A sea of volunteers and supporters assembled in The Golden Pony downtown as results for the 26th District House of Delegates election came flooding in. Finnegan lost the election with 45.85% of votes. His opponent, Tony Wilt, took an early lead in Rockingham County precincts, and although Finnegan had strong support in Harrisonburg City, he never caught up to Wilt’s firm grasp in the rural areas of the district.
Finnegan said he was on “pins and needles” as results slowly trickled in. His supporters vigorously applauded when favorable precinct results appeared on the projected screen. When all precinct results were reported and Wilt’s victory was confirmed, supporters wept and hugged each other as Finnegan delivered his concession speech.
“I’m disappointed with the results, but … not for a second do I regret running this campaign and investing in people and standing up for the values that we hold dear,” Finnegan said. “The values of human rights, of justice and of a livable planet for future generations.”
Finnegan secured 0.55% more of the 26th District voters this year than he did in the 2017 House of Delegates race against Wilt. Their rematch has attracted national attention as Democrats in Virginia campaigned to flip the state’s House of Delegates and Senate. By the end of Election Day, the Democratic party took full control of both legislatures.
Finnegan credited the “volunteer power” of his team with their success on the ballots, despite their loss. He said the inspiration for his slogan, “Powered by People,” derived from his refusal to accept donations from corporate or industry interest group money. He instead funded his campaign through thousands of donations under $100 from “everyday people” and “working folks in the Shenandoah Valley.”
Finnegan said he spent Election Day knocking on doors until right before polls closed at 7 p.m. to encourage anyone who had not cast their ballot. The candidate said he prioritized getting constituents to the polls over “passively” standing at precinct locations to sway their vote. Finnegan said he got to meet constituents through canvassing who felt that they weren’t being heard in Richmond by their representatives.
“I don’t think we can represent an agenda for working people if you’re taking money from corporations and industry interest groups that are actively working against those interests,” Finnegan said.
The first issue that Finnegan hoped to tackle once elected was affordable housing. The democratic candidate said roughly half of Wilt’s constituents face poverty and financial crises like wages that aren’t sufficient to meet increasing rent prices, but Finnegan said Wilt doesn’t mention the issue on his campaign website.
“It’s not necessarily that we agree on the problem and disagree on the solution,” Finnegan said. “We don’t even agree on the problem.”
Finnegan said the majority of his team constituted people who’d never been involved in a campaign prior to the election of President Trump. He said his defeat is “hard to take,” but he is optimistic about what the future holds for Virginia Democrats.
“There wasn’t a single door knock — not a single phone call — wasted because these are all of the skills … that we will need to use next year to defeat Donald Trump and get him out of the White House.”
Contact Brice Estes at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.