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A pivotal election: Charlottesville and Albemarle voters cast ballots on Election Day

Good defeats Webb in VA-05, Biden claims Virginia early in Election Night

<p>Dr. Cameron Webb's campaign conceded late Tuesday night after it became apparent that the number of outstanding ballots were unable to make up the difference between Webb and Republican candidate Bob Good.&nbsp;</p>

Dr. Cameron Webb's campaign conceded late Tuesday night after it became apparent that the number of outstanding ballots were unable to make up the difference between Webb and Republican candidate Bob Good. 

While some races were declared soon after polls closed Tuesday night, the results of others — such as the VA-05 congressional race — remained up in the air. Dr. Cameron Webb conceded the race to Republican candidate Bob Good early Wednesday morning. The Webb campaign conceded when the number of outstanding ballots was unable to make up the difference between Webb and Good. 

“While this is not the outcome we hoped for, it has truly been an honor to represent this district in Congress,” Webb said in a press release late Tuesday night. “This campaign has been a battle of ideas about how to best serve the people of our district and I cannot give enough thanks to everyone who made it possible.”

In a press release late Tuesday night, Good said that he thinks his win is a triumph for biblical principles, the sanctity of life, religious liberty and the importance of faith and family. 

“Tonight is a victory for the conservative values that founded and sustain this nation,” Good said. “The voters have proven that a bright red conservative can win by standing on principle, despite being vastly outspent from outside the district.”

Registrars throughout Virginia were instructed to stop counting ballots Tuesday night at 11 p.m. and resume counting on Friday. 

VA-05 is a historically Republican district, having voted for a Democratic candidate — former Rep. Tom Perriello in 2008 — only once since 2000. Still, the race was widely considered to be among the most competitive congressional races in the country, and Center for Politics director Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rated the race as leaning toward the GOP.

The 5th District includes the City of Charlottesville and the surrounding Albemarle county, as well as counties from the Piedmont and Blue Ridge region up to Fauquier County near Northern Virginia.

Good beat out first-term Congressman Denver Riggleman in the GOP’s primary convention last June. Riggleman lost the support of many conservatives when he officiated a same-sex wedding last year.

Good’s platform included ramping up protections for law enforcement, restricting immigration, growing and maintaining American jobs, supporting the Second Amendment right to bear arms, increasing rural broadband for internet access and shifting towards greater domestic energy production. The former Campbell County supervisor has also described himself as “unashamedly 100 percent pro-life from the moment of conception.”

Meanwhile Webb, a University graduate and current Director of Health Policy and Equity at the University’s School of Medicine, ran on a platform that prioritized healthcare and educational equity, expanding rural broadband access, maximizing clean energy and addressing the issue of affordable housing and long lasting effects of redlining in Charlottesville. 

Webb supported what he termed “humane” immigration policy reform that would have created a clear pathway to citizenship for newcomers to the country. Further, he supported a woman’s right to choose and was an advocate for increased funding for Planned Parenthood and access to reproductive care. 

The Associated Press also declared Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris the winners of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes Tuesday at 7:36 p.m., and Senate incumbent and Democratic candidate Mark Warner was declared the winner of the Virginia Senate race immediately after the polls closed Tuesday at 7 p.m. 

Voter turnout

Over 2.7 million Virginia voters cast early ballots this election season, up from 574,872 in 2016. In Charlottesville and Albemarle County, 52.7 percent and 50.7 percent of registered voters cast their ballots ahead of the election, respectively. 

As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 53.14 percent of voters cast ballots early in Albemarle County, while 22.8 percent of eligible voters cast ballots on Election Day — about 75 percent voter turnout. In Charlottesville, 51.9 percent of voters cast ballots early, while 16.6 percent of voters voted in-person on Election Day as of 4 p.m. — about 68 percent voter turnout.

Voters and campaigners discuss voting in-person on Election Day

Campaigners and election officers at Venable Elementary and Slaughter Recreation Center said turnout surged when the polls first opened Tuesday at 6:00 a.m — a trend that Jamie Otey, chief election officer for Venable Elementary, said is common on Election Day.

Voters in the 202 precinct of Albemarle County — which encompasses first-year dorms — cast ballots at Slaughter, while voters in the 401 precinct of the City of Charlottesville — which spans much of the housing on the Corner — voted at Venable. 

About a dozen campaigners at Venable arrived with campaign signs and sample ballots early Tuesday morning to ply voters with last-minute candidate information. 

Third-year Law student Chance McCraw was among those campaigning for Republican candidates on the ballot. The “top door-knocker, unofficially” in all of Virginia and president of the Law Republicans, this year’s election is the first for which McCraw has campaigned.

He said his background as a first-generation high school graduate prompted him to get involved in the Trump campaign. 

“I want to support the person that makes it easier so more people like me can be at the law school,” McCraw said. 

Tuesday’s election also marked the first time Katie, who preferred not to share her last name, got involved in campaigning, too. She joined other members of the C’Ville Dems Tuesday to pass out Bodo’s bagels and encourage voters to vote for the Biden-Harris presidential ticket and for Webb at Venable. 

