thinks Republicans used the government shutdown to make a political point. “They did not have the people’s best interest at heart.”
Sarah Dengler, a University of Mary Washington student, also voted in Fredericksburg. She cast her ballot for the Republicans.
“I’m pro-life, so that’s the main issue I voted on,” she said.
Dalton Tate, a Stafford County resident, said that Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli reflected his political point of view.
“He’s the candidate with more Christian values,” he said. “Cuccinelli is the only one fighting for women’s rights.”
It is often said that elections are decided by voters who make their choice by voting against one candidate instead of for another. Plenty of local voters were offended enough by the “other guy” and his policies to make for an easy choice.
Kirk Duncan, 52 and a self-proclaimed member of the tea party, cast his vote for Cuccinelli. He considered it a vote against Obamacare.
“It’s got to go,” he said.
Guy Bates, a 58-year-old Spotsylvania County resident, said his vote for Cuccinelli was motivated by his “contempt for Terry McAuliffe,” the Democratic nominee for governor.
A number of local races offered more than the customary two choices. So did the contest for governor, in which Robert Sarvis ran as the Libertarian candidate. For some voters, he became the alternative choice by default.
Richard Fensterer, who considers himself an Independent who leans Republican, wasn’t fond of Cuccinelli or McAuliffe. He and his wife, Jan, both said the Republicans “shot themselves in the foot” by failing to nominate Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling for the state’s highest office.
“I voted for Sarvis,” Fensterer said. “I couldn’t bring myself to vote for McAuliffe.”
Stafford resident Rachel Clem, who typically backs Republicans, also picked Sarvis for governor.
“Truthfully, I’m not really excited about how things have been going lately,” she said, noting the economy and rise in health insurance rates. “I’m terrified for my kids’ futures.”
Some voters were able to overcome concerns about their party’s nominees without turning to a third-party candidate.
“I feel like this year is one where the people running for office are the least impressive I can remember,” said Barry Sisson, 82.
The Stafford County resident, who said he once identified as a Republican, voted for McAuliffe.
Virginia Burke, who voted in Fredericksburg, identified herself as a Democrat and voted for McAuliffe, although she had reservations about it.
“I’m not sure what Mr. McAuliffe’s views are sometimes,” Burke said.
THE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL
Not every voter took parties—or even the candidates—into consideration when voting.
Local races were particularly prone to “alternative” evaluation methods.
Spotsylvanian James Schuler, 29, said he voted for Dennis Buchanan for Berkeley District supervisor because “I felt like I’d heard that name before.” He voted for a School Board member at random.
Diallo Turner, 35, said he voted for Rita Girard for Fredericksburg treasurer “’cause she’s cute.”
“Anyone who gets that old and still looks like that definitely knows what they’re doing,” he said. Girard is 60.
Staff reporters Jeff Branscome, Pamela Gould, Cathy Jett, Katie Thisdell, Lindley Estes, Edie Gross and Scott Shenk contributed to this article.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036