Chris Graham: Shifting political winds in Waynesboro

waynesboroBarack Obama received 3,840 votes in Waynesboro in his 2012 presidential re-election run. Jennifer Lewis, political neophyte, received, wait for it, 3,840 votes in Waynesboro in her 2018 bid for the Sixth District congressional seat.

And Lewis, again, political neophyte, and running against an established Republican candidate, Ben Cline, who was on his way to a resounding victory district-wide, was running in a midterm year.

In the last midterm, 2014, we had a marquee U.S. Senate race at the top of the ticket, Mark Warner, Democrat, Ed Gillespie, Republican.

Warner would win statewide by less than 1 percent. He would get 1,951 votes in Waynesboro, 44.4 percent of the votes cast.

That raw-vote total is a little more than half of what Lewis got here yesterday, and I keep saying this, political neophyte, emphasis, her first run for office, if you don’t count running unopposed for the soil and water board, which none of us do.

Lewis still lost Waynesboro in the 2018 midterms, but only by 35 votes.

She was able to GOTV at an Obama-era level in a midterm with a less-than-sexy Senate race at the top of the 2018 ticket.

Democrat Tim Kaine was running for re-election against the not-at-all-serious challenge of Republican Corey Stewart.

Kaine won re-election easily, by 15.7 percent.

It’s worth noting that Kaine won Waynesboro yesterday, narrowly, sure, receiving 3,849 votes, defeating Stewart by 138 votes.

It’s worth noting because Kaine lost Waynesboro in his first run for the Senate in 2012. George Allen won Waynesboro that year with 55.1 percent of the vote.

Kaine, that year, received 3,873 votes in Waynesboro; 24 more than his total yesterday, again, in a midterm year, not a presidential year.

Waynesboro, for a decade, let itself slink into a Tea Party funk, electing and re-electing a City Council that marginalized education and economic development to prop up the mythical little old lady who could no longer afford to live in Waynesboro because of all the damn taxes, which, come on, Waynesboro is among the lowest cost-of-living cities in America.

That fact is why Waynesboro is changing, as you see from yesterday’s election returns here. You might not have noticed it, but Charlottesville and Albemarle County have been making their way down Interstate 64 and over Afton Mountain in recent years, as folks associated with the University of Virginia and UVA-related firms discovered our hospitality in the Valley, abundant housing stock with views of the Blue Ridge, and set their roots down.

And now, their kids are going to school, and they want better for them at school, and they want jobs for their kids so when they grow up, maybe they can hang around.

They’re not clinging, like the mythical little old lady railing about her taxes, a political cover for hard-fisted wealthy retirees who already got theirs, and don’t care what happens to the rest of us, to the notion that Waynesboro’s best days are behind it, that it’ll never again be here like it was back in the 1950s and 1960s, when DuPont and General Electric paid thousands of families really well to run their local plants.

The new folks don’t know, and don’t care, what Waynesboro was 50 years ago. They care about today, and tomorrow.

And yesterday, they turned out in droves, and, credit to Republicans, they got their voters out, too, which is why the lasting image of the 2018 midterms in Waynesboro will be that it was a 50/50 proposition.

But you can’t deny, Waynesboro being 50/50, two years after Donald Trump won the city by 12 points in the 2016 presidential race, yeah, it’s a sign.

That the political winds in Waynesboro have shifted.

Column by Chris Graham

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