For Katie, this election is of pivotal significance.

“A lot of change needs to happen right now,” Katie said. “[This election] is probably more important than any election that I’ve ever lived through.”

Meanwhile at Slaughter, members of both C’ville Democrats and University Democrats gathered under tents to encourage voters to “triple their vote” by texting three friends and reminding them to head to the polls. In exchange for vote tripling, voters were given Bodo’s bagels — which had been dropped off by the Biden campaign earlier that morning — and candy. 

Jackson Postal, second-year College student and communications chair of University Democrats, said that he woke up at 5:30 a.m. to paint Beta Bridge and had been working at the polling location, as well as phone banking, with other UDems members since 8 a.m. 

Postal said that the outcome of the congressional race in VA-05 between Good and Webb will be especially important for the University community.

“Bob Good has routinely proven that he was nominated to be the Republican running in this race because of his opposition to LGBT rights,” Postal said. “Standing against him is something that for the University of Virginia and for Central Virginia at large, is so important.” 

Additionally, Postal said that he thinks this election is especially important for young people. 

“This election will determine the ability of our country to function for young people,” Postal said. “If we have four more years of Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled judiciary, our country will look very different. This is a last chance to escape from the vision that Republicans have for this country.”

College Republicans did not campaign at Slaughter throughout the day on Tuesday and did not respond to a request for comment. The club never endorsed Bob Good and instead chose to focus its campaign efforts on races in VA-02 and VA-07, a decision Postal expressed concern about. 

“If you’re ashamed of your party’s nominee, you should have the courage to say that and that that's why you’re not doing something,” Postal said. “This is the district where you live, this is the district where you go to school … We are extremely proud to be voting for Cameron Webb. If you are not proud to be supporting or to be voting for Bob Good, I think that’s something that should be said.”

College Republicans has also sent members to VA-02 and VA-07 on deployments to knock doors in an effort to maximize voter contact — something that Hunter Hess, second-year College student and campaign chair of UDems, said that UDems has chosen not to this election cycle so as to not “put our members or anyone else’s health or safety at risk” during the pandemic.

Many of the students who voted in-person on Tuesday said this year’s presidential election was their first. Among these students was second-year College student Kaeli McGrath, who voted at Venable Elementary School Tuesday afternoon. 

McGrath opted to vote in-person on Election Day after a bout of sickness left her unable to vote early and in-person in October and because she “didn’t know what was going to happen with all the mail-in ballots.” So, she donned a sunflower-decorated mask and cast her vote for Biden at Venable.

“I think this is a really pivotal election,” McGrath said. “I feel like people who haven’t voted a lot recently, or don’t normally vote, are all coming.”

Second-year Lila Murphy also decided to vote in-person after her friends’ absentee ballots took a “really long time” to arrive in the mail. An out-of-state student from New York, Murphy switched her voter registration to Virginia ahead of Tuesday’s election.

While New York has reliably turned blue in every presidential election since 1988, Virginia has elected democratic presidential candidates only since 2008. In 2016, then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the state by a margin of 5.45 percent. 

“Voting in Virginia, I think, is a little bit more important than voting in New York,” Murphy said. 

First-year College student Zoe Falkson also decided to vote in-person on Election Day because she thought that her vote would be more important in Virginia than in Massachusetts, where she’s from. Falkson also said that she felt like choosing not to vote would be dishonoring the women before her who didn’t have that right.

“This election has to do with people’s rights, I don’t really see it as politics at this point,” Falkson said. “Even if a lot of those rights don’t have to do with me, it’s just really heart-wrenching and it kind of sucks that people don’t see that.” 

Unlike other first-time voters, Charlottesville resident Nate French has voted in prior presidential elections, and he walked over to Venable on Tuesday to vote for Biden. Although he’s voted in the past, French said that, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this election holds particular importance. 

“With everything that’s going on with coronavirus, it’s important to have a leader that is thoughtful and listens to scientific evidence and manages the crisis well as a good communicator,” French said.

First year College student Jonathan Short also emphasized the importance of leadership in this year’s election.

“It’s important that we elect faithful leaders who represent American values, what America was founded on,” Short said. 

Chad Wellmon, principal of Brown College and a professor in the German department, brought his son Whit along to vote in-person at Slaughter on election day. Like French, both father and son agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the main reasons why voting this year was especially important, and added that they think a Biden presidency would be better than Trump for a multitude of reasons.

“Hopefully [there will be] no more Nazis marching across our front yard,” Wellmon said.

Third-year Architecture student Sasha Paul said that she wanted to vote on Election Day because of the experience of voting in-person and because as an out-of-state student, it was easier. Paul stressed the importance of voter participation this year.

“Every election is important, but especially this one,” Paul said. “We really need to have full participation.”

An out-of-state student like Paul, first-year College student Ben Wiggins also chose to vote in-person due because it was easier in comparison to voting early. Still, Wiggins said that voting this year was of the utmost importance to him. 

“There’s a lot riding on this election,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t want to be someone who complained without actually trying to do something about it, so I just felt like it was important that I put my voice into the hat.”