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Write-in campaigns fall short in Vienna, but succeed in Clifton elections

Vienna Town Council candidate campaign signs for the 2023 general election (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 10 a.m. on 11/16/2023) A week after polls closed, the next mayors and councils for the towns of Vienna and Clifton have been decided.

The Fairfax County Electoral Board certified the local race results for this year’s general election yesterday (Tuesday), including for a Vienna Town Council contest where write-in votes exceeded votes for two of the seven candidates on the ballot.

However, none of the submitted candidates received enough votes to shift the outcome of the race, according to the Fairfax County Office of Elections. Vienna Transportation Safety Commission chair Beth Eachus, who began campaigning as a write-in candidate in September, received 1,803 of the 2,073 write-in votes, county election officials said.

The names and vote totals of the other write-ins weren’t identified.

Instead, budget analyst and former Fairfax County School Board candidate Sandra Allen has secured the last of six council seats with 2,053 votes — just seven more than the 2,046 that went to Shelley Mountjoy, a former community college professor and creator of the Vienna Votes outreach project.

Allen will join Vienna Planning Commissioner Jessica Ramakis and Board of Architectural Review Chair Roy Baldwin as newcomers to the council. All three incumbents — Howard Springsteen, Chuck Anderson and Ray Brill — won reelection.

A total of 5,981 ballots were cast in the town council race — a 48.5% turnout rate for the town’s 12,323 registered voters, according to the county elections office.

With voters allowed to choose up to six candidates, the 22,463 votes cast broke down as follows:

  • Howard J. Springsteen — 3,535
  • Jessica Ramakis — 3,465
  • Charles “Chuck” Anderson — 3,418
  • Ray Brill, Jr. — 2,951
  • Roy J. Baldwin — 2,922
  • Sandra Allen — 2,053
  • Shelley Mountjoy — 2,046
  • Write-in votes — 2,073

Mayor Linda Colbert also won a second term after running unopposed.

This was the Town of Vienna’s first November election since the Virginia General Assembly adopted a law in 2021 requiring all municipal elections still held in May to move.

Clifton mayor defeated by write-in votes

While Vienna didn’t see a successful write-in campaign, Clifton Mayor William Hollaway has been unseated after receiving 62 votes — five fewer than write-in candidate Thomas Peterson, according to the Virginia Department of Election results. A total of 131 votes were cast.

A lawyer, Holloway hasn’t faced any official opponents since 2010, when he was first elected as mayor.

His successor will be a familiar face for the town’s 330 residents. Peterson previously served as mayor of Clifton in 2006 to 2010, and his family runs the popular Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot.

Peterson told NBC4 that his wife had encouraged him to run after the candidate filing deadline had passed. His campaign consisted of just 10 yard signs, but Clifton voters “were excited to actually have a choice for the first time in 12 years,” NBC4 reported.

The Clifton Town Council race, which featured five official candidates vying for five seats, also saw a write-in victor in Mary Hess, who received 71 of the 471 total votes cast — more than incumbents Stephen Effros (65) and Darrell Poe (48).

Fairfax County’s overall voter turnout for the 2023 general election ended at 41.1%, a slight drop from the last time local races were on the ballot in 2019, according to the county elections office. The 323,816 ballots tallied include 3,900 provisional ballots and 9,476 mail-in ballots received after Election Day on Nov. 7.