Students, local residents respond to midterm election results

Individuals share their thoughts after attending viewing parties for Virginia campaigns

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Republican Denver Riggleman, who was elected to represent Virginia's Fifth Congressional District Tuesday night, poses for a photo with members of the College Republicans at his election party. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

After a national Democratic win in the House of Representatives and Republican win in the U.S. Senate, students gave feedback about local race results at election watch parties. 

In Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, Republican nominee Denver Riggleman beat Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn with 54 percent of the vote. At the state level, Democratic Senator and incumbent Tim Kaine won his re-election bid by securing 57 percent of the vote over Republican challenger Corey Stewart.

The Fifth Congressional District encompasses the cities of Charlottesville and Danville, and includes Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Prince Edward and Rappahannock counties.

Cockburn, Riggleman and the University Democrats held watch parties for the midterm election Tuesday night in Charlottesville and surrounding areas. 

Riggleman viewing party

Riggleman’s campaign held its viewing party at Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton — 30 minutes west of Charlottesville — Thursday night where about 150 supporters gathered to watch election results come in. 

After the victory, many of Riggleman’s supporters said in interviews that his victory was hard-earned and more decisive than had been anticipated. 

“We’re pretty elated, we put a lot of work into this,” said Adam Kimelman, vice chair of campaigns for the College Republicans and a fourth-year College student. “It definitely seems like we did better than we thought we would in Albemarle County and Charlottesville.”

Robert Andrews, chair of the College Republicans and a fourth-year College student, said Riggleman’s victory was accomplished despite a number of limitations facing his campaign. 

“It’s extremely gratifying, we’re incredibly excited for Denver’s victory,” Andrews said. “He overcame a lot of significant obstacles, not getting in the race until June, being outfunded … I think it serves to the type of individual he is that so many people wanted to give their time and volunteer for this campaign.” 

Riggleman raised $1.4 million and has spent $976,505, according to federal campaign finance reports filed in October, compared to the over $2.7 million Cockburn’s campaign raised since she declared her candidacy last July. The average contribution for Riggleman’s campaign was $1,291 — nearly triple Cockburn’s $441.

“We were confident this would be the result,” Andrews added. “However, we couldn't be complacent, we knew there was a lot of energy coming from the Democratic base so we were going to have to put a lot of effort to hedge against that.” 

Charlottesville area resident Dan Moy said he supported Riggleman's campaign due to his independent mindset and stated willingness to break with the Republican Party if necessary. 

“I think what we really need are independent-thinking leaders,” Moy said. “Because the electorate feels that once people get to Washington, they tend to just fall in line with whatever the leadership is telling them to do. I think it is important … that he keeps that focus and that center so that when he’s advocating issues on Capitol Hill, he remembers who sent them there.”

Frank Vretos, an Albemarle County resident and a 1973 graduate of the College, said Riggleman’s willingness to go against mainstream conservatives would serve as a valuable asset for promoting bipartisanship in the House of Representatives. 

“I think we need to have dialogue, and I think we need to make the right decisions,” Vretos said. “I absolutely do not believe [in] party lines on anything … I like the fact that he's [Riggleman] willing to cross the aisle to talk to Democrats, and I think he will be very successful in Congress because of that.” 

In 2014, 32,824 voters turned out for the congressional elections in Albemarle County — 15,581 of whom voted Republican, while 15,686 voted Democratic. In this year’s elections, 53,279 voted in the congressional elections in the County — 18,788 of whom voted Republican, while 34,372 voted Democratic. 

In the City of Charlottesville, 10,650 individuals voted in the congressional elections in 2014, — 2,404 of whom voted Republican, while 7,657 voted Democratic. In this year’s elections, 17,850, with nine out of ten precincts reporting, voted in the congressional elections in the City — 2,694 of whom were Republican, while 15,103 were Democratic. 

In the Fifth District as a whole, 204,945 people turned out to vote in the Congressional elections in 2014 — 124, 735 of whom were Republican, while 73,482 were Democratic. This year, 307,541 voters turned out in the district with nine out of ten precincts reporting — 164, 795 of whom were Republican, while 142,211 were Democratic. 

University Democrats viewing party

The University Democrats held their party at The Biltmore bar and restaurant on the Corner. Mary-Alice Kukoski, president of the University Democrats and third-year College student, spoke at the viewing event about the efforts the organization undertook in the days before Election Day.

“We knocked over 2,000 doors,” Kukoski said. “We knocked on more doors this past weekend than we did all last year.”

Joseph Dennie, a third-year College student and communications director for the University Democrats, told The Cavalier Daily that Sen. Tim Kaine’s victory was unsurprising, noting that he looked towards Kaine’s victory on Election Day as inevitable, “barring an act of God.”

First-year College student Emily Quick-Cole spoke about her disappointment over the results of the Fifth District House race. Quick-Cole mentioned that the presence of Olivia Wilde — an actress and daughter of Leslie Cockburn — on Grounds in the days prior to Nov. 6 and the extent of Cockburn’s campaigning made the loss feel more personal due to Quick-Cole’s personal investment in the effort.

However, despite Cockburn’s loss, both Kukoski and Quick-Cole said they remain hopeful for the Democratic Party’s success in national elections.

“The blue wave is starting,” Kukoski said. “Get excited.”

Sam Finkel, vice president of the University Democrats and a fourth-year Batten student, said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm he observed during the campaigning process. 

“Here’s what we’ve seen in 2018,” Finkel said. “We’ve seen tremendous enthusiasm. While we may not have seen a blue wave that we had hoped, we’ve seen a blue wave in terms of constituent enthusiasm ... I’ve never seen so many volunteers, so much enthusiasm — not just around a candidate, but in willingness to engage with voters.” 

Cockburn viewing party

Cockburn and her supporters gathered at Three Notch’d Brewing Company in IX Art Park in downtown Charlottesville to watch election results. 

Asst. Drama Prof. Katelyn Hale Wood, who attended the viewing party, said she was not happy with Cockburn’s loss.

“I’m not super surprised [that Riggleman won],” Wood said. “But it is disappointing.”

Wood also said that she supported Cockburn for her stances on gun regulation, education, black voters’ rights and her efforts to combat racism and promote women’s rights.  

Second-year College student Emma Karnes also attended the event to support Cockburn’s campaign and expressed how she would like to see Democrats secure a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I’m supporting Leslie Cockburn because I would like to see Democrats gain control of the House,” Karnes said. “I am really concerned about Trump and the power that Republicans may have in the future to further policies that I do not agree with and some other dangerous practices that are frightening our democracy.”

Riggleman will represent Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District for two years. Kaine will continue to represent the Commonwealth Virginia for another six-year term in the U.S. Senate.  

Victoria Dancu, Nafisa Mazumdar and Emma Bradford contributed to this report.

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