BRISTOL, Va. — A jovial air of success filled a Bristol, Va. hotel Tuesday night as Morgan Griffith claimed the House of Representatives seat in the 9th District.
About 300 supporters gathered in Bristol to celebrate as the poll numbers rolled in quickly.
By 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, it seemed that victory for Griffith was certain.
And by 9:15 p.m., Griffith was accepting the title of congressman for the state of Virginia, the first time a Republican has held the seat since 1983. Earning more than 51 percent of the vote, Griffith defeated Democratic incumbent Rick Boucher — a congressional mainstay of 28 years.
Griffith's victory comes as part of a nationwide wave of Republican victories. Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello, of Virginia's 5th District, also fell Tuesday night to Republican Robert Hurt. The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, knocking off Democratic incumbents across the country in a surge of conservative fervor just two years after Democrat Barack Obama took the White House.
Griffith’s press secretary and spokesman Marty Gordon said the Virginia victories reflect the national picture.
“Virginia could help change the country,” Gordon said.
One major product of the recent conservative movement has been the Tea Party. Barbara Waters, a supporter from the Abingdon Tea Party, said she was in strong support of Griffith.
“We want freedoms back,” she said.
Waters said she believed Griffith would listen to the needs of the people and of her Tea Party platform.
Other attendees commented about wanting to go back to “common sense conservatism” with Griffith.
While watching the numbers rolling in on a laptop in the corner of the conference center, Gordon commented to an assistant that he could have cried.
Gordon attributed Griffith’s win to the GOP’s recent “get out the vote” campaign. He said the current state delegate visited every county in the 9th District at least twice in the past month.
“I think it really changed in the last two weeks, when our message got out,” Gordon said. “In the last two weeks the foot soldiers got out there with the ‘get out the vote’ efforts.”
Rally attendee Mike Osborne, who campaigned against Boucher in 2000, said he thought this year's political atmosphere was better for Republicans.
Osborne said Boucher had never had a challenger able to match him monetarily in the way Griffith did this election year.
“The atmosphere is electric,” Osborne said of the ballroom. “It’s all waiting on Montgomery. The only thing that could spoil it is Montgomery County. I think Griffith will win.”
Montgomery County, which includes Blacksburg and Virginia Tech, didn't rain on Griffith's parade. When Griffith maintained the lead with all county precincts reporting, the celebration began. Griffith did not win the county, but Boucher's advantage — 52 percent to 45 percent — was not enough to erase his deficit in the overall race.
In a press conference, Griffith said although he did not win the majority vote in Montgomery County, “the fact that we got close was gratifying.”
Griffith, who visited Blacksburg on Sunday night as part of his "get out the vote" campaign, said he hoped young people would take away from his campaign to “stand up for you believe in and fight for what you believe in.”
Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush's chief of staff, current political advisor of the Fox News Network and notable national Republican Party member, called Gordon on the phone after Montgomery County reported its tally and said he wanted to project Griffith as the winner of the race.
In a display of joy, the campaign invited a spontaneous crowd member, coal worker Junior Branham, on-stage to sing the national anthem.
“I’ve never been more discouraged and disappointed in America,” Gordon said. "But my hope’s coming back.”
The man led the entire crowd in a sing-along of the national anthem.
Joyce Giunta, who is the president of the Southwest Virginia Women’s Republicans group, volunteered at the polls in Damascus County. She said she had seen an “unbelievable momentum” of people coming to vote on Tuesday and she had never seen anything like it.
The members of the crowd stood and sheered loudly when Griffith entered the room at around 9:15 p.m. Griffith was greeted by cheers of “USA.”