ABINGDON, Va. — In the final stretch of Tuesday’s midterm elections, Virginia’s 9th District candidates both felt confident in their campaigns.
The final days of Virginia's 9th District election were filled with last-minute stops throughout the district as the candidates made their final pitch to voters.
Both incumbent Republican Morgan Griffith and Democrat Anthony Flaccavento made swings through Southwest Virginia in the week leading up to election night, stopping for fundraising dinners to shore up support among voters they had already won over. Griffith’s Washington County Republican Party 2018 Victory Dinner was held at the Food City headquarters in Abingdon on Saturday, and Flaccavento’s dinner at the Southwest Virginia 4-H Center was attended by over 200 Democrats.
The dinners served as both political rallies to drive up voter enthusiasm at the polls and as retrospectives on the candidates’ campaigns, giving them an opportunity to thank their supporters.
“This swing is just kind of like a compressed version of what we’ve been doing for 12 months, with 100 town halls and all the meetings,” Flaccavento said. “I feel very good. The energy is incredible.”
Flaccavento’s campaign has centered around the promised 100 town halls, which he believes served to contrast his level of engagement with Griffith’s. “Four terms, a lot of people have drawn their conclusions,” said Flaccavento, referring to the number of terms Griffith has served the 9th District. “[They say] ‘he’s not the guy that’s going to represent us. He doesn’t show up.’ It gives me a much better chance. People want someone that’s going to work for them.”
Griffith was confident in his campaign message, emphasizing how Republican policies have had direct, positive impacts on 9th District residents.
“The bottom line is job numbers are getting better and better every day,” Griffith said. “There’s a difference being made every step of the way.”
Griffith expected that positive message would resonate with voters.
“I think it will be a good evening,” Griffith said of election night. “We will win.”
The candidates also reflected on their opponents’ campaigns. Griffith complimented Flaccavento for never being “underhanded,” despite their disagreements, although he criticized Flaccavento for referring to the Republican tax cuts as “crumbs” and for being soft on immigration.
Flaccavento said his campaign had kept the race tight and that he was disappointed in the way Griffith’s campaign had responded to the close polls. “[Griffith’s] got some TV and radio ads right now that are getting pretty ugly and are putting words in my mouth and pretty much lying about me,” he said.
The Democrat said he believes Griffith feels the pressure as the election approaches.
“They’ve gone dirty,” Flaccavento said. “I don’t know if he’s done it or some of the Republican National Committee. They’re claiming that I’m for open borders and all of this nonsense that’s completely untrue.”
Flaccavento’s dinner was attended by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who was there to lend support to Flaccavento and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, his fellow senator who is up for re-election this year.
“I think there’s a renewed sense of energy,” Warner said. “A lot of it is generated by some of the controversy that comes out of the White House. I think Anthony is running a really strong campaign this year. Obviously, I’m here for Anthony and my friend Tim Kaine.”
Warner said he believes Flaccavento is “willing to shake things up in Congress.”
Flaccavento also earned support from the Young Democrats of Washington County, who have volunteered to assist in getting-out-the-vote efforts, although some of their members aren’t old enough to vote themselves.
“Lately, with the political climate in the United States, I just feel like I need to encourage other people to vote and be educated about some of the policies being enforced,” said Jyll Foster, a 16-year-old student at Abingdon High School.
On the weekends, Foster said she and others knock on doors and make phone calls to ask people to vote and educate them on Flaccavento and Kaine.
Foster said she hopes more young people will become involved in politics.
Griffith’s dinner drew state Dels. Israel O’Quinn and Todd Pillion, as well as William Totten, speaking on behalf of Corey Stewart, the Republican candidate in the statewide Senate race against Tim Kaine.
“I realize that most people don’t wear caps to events, but I’m just so excited,” said Totten, donning Trump’s “Make America Great Again” red cap. “This is the year that we get rid of Tim Kaine. He’s gone. He’s out. We’re going to stick a big Republican red bow on Corey Stewart’s shoulder and send him to the Senate to have President Trump’s back.”
Totten said if people voted for Trump, they should vote for Griffith and Stewart.
“Let’s not let the Democrats shut down all of [Trump’s] accomplishments,” Totten said. “I’m not going to run through them. We don’t have all night. Everybody here has more money in their pocket. They know what President Trump has done.”
The final pitch
Griffith pointed to immigration, jobs, taxes and the opioid crisis as major issues that voters in the 9th District should consider as they cast their vote.
County Republican Party Chairman Charlie Hargis said that Griffith understood the concerns of voters. “[Griffith] has an excellent voting record on the issues that are important for most of the voters in the 9th District.”
Flaccavento said he had put in the time to meet voters face to face and believed Democrats had a stronger chance this year of ousting Griffith than in 2012, when Flaccavento first ran against the incumbent.
Both candidates hosted election night parties nearby, with Flaccavento’s team setting up at the Community Center of Abingdon, his hometown, and Griffith, who lives in Salem, watching from the Holiday Inn in Bristol, Virginia.