No.Va. Dems pick their ponies in local election straw poll

Democrats got a premonition of winners and losers in upcoming northern Virginia elections at a straw poll on Mar. 31 with over 500 in attendance.

Far from a scientific survey, the event, called “Pick Your Pony, ” was billed primarily as a fundraiser – at $30 per ticket—and an opportunity to sample craft beer at Mustang Sally Brewing Company in Chantilly. Anyone who paid could vote, regardless of their residence, allowing candidates in theory to pack the event with supporters from outside their districts.

Nevertheless, with an average of 420 votes cast in each of the 18 elections, it would have been cumbersome – and costly – to freely manipulate the outcomes.  In fact, experienced observers say it is rare for candidates who come out far ahead, or far behind, to reverse straw poll findings.

Rare… but not unheard of.  And there is still time for candidates who came out short in the straw poll to improve their game in the final contest.

Following is a summary of the straw poll. Complete results are available on the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) website.

There were no surprises in state legislative races, where incumbents – senators Barbara Favola (Dist. 31), Jennifer Boysko ( Dist. 33) and Dick Saslaw (Dist. 35), and delegates Kaye Kory (Dist. 38) and Alfonso Lopez (Dist. 49) — came out with clear leads.

But the poll indicated a possible upset in the Commonwealth’s Attorney race, where Ray Morrogh, who has served 12 years in the position and 35 years in the office total, was left far behind by challenger Steve Descano.

At the Fairfax County level, two of the four candidates for Board of Supervisors chairman – Jeff McKay and Alicia Plerhoples — ran far ahead of Tim Chapman and Ryan McElveen.

Two of the four districts with contested races for board of supervisors had clear  front runners: James Walkinshaw in Braddock District, and Rodney Lusk in Lee District.

By contrast, three candidates finished in a virtual dead heat for first place in the five-person  Providence District race, with Phil Niedzielski-Eichner  just a nose ahead of Dalia Palchik and Erika Yalowitz.

In Hunter Mill District, Shyamali  Hauth edged in front of Walter Alcorn but only by 5%, while the three other competitors in the five-person race only scored single digits.

In school board member polling, front-runners emerged clearly in four of the five competitive districts – Melanie Meren in Hunter Mill, Ricardy Anderson in Mason, Karen Corbett Sanders in Mt. Vernon, and Laura Jane Cohen in Springfield.    In Providence, the race was closer, with Karl Frisch ahead of Jung Byun by 4%.

Vying for three positions as at-large school board members, Rachna Sizemore Heizer was in front, followed closely by incumbent Karen Keys-Gamarra, with Abrar Omeish narrowly leading incumbent Ilyong Moon for third place.

Finally, a narrow spread of only 10 points separated the bottom and top vote-getters among the five candidates for three at-large Soil & Water Conservation District directors, with Monica Billger, Jerry Peters and Rich Clayton in the lead.

Now that the straw poll has ended, the real elections begin, starting in the near future with endorsement meetings for district school board members in each district. Check the FCDC calendar for district meeting dates.

On May 21, preceded by 10 days of early voting, FCDC members meet to endorse the at-large School Board and Soil & Water Board candidates. A month later, on June 11, both parties hold primary elections and the decisive battle takes place at the general election on Nov. 5.