Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Anti-Growth Backlash in Loudoun

Wake up call for the GOP: Democrat Mark R. Herring just picked up a state Senate seat in a special election against Mick Staton, Jr., in a formerly Republican seat. Herring, according to today's Washington Post, "spoke to the frustration of many residents over unchecked growth and traffic."

Staton, who ran as a fiscal and social conservative, won only 38 percent of the vote.

Smart growth advocates did not hesitate to declare victory along with Herring. "Virginia’s voters have made it clear that they want something done about poorly planned growth because they know it makes their commutes longer and longer,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth in a prepared statement released yesterday.

“Both candidates must now address these growth issues, Herring as Senator and Staton as Supervisor,” said Andrea McGimsey of Campaign for Loudoun’s Future. “Voters do not have a partisan approach on growth issues, they want all of their officials to look at the big picture and work with them to make wise decisions about where and how the region grows.”

“We are encouraged by the bi-partisan leadership at the state level in support of connecting transportation and land use planning," said Christopher Miller, President, Piedmont Environmental Council. "Senator-elect Herring understands local problems and will help deliver the needed tools for addressing growth.”

Will the political dynamics in Loudoun carry over to other localities? Perhaps not. Growth-related stresses in Loudoun, one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, are the worst in Virginia. But the magnitude of the political reversal there suggests that Republicans had better come up with better ideas for coping with growth than they have so far or they will continue to lose ground in Virginia's high-growth counties.


At 9:32 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

It's worth noting what the WaPost story says about the difference between newcomers to Loudoun and those who've lived there a while. The newcomers are hot on the growth/traffic issue.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Right, the one they caused, and the one they want to hold those who have not yet succumbed to, hostage for. And they now now hold overwhelming votes so that they can enforce their hostage taking without remorse, as the gloating by Schwartz and others shows so graphically.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Alright, some finger-pointing. Isn't it too early to say exactly what these Herring voters really want? I mean, it still seems to me that the frustration out there is disorganized and hard to characterize. Herring probably won because he's a good politician and had friends, and because many of the rest felt he was the guy who would Do Something. If Herring opponents have a plan that will lure these voters to their side, it's time to show it.

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do voters in Loudoun really know what they want? They vote in a slow/no growth board in 1999 and then vote them out in 2003 and now (if the assertion made in this post holds true) are swinging back towards slow growth by voting a Dem to Richmond. Whats going on over there?

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Ok, the 'voters' aren't a bloc that can't make up its mind. It's a shifting majority of those willing to go to the polls, which is part of why Herring's election and Kaine's success in Loudoun is interesting. Clearly, the pendulum is swinging the other way, driven in part by population growth.

It's hard to tell which way the wind is blowing there. That county is growing so quickly that the electorate you face today will be a lot different in five years.


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