Election day delivered a big shakeup in Albemarle as Democrats swept three races for seats on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and a left-leaning independent took a fourth.
Democratic newcomer Jane Dittmar had the biggest margin of victory, taking 57.73 percent of the vote in the Scottsville special election to Republican Cindi Burket’s 42.05 percent.
But the two other Dems, both running as challengers against Republican incumbents, also won by double digits. In Rio, Brad Sheffield bested Rodney Thomas 56.64 to 43.17 percent, and Liz Palmer beat Samuel Miller rep Duane Snow 56.63 to 43.30 percent.
In Jouett, independent candidate Diantha McKeel, who has said she tends to align herself with Democratic ideals, saw a decisive victory over Republican-endorsed independent Phillip Seay; she took 69.86 percent to his 29.64 percent.
That means the female-to-male ratio on the board will now be four to two instead of one to five. It also means Rivanna District representative Ken Boyd is now the sole Republican supe in Albemarle.
“I was surprised that everyone won,” said Palmer, reached the morning after the election. “I thought someone was going to end up losing. Somebody had to have an upset, but I hadn’t looked at numbers specifically. Obviously, I’m very, very happy.”
“I think all the candidates worked really hard,” said Brad Sheffield, an hour after his victory was announced. “I know they did and it really paid off. With voters, the different campaigns resonated.”
And what’s first for Sheffield in the new job? “Transportation,” said Sheffield, who is an assistant director at JAUNT .
Indeed, of all the current issues facing the new supes, transportation has been the highest profile of late—specifically the Western Bypass, which was brought back to life in June 2011 with a late-night vote to change the county’s stance on funding the project, and is now awaiting approval from the Federal Highway Administration. Many see the defeats of Bypass proponents Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow—who, as Albemarle’s representatives to the Metropolitan Planning Organization played a key role in the revitalization of the project—as a referendum on the road and a mandate for Dems to undo it.
That, however, could be easier said than done. Palmer said there’s been some discussion about what steps the new board must take to reverse course on the bypass.
“There are legal ramifications,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of community participation on how to move forward. A lot of money has been expended, and you’ve got to go through a process to undo it. Everybody recognizers it’s a process—it’s not just the board saying we don’t want it.”
While dems were backslapping and celebrating the sweep, their opponents weren’t feeling as enthusiastic.
“It’s a surprise, I have to be honest with you,” Rodney Thomas said as the county Republicans’ gathering at Lord Hardwicke’s on Emmet Street closed down. “It’s kind of hard to defeat the Democratic Party when the vote down from the top. But maybe I just didn’t do the things I needed to do.”
Now, he said, “I’ll get to get back into business.”