VIRGINIA BEACH — Political newcomer Kelly Fowler — a Democrat inspired to seek office after participating in the Women’s March on Washington — defeated incumbent state Del. Ron Villanueva in the 21st House District on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
“This is about changing the tone,” Fowler, 36, said at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro, where Democrats celebrated a strong showing around the commonwealth. “We know what we did tonight was historic.”
Fowler won about 52.6 percent of the vote with 19 of 20 precincts reporting late Tuesday, according to unofficial returns posted online by the state elections department.
Villanueva served on the Virginia Beach City Council before winning office in the 21st House District in 2009 – an election he won by only 14 votes. In the next three elections, he won no less than 54 percent of the vote, according to election data compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.
However, the 21st House District has gone for Democrats in some recent national and state elections. The district includes part of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, though about nine out of every 10 voters live in Virginia Beach.
“Being in politics is tough,” Villanueva told supporters at his campaign headquarters after the result was certain. “It’s a tough sport. It’s a tough life, but you always get to make an impact.”
He discussed accomplishments during his time in office, noted the number of young people involved in the campaign, which he found heartening, and said better days were ahead.
Villanueva said he would remain involved in the community.
Fowler campaigned on issues such as ensuring Medicaid expansion and supporting funding for public education. She also supports conservation of open space and efforts to preserve farmland, among other issues.
Fowler spent nearly $290,000 in her winning bid compared to more than $503,000 spent by Villanueva during the election cycle, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Villanueva’s total included significant infusions of money from fellow Republican politicians, while Fowler reported nearly $80,000 in in-kind donations from the Democratic Party of Virginia in the final few weeks of the campaign for campaign mailers.
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