With a margin of victory some pundits did not predict – if they saw him as a winner at all – President Barack Obama was returned to office for a second term on November 6, besting Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a comfortable electoral vote margin. Locally, 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte and 9th District Representative Morgan Griffith both dispatched their Democrat challengers with ease (Andy Schmookler and Anthony Flaccavento, respectively.)
The party faithful gathered locally in downtown Roanoke at venues within walking distance of each other – the Republicans at Hotel Roanoke, the Democrats at 202 Market. At 202 Market, several people who had worked the polls earlier that day talked about long waits to vote and too few machines.
At Hotel Roanoke, House of Delegates member Chris Head (17th District) was remaining “cautiously optimistic” around 9pm, hoping that Romney’s early strong showing in non-battleground states was a good sign. Head talked about “unprecedented” turnout in southwestern Virginia that had gone “solidly” for Romney.
Head thought it was imperative that Romney make it to the White House: “It’s not just [important] as a Republican, but as an American. If Mitt Romney is not elected there is nothing to hand to my children. It’s that important.”
Head, who owns a home health care business, also lamented how polarized the country had become: “There is no middle ground in Washington. The last time that happened was 1860.” He thought Romney could bridge that gap, where Obama had proven he could not.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a long night,” said Freeda Cathcart, a Democratic activist and former 17th District General Assembly candidate. Cathcart, who has begun a project encouraging more women to get involved in the election process, said she had heard reports of polling machine failures and voter suppression; “Reports like that make me nervous.”
Cathcart also said “finding a more effective way to deliver messages” might be the key for Democrat challengers in the future that are seeking to unseat Goodlatte and Griffith. “If people had actually been able to hear their messages they would have understood how much [Schmookler and Flaccavento] were on their side. It comes down to money.”
Meanwhile Goodlatte made the rounds at Hotel Roanoke, shaking hands and basking in the glow of his latest triumph – the 11th straight time he’s been elected to Congress. “We’re really excited about the results of this election. There was a real good synergy between Mitt Romney’s campaign and my campaign. People want to see a leader in the White House that will grow the economy and create jobs while reigning in the power and overspending by the federal government.”
Goodlatte, who will push for a balanced budget amendment again and “fiscal sanity,” made those remarks long before Obama was declared the winner. He also was realistic enough to say that he was ready to work with the president again if he should regain the White House.
“No matter who is there in the Congress and the White House after January 20th we have to see more willingness to work together across the aisle.” He implored the Democratic Senate to at least pass the budget bills sent up by the Republican House of Representatives, so all parties can sit down and work out a compromise.
After trailing for much of the night, a big cheer and a standing ovation erupted at 202 Market when former Governor Tim Kaine held the Senate seat for the Democrats, beating George Allen. “I think it means that Virginia chose a senator who cares about the entire state,” said Roanoke County Democrat Party chairman Brian Lang, when asked about Kaine’s triumph.
“[He’ll] work together in Washington for compromise and to build coalitions with people from the other party to get things done.” That was a better approach, said Lang then the “hyper-partisan” approach of George Allen, who lost this same Senate seat to the retiring Jim Webb in 2006.
Lang also said finding Congressional candidates “with a strong foundation in politics” might make the Democrats more competitive in the 6th and 9th Districts. Overcoming Goodlatte’s 22 years in Congress and Griffith’s name recognition from his time in the General Assembly are tough obstacles to overcome.
Fifteen minutes later the room erupted again when MSNBC declared Obama the winner over Romney, who didn’t concede until almost 1AM, waiting to make sure results in battleground Ohio looked to be secure for the president.
Obama also won Virginia – just the second time since 1964 that a Democrat topped a Republican in the presidential race, but the second straight time, reflecting a demographic shift firmly rooted in Northern Virginia.
“This is better than four years ago,” said Roy Mitchell, as he celebrated Obama’s victory. “We can move on [now] and maybe make the economy better. In the Supreme Court [the Republicans] will no longer have the chance to get five seats.”
“Four more years! Four more years!” went the chant at 202 Market Street as President Obama was declared the winner in a hard-fought, often negative campaign.
by Gene Marrano