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Special Election Already Drawing Sizable Turnout

by Ethan Rothstein — August 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm 1,373 0

48th District candidates Rip Sullivan (left) and David Foster (right)The special election to replace retired Del. Bob Brink in the 48th District is tomorrow, and despite the unusual timing, turnout among absentee voters is strong.

The election is between Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Republican Dave Foster, two attorneys who have had to throw together campaigns in less than two months after Brink announced his resignation on June 27.

According to Arlington General Registrar Linda Lindberg, her office has already received about 1,000 ballots, which is more than the total number of absentee ballots cast in the county for the June Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District seat. Lindberg theorized that the numbers are inflated because so many people will be out of town tomorrow, but was still surprised at the volume.

“What’s really significant is when you consider the June primary was the entire County, but this election is only 13 precincts,” Lindberg told ARLnow.com in an email today. “We expected our numbers to be comparable to the primary for the precincts involved, not to necessarily exceed them. So in that respect, yes, absentee turnout has exceeded expectations… The numbers are clearly a reflection of the work the campaigns have done to get out the vote.”

Each candidate took time away from campaigning this afternoon to speak with ARLnow.com, and both said they felt good about their chances tomorrow.

“We have overcome, I think, quite well what I have viewed as a trap election,” Sullivan said, referring to House of Delegates Speaker William Howell’s decision to hold the election so soon after the seat was vacated. “[Howell] opted to set it on this fast track, I think knowing a lot of people would be out of town on vacation or taking their kids to college… I think we’ve done a nice job in putting a full-scale professional campaign into six short weeks, and we feel real good about our chances.”

Sullivan said voters told him their priorities in the election were expanding Medicaid in the state and the state’s economic circumstances, particularly after Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia is facing a $2.4 billion shortfall in the budget next year.

“It’s certainly a bigger shortfall than anyone would want,” Sullivan said. “I was talking at the debate (Aug. 5) about how Virginia, and Northern Virginia particularly, needs to focus like a laser on diversifying our economy and weaning off a dependence on federal dollars.”

Foster said the voters he’s spoken to have told him they oppose the Columbia Pike streetcar. He said if he’s elected, he will push for a referendum and explore funneling $160 million-plus in potential state transportation funding away from the streetcar. He also said the voters “know me” from his former tenure on the Arlington School Board.

“The voters appreciate my record of service on education issues in particular,” Foster said. “Arlingtonians know me not simply as a Republican, but as someone who knows how to work on a bipartisan, pragmatic basis to get things done.”

Foster noted that Sullivan’s campaign received a $35,000 donation from the Democratic Party of Virginia last week, a sign, he said, that they believe Republicans have a chance to win the Democrat-leaning district. In all, Sullivan has raised more than $165,000, according to the latest data from the State Board of Elections. Foster has raised just over $100,000.

“We’re definitely in the hunt,” Foster said. “We think we have him on the ropes.”

Polling places will open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow. The State Board of Elections allows you to double-check your polling place online. The 48th District runs along the Potomac River from Crystal City to Rosslyn and Clarendon and includes the McLean area of Fairfax County.

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