The Year in Review: Political Upheaval Hits Loudoun

The year began with the swearing-in of two federal candidates who failed to win over the majority of Loudoun County—one, President Donald J. Trump (R), and the other, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10).

Loudoun voted only narrowly against Comstock, picking her challenger, Democrat LuAnn Bennett. Bennett became the first 10th District Democrat to win in Loudoun since 1978, but her 149-vote margin of victory in Loudoun wasn’t enough to win district-wide, where Comstock claimed a decisive victory.

But Loudoun voted strongly against Trump, awarding Hillary Clinton 99,909 votes to Trump’s 69,633.

Trump’s surprise victory created a firestorm of political activism from the left, and from people who had never been involved in politics before. It also has led to the formation of several Indivisible organizations, a grassroots model of liberal activism, formed in and around Loudoun, among other new political groups.

Comstock in particular has felt that backlash, with protestors frequently appearing both inside and out of her office in Sterling. Despite pressure from those protesters, she has declined unscripted public appearances, and in February, members of several Indivisible groups organized a town hall in her absence. Members of the public turned out to speak even without the congresswoman, while a panel of designated “fact-checkers” tried to offer answers based on her previous voting record.

Instead, Comstock has held telephone town halls, which her office said reached thousands of constituents. She was also an 11th-hour no vote on the Republican American Health Care Act, an attempt to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act, although she would later support a Republican tax reform bill which repealed the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

Members of Lovettsville Indivisible 20180 were among the nearly 60 people that crowded into Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10)’s Sterling office Wednesday, Jan. 18. (Ayala Sherbow)

The wave of protests and activism at the beginning of the year translated to sweeping electoral victories at the state level in November. Democrat and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and his ticket won a decisive victory for the governor’s mansion. That election also put Leesburg resident Mark Herring back in the Office of the Attorney General, the first person in that office to serve two terms since Democrat Mary Sue Terry, who served from 1986 to January 1993, when she resigned to run for governor. Attorneys general in Virginia often run for governor after their first term.

Democrats also eroded Republicans’ 66-34 vote majority in the House of Delegates to 51-49, with several of those races still in recounts or contested in court at year’s end. If one of the three Republican-held seats flips in a recount, Democrats will tie the House of Delegates. The last time the two parties shared power in the House was 1998.

Vanessa Maddox, who won the Leesburg council race, embraces Wendy Gooditis on Election Day. In a huge upset, Gooditis unseated three-term Republican delegate Randy Minchew. [Renss Greene/Loudoun Now]
            Loudoun’s local delegation also saw sweeping changes, with well-established Republican incumbents giving way by large margins to first-time Democratic candidates. Dels. J. Randall Minchew (R-10), Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-32), and James M. LeMunyon (R-67) all lost their seats. Those delegates had become well-established in the General Assembly; Greason was a budget conferee, and all sat on influential committees. That leaves Del. Dave A. LaRock (R-33) as the last Republican delegate in Loudoun.

In January, Democrats Wendy Gooditis (D-10), David Reid (D-32) and Karrie Delaney (D-67) will head to Richmond.

While many presidents have come to Loudoun during their terms, Trump already is the most frequent visitor on that list. His Trump National Golf Club in Lowes Island on Loudoun’s eastern boundary is a frequent destination among his outside-the-Beltway escapes.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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