Virginia Divided

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

November 8, 2006

As full results from Tuesday's election became Wednesday night, it was clear that Virginians did not agree on all the issues, or even all the candidates.

In many ways it appeared to be Northern Virginia versus the rest of the state. Areas like Loudoun County and Fairfax are some the fastest growing places in the country. It's turning into a relatively democratic region, that's changing the political landscape in what was once thought of as a solidly red Commonwealth.

"You've got a different type of culture," explained Matt Smyth, from UVa's Center for Politics. "They're all Virginia, but very different Virginians in each area."

In the senate race, for example, Jim Webb received 73 percent of the votes in northern Virginia's Arlington County.

But to the south in Rockingham County, Allen got almost the same number.

However, because of major population growth in Washington, D.C. suburbs, it's an area candidates cannot ignore. In fact, some analysts say in the future it may be impossible to win a statewide race without carrying Northern Virginia.

"With so many voters in Northern Virginia, in an area where both parties can be competitive, you do have to address that area," said Smyth. "They have high turnout rates in Northern Virginia."

So for candidates that means finding a message that speaks to voters throughout the Commonwealth.

"I think a statewide candidate has to show that he can balance regional issues, trying to help out different areas of Virginia, but also show that he has some type of leadership style that will do what's best for everyone in the state," said Smyth.

Using former governor Mark Warner as an example, Smyth said it would likely take a moderate candidate, Democrat or Republican, to win future state-wide races in Virginia, especially since population Northern Virginia shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

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