Text by Andrew Jenner // Graphics by Ilse Ackerman
The statewide election storyline of large turnouts and good results for Democrats was mirrored in Harrisonburg last night, with Democrats Sal Romero and Chris Jones comfortably elected to city council in a five-way race against three independents running on divergent platforms.
According to preliminary results, Romero won 6,737 votes, with Jones earning 6,186 – nearly 2,000 more than independent Carolyn Frank, who finished third with 4,225. That was by far the largest difference between the lowest winner and highest loser in a city council race since 2002, and the first Democratic sweep of city council since the 2008 Presidential Election when the party won all three seats up for grabs.
Romero finished first in every precinct except the JMU campus, where he finished second to Jones, and absentee voting, where he was second to Frank. Jones, the race’s only incumbent, won at JMU and finished second in the city’s other physical precincts (he finished third in absentee voting).
With few exceptions, the overall candidate ranking was generally consistent across the city’s precincts.
In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine won the city with 67.3 percent of the vote — more than 10 points higher than Kaine’s statewide percentage.
While Republican State Delegate Ben Cline easily won the 6th District Congressional race to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Harrisonburg was one of just four localities in the district that voted for Jennifer Lewis, Cline’s Democratic opponent. Lewis won 66.7 percent of the city vote, by far the best result for a Democratic congressional candidate in Harrisonburg since 1990, which was in an entirely different era when Democratic Rep. James Olin won every single locality in the 6th District.
At JMU, turnout was up noticeably from last year’s statewide races for governor and delegate, with a little over 1,100 votes cast in the congressional race, compared to about 750 total votes last year. In the 2016 Presidential campaign – the first year that the JMU campus had its own precinct – around 2,150 votes were cast there. While on-campus student voters have leaned Democratic a bit more than the city as a whole in the short period since then, that hasn’t been a consistent trend. In the House race on Tuesday, however, the JMU precinct was a few points bluer than the rest of the city.
And that was even more pronounced in the Senate race.
An earlier version of this post undercounted the total vote at the JMU precinct in the 2016 Presidential election.