Barry Knight won by a wide margin in a three-man race for the Republican nomination to fill the 81st District House of Delegates seat vacated by Terrie Suit.
With 2,218 ballots cast, 1,309 voted for Knight, 624 for Virginia Beach Sheriff Paul Lanteigne and 283 for Tom Keeley, a former Oceana Naval Air Station commanding officer. Two votes were thrown out for irregularities.
GOP officials said the turnout at three polling places - several precincts voted at each location - was unusually high for a special election. Twenty-three percent of registered voters cast a ballot from Knight's home precinct, Capps Shop.
"That's amazing for something like this," said Knight, a Pungo farmer and member of the Virginia Beach Planning Commission. "I don't know what I can do to pay back this kind of support."
First elected to the two-year post in 1999, Suit resigned the 81st District seat in October to accept a lobbying job with a law firm. The district, which covers southernmost Virginia Beach and part of Chesapeake, has been a GOP stronghold.
The margin of victory - Knight won 59 percent of the vote - was what the Beach GOP hoped for.
"Since it was fairly decisive, the Democrats may rethink a challenge," said Bruce Meyer, a former GOP chairman for the 2nd Congressional District.
Virginia Beach Democratic Committee chairman Ollie Bates said the party will decide by midweek whether to field a candidate in the Jan. 6 general election. "We are talking to someone," Bates said Saturday. "We're very optimistic about the future of Virginia Beach politics for the Democratic Party."
A candidate would have to file paperwork with the State Board of Elections by 5 p.m. Dec. 8.
Independent Jeff Dente, a real estate agent, also will be on the January ballot.
Special elections typically don't draw much turnout, but southern Virginia Beach has high voter participation. The Capps Shop and Creeds precincts turned out about 75 percent of registered voters in the recent presidential elections.
Knight, 54, owns a 210-acre hog farm. He said low taxes will be a focus if he is elected in January. He opposes extending water and sewer services to rural areas, such as his home community of Pungo.
Lanteigne, 55, Virginia Beach's sheriff and a former City Council and School Board member, seemed to dismiss rumors that he would run as an independent in January. "We'll get behind Barry and support him," Lanteigne said after the GOP tally was announced.
John Warren, (757) 222-5114, email@example.com