Democrats sweep Alexandria City Council election

Democrats sweep Alexandria City Council election
Former Mayor Bill Euille celebrates his re-election in 2012 (Photo Credit: Verena Radulovic)

By Melissa Quinn

Democrats ran the table locally Tuesday night, ousting the two Republicans on Alexandria City Council and re-electing Mayor Bill Euille to a fourth term.

With all of Alexandria’s precincts reporting Wednesday morning, incumbents Paul Smedberg and Del Pepper will join Allison Silberberg, John Taylor Chapman, Tim Lovain and Justin Wilson in city council chambers next year. Lovain and Wilson previously served as city councilors.

Though Independent challenger Andrew Macdonald outpaced Euille early on in the vote counting, the mayor pulled ahead with 59.5 percent of the city’s ballots.

“I’m very excited, honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve this great and historic city,” Euille said. “I’ve enjoyed my last three terms and having the opportunity to move the city forward is something I look forward to.”

Euille and Macdonald waged a hard-fought campaign, with development and the city’s dwindling supply of affordable housing often headlining the race. Macdonald, a strident opponent of the waterfront redevelopment plan and former vice mayor, launched his campaign after founding what later became Friends of the Alexandria Waterfront. Euille voted in favor of the controversial blueprint in January.

While Euille and fellow Democrats celebrated on the city’s West End, Republicans tried to put a positive face on the night’s losses. First-term incumbents Frank Fannon and Alicia Hughes both saw their chances at re-election evaporate early on and conceded at Ireland’s Own in Old Town shortly before 11 p.m.

Fannon and Hughes won just 8.52 percent and 8.54 percent of the vote, respectively, with newcomer Bob Wood earning 7.94 percent of the electorate. Smedberg, the last place finisher among the elected slate of Democratic candidates, won re-election with about 10 percent of the vote.

“To come within [so few] votes in a presidential election, in a city that is 2 to 1 Democrats, that’s a remarkable showing,” Republican Alicia Hughes said. “When the president of the United States is likely to carry the city, it speaks volumes.”

Fannon noted the difficulty of running as a Republican on the same ballot as a popular Democratic president. This is the time Alexandria held a local election on the same day as the general election.

“I was the top vote getter [last time around],” Fannon said. “We went from 15 percent turnout to 70 percent voter turnout so that’s indicative of who voted. In a city like Alexandria, it’s hard to win.”

Experts speculated voter turnout would be higher this election — as more voters typically turn out for national elections as compared to local elections — and 65,762 ballots were cast for mayor.

The mayor and six councilors will serve three-year terms, and typically, the candidate with the most votes is appointed vice mayor. It is likely Silberberg, a newcomer to city politics, will succeed retiring Vice Mayor Kerry Donley. She picked up 36,720 votes or about 12.3 percent of the electorate.

“I’m deeply honored by what seems to be a wide spectrum of support from across the whole city,” Silberberg said. “It’s been a team effort all the way. All the candidates worked hard and it’s been great running alongside all these candidates.”

The new members of the board will be officially sworn into office in January.

“We have a remarkable city and we all want to ensure that Alexandria remains remarkable for years to come,” Silberberg said. “We’ve been given [a] great gift and I speak from the heart about being able to keep this beloved city and community special for generations to come.”

To see our coverage of election night, click here.