Sperling concedes in close-run Springfield supervisor race

By Susan Laume:

Linda Sperling conceded her race for Springfield District Supervisor Thursday, November 7, falling a few votes short of the 1% recount threshold.

On election night, Sperling tallied 49.2% of the 40,512 total votes cast, narrowly behind long-term Republican incumbent Pat Herrity with 50.8%. Even after post-election canvassing moved approximately 200 votes into her camp, the total difference in favor of Herrity remained slightly above the 1% trigger level eligible for recount.

Herrity who has served 12 years already in the position, was the only Republican winner in the Democratic sweep of local offices in Fairfax County (see earlier Blue View election story).

Sperling commented on Herrity’s razor thin margin, “I am not disheartened by that number, I am encouraged by it. For a district that many wrote off as noncompetitive, our campaign showed that clearly isn’t the case.” She congratulated Pat Herrity on his win, and thanked union members and others who supported her campaign. She vowed to continue her fight for working families and progressive values, after some time to relax with her family.

At an election night watch party, turned victory party, for Springfield District Democratic candidates and supporters, Sperling’s was the one face missing for most of the night as returns were reported. Held at a Clifton restaurant, the gathering was planned as a joint event for campaign supporters of Dan Helmer, who won his race for 40th district state delegate, Laura Jane Cohen, who won hers for school board from Springfield District, and Sperling.

By 9:30 pm most race results had been called. And although the Springfield supervisor race was called by some news organizations for Herrity, their numbers were close. Only 600 votes separated the two candidates on election night, the only close race in Fairfax County. Sperling was not ready to concede.

As a result, Springfield’s thirty-eight precincts received priority for the post-election canvassing which began the day after the election and will continue for several days after the election until all precincts are reviewed.

“Canvassing” is a process of checking all the voting paper work for accurate totals, as explained by Kristin Cabral, Co-Chair, Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC), Election Law and Voter Protection.  Cabral pointed out that mistakes are not unusual, due to math errors, number transpositions, and misread tapes from the machines. Two separate teams of election officials “canvass” or check the results. Once an error is identified, Board of Election employees work to resolve the errors and determine the correct count.

By Wednesday afternoon, November 6, canvassing of all Springfield District precinct paperwork revealed a need for correction of 200 counts in favor of Sperling. That narrowed the distance between the candidates to 400-plus.

At that time, 50 Springfield provisional ballots were outstanding. As Cabral explained, those ballots are cast by individuals whose legitimate voter status was in question at time of casting and must be verified before the vote may be counted.  For example, the voter registration may have been filed at the Division of Motor Vehicles, but was not forwarded to the Board of Elections so the voter’s name does not appear on the rolls. In that case, the Board of Elections contacts the DMV in search of the registration. Or the person may be on the voter rolls, but may not have produced a photo identification accepted by Virginia. That person completes a ballot but must produce an accepted identification in order to “cure the defect” within a deadline.

Finally, if after all reviews, the vote count difference is less than 1%, Virginia Code provides for a recount. A candidate may file a petition in county Circuit Court within 10 days of the election certification. The chief judge and two circuit court judges hear the case.  The cost of the recount is borne by the requestor unless successful; then the cost is borne by the localities. John Farrell, an FCDC member and attorney familiar with election law, said the filing fees of $10 per precinct are not substantial, but attorney representation in the process can be more significant.

In Sperling’s case, provisional ballots probably wouldn’t have sufficed to bring the vote difference under 1% and there was no assurance that a recount, even if legally available, would have reversed the difference. So even though Sperling did much better than most observers predicted against a long-term incumbent, she made the tough decision to concede on Thursday.

“I won’t stop fighting for the working families of Fairfax County,” Sperling said in a message to supporters, “and I won’t stop standing up for our progressive values.  I won’t stop fighting to ensure that our kids receive the best education possible, that we expand our mass transit network, that we protect our environment for future generations, that we keep guns out of government-owned properties, and that we ensure that everyone can find a safe and affordable place to live in Fairfax County, no matter where they came from, what they look like, what they believe, or who they love.

“Thank you again for everything you have done to support our campaign.”


Susan Laume is a member of the Springfield District Democratic Committee and director of the Virginia Dog Army, an animal advocacy group.  She and her dog work as a therapy dog team.



Photo: Linda Sperling campaigns with firefighters. L-R: Unidentified firefighter, firefighter union local President Ron Kuley, Sperling, state Sen.Jennifer Boysko (D-33)/ Photo by Susan Laume

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