By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)
After two decades of going undefeated at the polls, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille got a rude awakening Tuesday night.
The popular mayor garnered just 8 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional district.
“I’ve never lost a public election before,” he said. “I’ve won my last seven elections for city council and then mayor. So I’m not accustomed to losing.”
The results were a surprise to Euille and his team. He thought that low voter turnout would work to his advantage — letting each candidate’s base duke it out in a close race — but the opposite was true, with former lieutenant governor Don Beyer sweeping up 45 percent of only 39,000 votes cast.
Euille said he felt fundraising was a key factor in his loss. Although he was convinced he will finish second in contributions when post-election FEC filings come in, he said the crowded field of candidates — as many as 10 early in the race — hurt his ability to build up a significant war chest to combat Beyer’s $1.1 million.
“If I were to run again, I’ll have to go outside the typical district,” he said. “I got some donations in Maryland and D.C., but I didn’t go outside the region like Don did. But he had the contacts to do that, having done fundraising during President Barack Obama’s first [presidential] campaign.
“But you shouldn’t have to be a wealthy candidate to win.”
Despite the loss, Euille remained upbeat, repeatedly saying he still has a lot to advocate for on behalf of Alexandria. Between dances with a little girl at his election-night party, he said wants to weigh the options of his next political move.
“You know, I’ve still got a year and a half left as mayor, so right now I’m going to consider making a reelection bid in November 2015,” he said.
He joked that maybe his doomed bid for higher office was a message from residents: They want him to stay put.
“When I would talk to folks on the campaign trail, I’d say: Hi, I’m the mayor and I’m running for Congress,” Euille said. “They would say, ‘Why? We want you as mayor!’
“And maybe that’s the message, that I should just stay and be mayor for life.”