Goodlatte coasts, 5th District race close

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By The Staff

Although the Bedford area bucked the state trend, Barack Obama became the first Democratic Presidential candidate to carry Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The Commonwealth contributed its 13 electoral votes to Obama's 349 electoral vote win.

Voters in the city of Bedford also favored McCain over Obama 54.75 percent to 44.18 percent (1,497 to 1,208), though the absentee ballots had yet to be counted. County favored McCain by 68.17 percent to 30.75 (24,402 to 11,007).

Democrat Mark Warner was declared the winner early on Tuesday as Virginia's newest U.S. senator, soundly defeating Republican James Gilmore. Warner also outpaced Gilmore among city and county voters. Warner led among city voters 1,748 to 894 (65.54 percent to 33.52 percent). County voters preferred Warner by a smaler margin, 17,849 to 17,070 ( 50.70 percent to 48.49 percent).

Republican Bob Goodlatte is headed back for another term in the 6th District. He defeated Democratic challenger Sam Rasoul with 61.38 of the vote.

Republican Virgil Goode also appears to be headed back to another term representing the 5th District. With all precincts reporting, Goode has 157,421 votes while Democratic challenger Tom Perriello has 157,276. Goode's margin of victory, 49.99 percent, versus 49.94 for Perriello, is small enough to allow the loosing party to ask for a recount and make the winner the your vote counts poster boy of 2008.

“This is a tight election,” Goode said during a conference call late Wednesday morning. “We are pleased to be ahead. We are optimistic when every valid vote is counted that we will be ahead.”

Goode said he would have to wait until the canvass of the votes is through before deciding on the next step. He noted that if the race is within a half of a percent the losing party can call for a recount.

“I'm pretty calm about it,” Goode said. “I'm pleased that we're ahead at this stage of the game.”

Goode, who said he stayed up watching returns until about 1:30 a.m., said he had not heard from the Perriello campaign.

“We listened to the returns throughout the evening and knew that the race was really close,” he said. “I got a few hours sleep.”

Goode said the campaign has representatives in each jurisdiction observing the canvass to help assure everything is conducted in accordance with election law.

“We are watching and listening and waiting,” Goode said.

Goode said, should he trail after the canvass, that he would evaluate whether to call for a recount. “We're ahead now and we're optimistic about being ahead at the end.”

Goode said he was expecting a close race. “I'm just glad we're ahead at this point,” he said.

He said the vote shifted back and forth throughout the evening.

“When the AP called it for us there was a lot of cheering,” he said of Tuesday night. “When we were down by 2,000 there was a lot of concern.”

Goode said the campaign is staying in touch with each jurisdiction and making notes about what its observers report back.

“I think there is some question about some of the provisional ballots as to whether they complied to Virginia law,” he said.”We just want a fair vote count and we're optimistic at the end of a fair vote count we'll be ahead.”

Goode and Goodlatte's margin of victory was much higher in the Bedford area.

Virgil Goode, the incumbent 5th Congressional District representative, got 61.70 percent of the county's vote, while Democratic challenger Tom Perriello received 38.24 percent. Bob Goodlatte, the incumbent 6th congressional district representative buried his Democratic challenger Sam Rasoul. Goodlatte got 75.83 percent of the vote, while only 22.85 percent of the county's voters opted for Rasoul.

Only four candidates were running for the four Bedford City Council seats. With all the votes counted except the absentee ballots, those results included: Jeffrey B. Hubbard with 1,288 votes, Steve C. Rush with 1,175 votes, W.D. “Skip” Tharp with 1,426 votes and Robert T. “Bob” Wandrei with 1,224 votes.

The Bedford area had a wet, busy, peaceful election day. Both city and county election workers saw happenings they had never seen before.

“At 5:45 a.m. we had people down the sidewalk, in the rain,” said Patsy Martin, who heads up the poll Visitors Center, where one of the city's two wards vote.

They were waiting to get in to cast their ballots. Poll workers divided them in two lines so that they could get out of the rain and wait in the lobby, staying dry until the poll opened. By 4:10 p.m., 884 people had cast their ballots.

“It has gone very smoothly,” Martin said.

They were ready. They had four voting machines instead of the usual three. They also had six extra poll workers. In addition, two high school students helped out, explaining the sample ballots to voters. This year both the presidential and congressional ballots were all on one screen and the teens explained this to voters.

“Everybody has been pleasant,” she said. “We haven't had any grumpy people.”

They didn't have any grumpy voting machines, either. They worked.

Martin said that there were a few cases where county voters showed up at this city ward. She said that they were able to call Randi Herrick, the city's voter registrar, with these folks Social Security numbers and she was able to quickly find out where these people were supposed to vote and direct them there. Martin's workers also had to fill out a lot of change of address forms. They also took voting machines out to 10 handicapped people who had requested curbside voting.

The county precinct that votes at the Public Authority, on Falling Creek Road, also saw a tremendous turnout.

D. J. Ashwell, who heads up the precinct, said that he has worked polls for more than 20 years and had never seen anything like it. When the poll opened, people were already lined up all the way to the highway, in the rain. They were even knocking at the door.

Ashwell said that 100 people had voted in the first hour. By 5:05 p.m. they had seen 932 people come through the doors. That, combined with absentee ballots already sent in, brought voter turnout to 68 percent and he expected to hit the 75 percent mark by the time the poll closes.

The county, like the city, was ready. Ashwell said his precinct had three instead of the usual two voting machines. The number of poll workers increased from five to seven.

The Sheriff's Office was also ready. Captain Tim Hayden said that eight officers had been stopping by county polling places since 6:30 a.m. There were no problems.

For some voters, election day is something they never miss. William Burnette, of Bedford, said he has been voting for 50 years.

Why does he do it?

“To get the right man,” he replied.

For others, it was their first time. Timothy Baron, a Staunton River High School student who had just turned 18, cast his first ballot at the PSA polling place Tuesday evening.

“I'm going to be in the military soon,” he said. “I want to have a say in who my commander in chief will be.

Baron, who will join the Army National Guard and serve with Bedford's A Company, also said that voting is his responsibility.

Howard and Linda Alexander, county residents, believe in the importance of voting.

“I always vote,” said Howard. “I vote every year.”

“We want to pick the right person and get this country in order,” said Linda. “It's very important to vote.”

“I gotta vote, I just got to,” commented Chris Clyburn.

In the 2004 presidential election, voters in the city of Bedford went for Republican incumbent President George W. Bush over Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry by a 58 percent to 41 percent margin. In 2000, Bush won 52 percent to 44 percent over Democratic candidate Al Gore.

In the 2004 presidential election, voters in Bedford County supported Bush by a 70 percent to 29 percent margin over Kerry while Bush won out over Gore in 2000 by a 66 percent to 31 percent margin.