Virginia Town Council Unseated Over Immigrant Center Concerns

A Town Council election in Herndon, Virginia may have signaled the beginnings of a voter backlash against incumbent politicians who cater to illegal immigrants and their supporters. At issue as a city day-labor center, opened at taxpayer expense in a vacant police station, designed to eliminate the congregation of illegal immigrant day-laborers at a Herndon 7-11.

The Washington Post reports on the results of todays election in the Washington area suburb.

Herndon voters yesterday unseated the mayor and Town Council members who supported a bitterly debated day-labor center for immigrant workers in a contest that emerged as a mini-referendum on the turbulent national issue of illegal immigration.

Residents replaced the incumbents with a group of challengers who immediately called for significant changes at the center. Some want to bar public funds from being spent on the facility or restrict it to workers residing in the country legally. Others want it moved to an industrial site away from the residential neighborhood where it is located.

The day-labor center thrust the western Fairfax County town into the national spotlight as the issue of illegal immigration became emotional. Even though fewer than 3,000 people voted yesterday, advocates on both sides of the issue looked at the election as a test case of public sentiment. Outside groups such as the Minutemen Project, which favors sharp curbs on illegal immigration, intervened in the town debate. Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, is suing the town over establishment of the center.

Steve J. DeBenedittis, 38, a health club operator and political newcomer, defeated Mayor Michael L. O’Reilly with 52 percent of the vote. Council members Carol A. Bruce and Steven D. Mitchell, who voted for the center, were turned out of office. Jorge Rochac, a Salvadoran businessman who supported the center and was seeking to become the town’s first Hispanic council member, was also defeated. About one in four town residents is Hispanic.

In addition to being one quarter Hispanic, Herndon is one of the DC-area suburbs that is usually solidly Democratic; though that didn’t seem to matter much in this case. Perhaps, when the issue is made local and personal, Republicans will find that focusing on the economic costs of illegal immigration can be a winning strategy to pickup cross-over votes.

A fair trade
Ohio Primary Results
  • “Outside groups such as the Minutemen Project, which favors sharp curbs on illegal immigration, “

    no irony in that statement… who the hell would publicly favor increases in illegal immigration?

  • It is truly odd, isn’t it. They’re elected to represent…what? US. US. Us. Hired to do a job. Like a plumber. *Fix MY pipes.* We wouldn’t pay him, to fix the pipes in someone else’s house. OUR representatives. Representatives.

    So this is the effect of years and years of refusing to recognized that words have meaning.

    I didn’t think I was going to write any more on the subject, but it’s getting bigger and bigger.

    Take a look:

    and here:

    Just gotta giggle to yourself, eh?


  • I wouldn’t be too quick to jump on “the underlying meaning” behind this election. There are lots of reasons why people get elected instead of their opponents, and it’s too easy to focus on one possible (albeit logical) rationale to explain an election result.

    Maybe I’ve been burned too many times in the past by believing in this type of analysis. But at any rate, don’t expect me to jump on this bandwagon.

  • kbiel

    While I agree with you in general Boyd, it can hardly be coincidental that the council members who supported an unrestricted day labor station are now out of office.

  • The power of the ballot box.

  • Could the Herndon voters have heard the speech by El Presidente in the (illustrated) “Our First Mexican President”?

  • Paul

    To Boyd:

    I’m familiar with the Herndon campaign and the people behind the ouster of O’Reilly and his gang. Believe me when I say it had EVERYTHING to do with the day laborer center & illegal immigration in Herndon. Those people were fired up!


  • Paul:

    So fired up that all 3000 of them voted. Hmmm…

  • virgo1

    Well at least the ones that were fired up,outnumbered the ones who were not.

  • Tom

    This election was the only one going on. Considering that, the turnout was actually quite high. Most people did not even know an election was going on, but the people opposed to the day-labor center (and illegal immigration) turned out.

    In politics, half the battle is won by showing up. Elections are often won by turning out your base. If your soldiers show up for the battle and the other guy’s do not, you win.

    Herndon is near Washington D. C. so you can bet many congressmen will notice this election. It could very well be an indicator for what is to come in November, 2006, an off year election when turnout will be a most critical factor.