By Adam Van Hart
J. Randall “Randy” Minchew will be the Republican candidate on the November ballot for the new 10th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Minchew, 54, a Loudoun County attorney, won Tuesday’s open GOP primary with 1,193 or 40.4 percent of the votes cast in the 10th District, which stretches from Loudoun County to Frederick County. There are 50,304 registered voters overall in the district.
Minchew bested fellow Republicans John C. Whitbeck Jr., 35, who received 1,106 votes (37.5 percent) and Cara Townsend, 34, who garnered 647 (22 percent). Whitbeck and Townsend are both Loudoun residents.
“I’ve been blessed by voters tonight, and I’m not taking it for granted,” said Minchew, who will face Democrat David Butler, a Leesburg Town Council member, in the general election.
With Minchew as the Republican nominee, the party will be looking to add to its majority in the House in a district that doesn’t have an incumbent.
The 10th District was located in southwestern Virginia before this year’s redistricting process that followed the 2010 census. It is currently represented by Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Martinsville, the House’s minority leader.
But Minchew said winning the Nov. 8 general election will not be easy since Butler is a well-known politician.
He also noted that he did not perform as well in Frederick County as he had hoped.
Although Minchew won in Clarke and Loudoun counties, Whitbeck took Frederick by 88 votes.
“I also appreciate that I have more work to do in Frederick,” Minchew said.
Toward the end of the primary campaign, while candidates tried to present themselves as the most conservative choice, things became testy between Whitbeck and Minchew.
Both candidates downplayed the tension Tuesday. Minchew said Whitbeck had called and offered a “gracious” congratulations.
“Randy Minchew has my full support as the party’s nominee, and I’ll do all that I can to make sure he wins the election,” Whitbeck said.
Townsend said before Tuesday’s results were known that she planned to support “whatever candidate wins.”
With his win, Minchew will now shift gears toward the general election, including fundraising.
With $32,316 leftover as of Aug. 10, Minchew will have to replenish his coffers, but he isn’t far behind his general election opponent.
Butler had only $36,862 left in his campaign fund on Aug. 10.
“As far as I’m concerned, we are starting campaigning at 8 a.m. tomorrow,” Minchew said Tuesday night.
Voter turnout was light for the primary, which was one of 16 around the state.
While it was the first chance for voters to cast ballots in the new 10th District, only a few did.
About 5.5 percent of the more than 11,000 registered voters in the Frederick and Clarke portions of the district went to the polls. Because of Virginia’s election laws, all primaries are open, which allows for any registered voter to cast a ballot.
In Frederick, only voters in the Shawnee District and its four voting precincts, bordered by Interstate 81 to the west, Senseny Road to the north and Fairfax Pike (Va. 277) to the south, can vote.
In Clarke, the 10th District takes in the entire White Post District and part of the Millwood District. The district boundary travels east on Senseny Road and south along Springsbury Road, eventually moving east along Morgans Mill Road.
The low voter interest wasn’t a complete surprise. Robert Bronson, the precinct chief at Armel Elementary school in Frederick County, said it was expected.
“We were told it would be light,” he said.
In Frederick, 397 voters come out, about 4.6 percent of the eligible 8,539 who were registered. County Registrar Rick Miller said that the final cost of the election wasn’t immediately known Tuesday.
By about 1:30 p.m., Mitzi Hamilton, 57, the precinct chief at Evendale Elementary in Frederick County, knew exactly how many voters had come: 38.
“I thought that there would be more people because it was a Republican primary,” she said. “Republicans are pretty well known for getting the vote out.”
At Powhatan School in Clarke’s Millwood district, poll workers said that by 3 p.m., only about 50 voters had come.
Voters also noticed there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of interest in the primary.
Debbie Henderson, 48, was one of the few to cast a ballot in the Armel precinct.
She brought her son Tobias, 17, along to experience the voting process, and said she voted for Whitbeck.
“I thought it would have had a line at least,” Henderson said.
Brenda Chavarria, 60, cast her vote at the Powhatan School.
A registered Republican, Chavarria said she tries to always vote in primaries.
“I think it all starts at the grass roots,” Chavarria said.
Inside the school’s gymnasium, there were only poll workers and poll watchers waiting for voters.
Clarke, while having the smallest number of registered voters, cast 245 votes, 7.8 percent of the 3,126 registered voters – the best of all three counties.
Registrar Barbara Bosserman, who estimated the primary would cost around $2,500, said she was OK with the turnout.
The turnout in Loudoun County, where the majority of the district’s voters live, was also low, with 2,304 votes being cast, a 5.6 percent turnout of its 38,638 eligible residents.