It was another stirring victory for Kelly Burk, who was returned to the mayor’s post on the Leesburg Town Council for second two-year term Tuesday night.
Burk turned back a challenge from two council colleagues, Ron Campbell and Tom Dunn, to secure her re-election. It was the second three-way race Burk has waged and her margin of victory this go around was substantially higher than in 2016 when she defeated former council member Kevin Wright and then-mayor David Butler with 42 percent of the vote. With absentee ballots still waiting to be counted Tuesday night, she was holding about 59 percent of the total vote.
The town’s mayoral contest kicked off in earnest about a year ago, when Campbell was the first to announce he would challenge the incumbent Burk, just 11 months into her first term.
Celebrating with supporters at Casa Nostra in downtown Leesburg Tuesday, Burk said she had never run a campaign for an entire year before and credited her campaign team with all the effort to push her over the edge into another term.
She said the large margin of victory showed her that “hard work, listening, trying to solve problems are all part of what you’re supposed to do as mayor.”
Joining Burk back on the council dais will be top vote-getter Marty Martinez, who secured a fifth four-year term on the council. Assuming he serves out his entire four-year term, his 20 consecutive years on the council would make him the second-longest serving Leesburg council member in the last century.
Although thrilled with the result, it was a very subdued victory party for the long-time council member, who had been battling flu-like symptoms since the weekend. Reached at home, he admitted, “winning has made me feel better.” Martinez said the victory was a sign that Leesburg residents pay attention to and realize the work that council members are doing and are able to drown out the critics.
Neil Steinberg finished second behind Martinez with 20 percent of the vote. It is his second campaign for a council seat. He initially eyed a run in last November’s special election, but decided to put his campaign on hold ahead of last August’s filing deadline. He instead ran in this February’s special election to fill the unexpired term of Ken Reid, but finished second to winner Joshua Thiel. Now having tasted victory himself, the council member-elect said he was very satisfied with the win. He said his first race laid the foundation for this campaign and was a “great learning experience.” He was effusive in praise for his campaign team which made Tuesday’s victory possible. Although he said he was sad that incumbent Vanessa Maddox, who also ran on the Loudoun County Democratic Committee-endorsed ticket, might not return to the council, he said he thought it would be a good council moving forward and is eager to get to work in January.
Maddox, who finished fourth in the running for three council seats, had the unenviable job of having to campaign twice in the past year, coming away the winner in last November’s special election to fill out the remaining 13 months of Burk’s council term, following her mayoral win in 2016. But this time around she would not be as lucky, but took the high road Tuesday night.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m like a bad rash,” she said to laughs. “I’m going to continue to support the party and the candidates.”
With absentee ballots counted, Vice Mayor Suzanne Fox held an 85-vote lead over Maddox. With the possibility of a re-count to confirm the narrow margin, she was not yet ready to wave the victory flag Tuesday, although it appeared she would win another four-year term with just under 20 percent of the vote.
Maddox said Tuesday night that she was undecided as to whether she would seek a recount. Fox’s margin of victory in the unofficial results is slightly higher than the 1 percent that would permit a recount. If the certified vote count drops to 1 percent or below, a recount could be requested, but the state would only cover the cost if the difference is 0.5 percent or less.
If Fox’s victory stands, she would be the only Loudoun County Republican Committee-endorsed candidate to win Tuesday. Although initially declaring she would not be seeking any party’s endorsement over the summer, Fox just two weeks shy of Election Day did ultimately accept the LCRC endorsement. The LCRC also backed Dunn and Kari Nacy.
Rounding out the ballot, first-time candidate Nacy finished fifth with just shy of 16 percent of the vote.
Burk’s challengers, Campbell and Dunn, both have two years remaining on their council terms. Dunn finished second to Burk with 25 percent of the vote, and Campbell trailed with 14 percent. They both said they were undeterred by Tuesday’s result, and were proud of the campaigns they ran.
Dunn, who was defeated for a third time in a bid for the mayor’s seat, said his goal of offering a conservative alternative to Burk and Campbell was met, and it was business as usual for him moving forward on the council.
“I’ve been doing this for 11 years now,” he said. “I’ve always tried to put the people first in my votes, I don’t get caught up in special interests. Hopefully, the new folks on the council will be able to work together and get the people’s work done.”
For Campbell, he said he believes his message of running a nonpartisan campaign resonated with voters. Campbell was the only candidate on either the mayoral or Town Council ballot not to seek a party endorsement, following his LCDC-backed campaign two years ago.
“We’re disappointed but we’re not discouraged, we’re optimistic that we’ll continue to be the voice of reason and political reason and we’ll work with the new council moving forward to continue to do better for this town,” he said.