Rappahannock voters calmly, decisively choose Trump  

County also contributes to Garrett’s solid victory over Dittmar in 5th District congressional race

Mathew Gries and son study a sample ballot at the Washington fire hall on Tuesday Nov. 8.Luke Christopher | Rappahannock News
Mathew Gries and son study a sample ballot at the Washington fire hall on Tuesday Nov. 8.

By Patty Hardee
and Roger Piantadosi

There were no outbursts in Rappahannock County on Election Day, except the one it shared with the rest of the country.

In a presidential election that upended polls showing Democrat Hillary Clinton with a solid lead, Republican Donald J. Trump won a stunning upset to become the 45th president of the United States. And the voters of Rappahannock County helped get him there — although Virginia, for the third presidential election in a row, finished the day as a blue state.

With all seven precincts reporting, including the central precinct at the Registrar of Voters’ office for counting absentee ballots, local voting went as follows (and the results are officially “unofficial” until the state elections department certifies them):

Trump, with 2,532 votes, defeated Clinton, who received 1,741 votes. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, received 93 votes; Jill Stein, Green Party candidate, 36 votes; and Independent candidate Evan McMullin, 42 votes. There were 26 write-in votes.

Trump won in all six precincts of the county, even the county’s most traditionally liberal Piedmont district  (aka Sperryville).

The Chester Gap precinct had the widest spread with 280 votes for Trump or 78.4 percent of the vote and 77 votes for Clinton. Next was Amissville, where 70.7 percent of the precinct’s 805 votes went to Trump; the final Amissville count was 569 for Trump and 236 for Clinton.

Of the Scrabble/Stonewall precinct’s 681 votes, 416, or 61.1 percent, went to Trump. The Washington and Flint Hill margins were the same — 56.8 percent each for Trump — with the Washington vote 478 for Trump versus 363 for Clinton. Flint Hill’s votes were 241 for Trump and 183 for Clinton.

Finally, Sperryville had the closest split, with 397 votes for Trump, or 53.9 percent of the total 737 votes; and 340 votes for Clinton.

Like the rest of the 5th District, the county also favored Republican Tom A. Garrett Jr. in the contest for the district’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives — with in-county percentages nearly matching his hefty, 58-to-42-percent margin districtwide. Garrett, who replaces retiring three-term Congressman Robert Hurt, received 2,595 votes in Rappahannock; Democratic candidate Jane D. Dittmar received 1,788 votes; and there were 16 write-in votes.

Also on the ballot were two referendums. One asked whether the Virginia constitution may be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization. The measure drew 2,398 votes for No and 1,776 for Yes.

The second referendum also asked whether the Virginia constitution may be amended, this time to  allow surviving spouses of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel who was killed in the line of duty to be exempted from real estate property taxes. The measure won overwhelming support with a 3.181-to-1,055 vote.

Visits to Rappahannock’s six fire-hall polling places throughout the day on Tuesday revealed a polite, calm and even sociable electorate — not atypical for Rappahannock County in general, but certainly a contrast to one of the country’s oddest and most divisive presidential races in a century or more.

“Everything ran extraordinarily smoothly yesterday,” Denise Chandler, chair of the county’s elections board, said on Wednesday. “We were very pleased with the decorum of the voters, and the knowledge of the election officials getting the work completed.”

In the midst of an ill-mannered campaign, Rappahannock maintained its manners. In the late afternoon Tuesday, a local entrepreneur and artist was spotted parking her truck at the Sperryville Corner Store lot. She said she’d come to order several pizzas from Rudy’s to bring to election officials who’d been working the polls since 6 a.m. “I’m pretty sure they’re hungry,” she said.

“I think Donald Trump was right in saying this was truly a movement,” said Rappahannock Republican Committee Chair Evelyn Kerr yesterday. “A movement where people were just so exhausted from the things that were happening to them in their daily lives, where the government was controlling everything in their daily lives — or here, in our agricultural area, where the EPA wants to come in and control a puddle on your land.

“Americans were crying out — to God, really,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many people who said they were praying, and fasting . . . And no, we didn’t think Donald Trump was a perfect person. . . . Winston Churchill was not a perfect person, either; he was bombastic. But he saved western civilization.”

“I could not be prouder of the dedicated Rappahannock Democrats,” said Democratic Committee Chair Ross O’Donoghue yesterday, “who canvassed, mailed and called their friends and neighbors to turn out the vote for a strong presidential candidate and a great congressional candidate.”

Though disappointed with the election result, O’Donoghue said, “Rappahannock Democrats will continue their efforts to clean up the county roads, stage a first-class yard sale and through their numerous volunteer efforts display their love of Rappahannock.”

Though Virginia’s popular vote (and 13 electoral votes) went to Hillary Clinton, a red/blue election results map of the state looks remarkably similar to that of the United States: blue in its most populous, urban areas, generally around its edges — and solid Republican red through its less densely populated heartland. (In Virginia, that small dot of blue you see near the center of a sea of red is Albemarle County, Dittmar’s home base.)

For the day Tuesday, a “very high” turnout was recorded, the percentage of Rappahannock’s total number of registered voters (5,817) ranging from a high of 74.2 percent in Amissville to a low of 63.77 in Stonewall/Scrabble. Rappahannock’s overall voter turnout in 2012 was 75.7 percent.

“We have done a lot to deal with some of the problems of past elections,” Chandler said. “And Kim [McKiernan, the county’s newly full-time director of elections] just did an incredible amount of work.”

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About Patty Hardee 169 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.