STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — Pre-primary chatter in Fredericksburg and Stafford predicted a couple things: typical primary voter turnout and GOP Rep. Robert Wittman defeating Catherine Crabill’s challenge for Virginia’s 1st District Congressional seat.
The chatter was right.
Unofficial election results on the Virginia State Board of Elections website show Wittman winning the run for Virginia’s 1st District with 88.2 percent of the vote. Statistics for the Grafton precinct in Stafford County came in slightly more in favor of Wittman with a count of 212 votes for Wittman and only 10 for Crabill.
The Grafton precinct had the strongest Wittman vote in Stafford County at 95.49 percent. (Stafford’s Steffaniga precinct also turned out more Wittman support than the rest of the county with 95.02 percent of voters casting their ballots for Wittman.)
Primary elections always have a lower turnout than November elections. But at Grafton, there was a respectable number of voters.
“The final vote count is 222,” election official Bobby Barnes said when polls closed on Tuesday. No one was surprised when vote tabulation showed Wittman as the winner.
Debra Clark was the last voter at the Grafton Elementary school precinct.
“I’d like to cast my vote even though I don’t think my candidate has a chance to win,” Clark said.
When polls opened at 6 a.m., there were five voters waiting. During most of the day, voters arrived one or two at a time. Election officers working at Grafton expected a 2 percent to 5 percent voter turnout; when the polls closed at 7 p.m., about 7 percent of active precinct voters showed.
“We are a usually a strong Republican precinct, but I don’t think most people even realized there is an election today,” voter Mary Hinton said.
Even before Tuesday’s vote, resident were unsure.
“There’s an election on Tuesday?” voter Alan Howard asked on Friday.
From another Stafford County resident who asked not to be named: “There was an election yesterday? That must be why Rob Wittman’s people called three times.”
Election officer Phyllis Bennett also mentioned Wittman’s phone bank efforts: “There were some voters in the afternoon who said they were here to vote because Wittman’s campaign kept calling.”
Susan Stimpson, the Falmouth district supervisor, encouraged voting and backed Wittman on Twitter: “1st District residents, don’t forget to vote for Rob Wittman in tomorrow’s Republican primary.” Stimpson was at Grafton first thing Tuesday morning to represent Wittman, who made a brief appearance at the polls Tuesday afternoon.
Wittman’s campaign had another poll worker on hand offering voters red sample ballots in the afternoon, but Catherine Crabill’s campaign had no representatives present.
Wittman’s supporters canvassed Stafford County homes the weekend before the primary, made phone calls to voters and had large campaign signs up at prominent local intersections like Deacon and Butler Road.
Crabill had a less noticeable presence and several voters at the polls said they didn’t know Crabill’s name.
Crabill’s website, catherinecrabill.com, sought to reach out to Virginia “patriots” with the slogan “upholding liberty-resisting tyranny” but Tuesday’s results show she was not successful at rallying enough support of area tea party or patriot groups.
On her website, Crabill lashed out at “vicious attacks, the outrageous lies, and despicable smears against me,” but of 17 people surveyed outside the Bloom grocery store on Deacon Road, no one recalled hearing any campaigning for or against Crabill.