Suffolk bellwether

Published 10:38 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

During national elections, political pundits look to states like Missouri, Indiana and Iowa as good indicators of how an election might play out, which candidate will win. Based on nine out of the last 10 general elections in Virginia, the same could be said for Suffolk.

Tuesday night’s results, which showed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell easily carrying the majority of votes in Suffolk, kept a surprising trend going that showed Suffolk may very well be the bellwether electorate in the Commonwealth.

“Suffolk is a fairly diverse community and a community that is growing every day,” Suffolk Republican Committee Chairman Steve Trent. “I would guess you can call Virginia a swing state — and Suffolk with it. For a long time it was Republican red and we are working to get it back there.”

During the last 10 general elections, dating back to the 1996 presidential election, Suffolk has voted for the eventual national or state winner nine times. The lone exception came in 2000, when Suffolk voters favored the Gore/Lieberman ticket over the eventual winners, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

In that election, 50.51 percent of the voters chose the Gore/Lieberman ticket, while just under 48 percent of the voters selected Bush/Cheney. The Bush ticket went on to win the commonwealth and the national race.

Throughout those elections, the city has backed Democratic and Republican nearly equally.

But Tuesday’s win by McDonnell was the most overwhelming of any winning candidate. McDonnell won 57.75 percent of Suffolk’s votes, while Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds claimed just 42.2 percent.

“We had a core group of folks who really worked hard to make sure we helped Bob win Suffolk and win overall,” Trent said. “We put a real focus on the Hampton Roads area, and it paid off with a great night Tuesday.”

Trent credited Tuesday’s win to the candidate’s message and policies, but he added that the ground game locally and across Virginia was important.

“For some reason in 2008 we did not get our base out to the polls, and we lost,” Trent said. “We made it a real emphasis this year to make sure the same thing did not happen.”