Catherine Read is claiming to have clinched the Fairfax City mayoral election Tuesday in a tight race against Sang Yi, a slim win for Democrats.
As of the morning of Nov. 9, Read snagged about 50 percent of the vote with 4,757 ballots, compared with Yi, who earned 49 percent, or 4,639 votes, with eight of nine precincts reporting. The 118-vote difference includes absentee ballots and early voters.
“So many people made this victory possible!” Read wrote on Twitter Nov. 9. “Thank you to every person who believed this was possible!”
Officials with the Fairfax City Electoral Board said Wednesday that provisional votes still needed to be counted. The office also would count qualifying mail-in ballots that come in over the next few days, officials said.
Preliminary voting data shows the majority of people voted for Yi in five of the six polling places, while Read got the majority of absentee votes. Neither candidate responded to a request for comment on the results Nov. 9.
The unofficial results of Tuesday’s election come after Yi, a city council member and a Republican congressional staffer, battled Read, a Democrat and civic engagement strategist, for the mayor’s seat in a months-long, partisan campaign for a nonpartisan ballot.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) endorsed Yi over the summer. Fairfax City Mayor David Meyer, a Democrat who is not seeking another term, donated to Read’s campaign, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.
Tom Ross, a city council member and Democrat who is running to keep his seat, said outside the polling station Nov. 8 that he was supporting Read.
“I’ve been on council with Sang for two years,” Ross said. “And I respect the fact that he served there, but I don’t agree with his values or with the kind of leadership style he has. So that’s why I endorsed Catherine.”
Katy Johnson, a community member, came to vote at the community center that day with her two children in tow. Johnson was happy to vote, but she said she was frustrated seeing the race become partisan.
“We’re supposed to be independent, and I’ve literally lost friends because I think that we should be nonpartisan,” Johnson said. “I think the local elections are not the national elections and these are our neighbors. We’re all one Fairfax city.”
Jill Butterfield, another community member, said the partisanship impacted her decision regarding who to circle on her ballot.
“When I looked into what Mr. Yi was supporting, it all looked fine in a very generic kind of way,” Butterfield said. “But honestly, when I found out that Glenn Youngkin was campaigning for him or supporting him, it was like ‘No, not happening.’ ”
This year’s race was also a costly one. Yi raised more than $169,000 for his mayoral campaign, including about $67,000 from his city council bid, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Read has raised about $90,000, according to the project.
Yi based his campaign on issues related to housing density and economic development in the city. Some citizens at the polling place said they voted for Yi because they think he supports development. Others said they voted for him because they wanted to vote for a Republican.
Susan Steiner, a community member who volunteered for Yi’s campaign, said she voted for Yi because he was an active member of the community.
“He’s a man of the community,” Steiner said. “We see him on our walks with his dogs, his children and his beautiful wife. He is a great neighbor.”
If elected, Yi would have become the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first Korean American mayor, if elected. Loretta Herrington, another community member volunteering for Yi’s campaign, said that representation mattered.
“Frankly, this is a community that’s very diverse,” Herrington said. “He represents all of us. And by that I mean, it’s time for the next generation to take leadership.”
Yi has not made a public comment on race as of 8:45 a.m. Nov. 9.
Read, who had previously lost a bid for a city council in 2012, based part of her campaign on social issues, such as equality and abortion access. She also pitched other municipal issues, such as public restrooms in the city parks.
Paul Wyche, a sophomore at George Mason University, said he voted for Read because of her stance on social justice. Wyche said he was able to meet Yi at George Mason before deciding who to vote for.
“I am necessarily against Sang, but I voted for Catherine Read,” Wyche said. She was kind of the better choice for me, especially for the whole political climate going on nowadays with abortion rights.”
The Fairfax City electoral board will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday to canvas the results, which will be finalized by Nov. 15, 2022.