Democrats win Charlottesville City Council seats

Newly re-elected Charlottesville CIty Councilor Kristin Szakos on election night. Photo: Christian Hommel. Newly re-elected Charlottesville CIty Councilor Kristin Szakos on election night. Photo: Christian Hommel.

For more of our election wrap coverage, check throughout the day. To see the blow-by-blow from last night, scroll back through our election day liveblog.

After a late night waiting on a delayed vote count, Charlottesville Democrats celebrated big wins on election day, with incumbent Kristin Szakos and her running mate Bob Fenwick taking the two open seats by a margin that surprised their Republican challengers, Mike Farruggio and Buddy Weber.

Incumbent  Szakos led the pack, taking 36 percent of the vote, and Fenwick took 32 percent. Farruggio took 19 percent, and Weber 12 percent. Together, the Democrats had 14,016 votes, more than twice the Republicans’ 6,438.

Farruggio and Weber conceded the race before all nine city precincts had been totalled—still late in the night, thanks to a “password error” that city registrar Sheri Iachetta said required all voting machines to be toted to the basement of City Hall and hooked up to a secure computer for vote tabulation. The mood at Bashir’s Taverna on the Downtown Mall, where the two challengers and a few dozen other city Republicans had watched the evening’s vote totals roll in, had become increasingly glum. By the time dessert was laid out around 9:30pm, it was clear the night hadn’t gone well for the GOP in the county or city.

The significant margin of defeat bewildered Farruggio and Weber, who both said they’d been greeted all day at the polls by Democrats who were promising to vote Republican.

“I was really quite hopeful,” said Weber as he and Farruggio addressed the supporters who lingered. If pressed earlier in the day, Weber said, he might have guessed Republicans and Democrats would end up splitting the vote 50-50.

Weber congratulated Szakos and Fenwick, but said they and the others on city council can’t ignore that the Republicans made a strong showing.

“They might have won this campaign, but the issues we ran on are not going to go away,” Weber said. “We’re going to be here to continue to pursue them.”

Farruggio agreed.

“We talked about things our opponents refused to talk about the whole campaign, and I hope the people of Charlottesville will keep the city councilors on task,” he said. “I’m hoping this makes the Democrats step up their game, get to the table [and] do the hard work that we were willing to do.”

On the other end of the Downtown Mall at Escafe, Democrats from city and county watched the results in an atmosphere of escalating good cheer, punctuated by whistles, shouts, and back slaps as the victories piled up.

Kristin Szakos said the margin of victory she and Fenwick had seen, which had so surprised the Republican challengers, was important.

“It shows voters liked the direction the city was going,” she said. Weber and Farruggio “did their best,” she said. “They ran a strong race,” but in the end, the city spoke—and chose a solidly Democratic council once again.

And their neighbors chose similarly in surrounding Albemarle, she pointed out.

“I’m really excited about the results in the county,” she said. “This is going to make city-county relations stronger. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on all issues, but we certainly have the same goals.”

Back at Bashir’s, as he pulled campaign signs out of the brickwork on the Mall outside the restaurant, Farruggio said he wanted to stay active in city politics—but he wasn’t ready to say if he’d run again in two years.

“We need a couple days to decompress, because of all the emotions that come along with it after you put your heart and soul and your life into it and your family’s life into it for four months,” he said. “I love this city. I’ve been here for 25 years. So I care so deeply about it.”

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