Dan Casey — The Roanoke Times
In deciding the winner of the 2021 Election Contest, we’re using the results as posted on the Virginia Department of Elections website. Those were updated with the latest totals, including late-counted votes, Friday afternoon.
They show Republican Glenn Youngkin captured 12,023 votes in the city of Roanoke. Though it wasn’t a record for GOP candidates in the Star City, it was the best showing by a Republican gubernatorial nominee since George Allen in 1993. Allen lost Roanoke to Democrat Mary Sue Terry that year, 13,106 to 12,328, but like Youngkin he won statewide.
Youngkin’s Roanoke total is remarkable considering that in the past five gubernatorial elections, no Republican running for governor hit the 10,000 vote mark. In 2017, Republican nominee Ed Gillespie got 8,890. Four years previously, Ken Cuccinelli garnered 7,786 votes in the city.
Even former governor Bob McDonnell, in his victorious statewide 2009 race, never got to 10,000 votes in Roanoke. That year McDonnell’s total was 9,929. Look at it this way: Youngkin took 21% more votes from city voters than McDonnell, and 54% more than the unpopular Cuccinelli.
Mind you, McAuliffe’s total in the Star City city was nothing at all to sneeze at. He took 16,816 votes from Roanoke, which appears to be a new city record for a Democrat in a Virginia governor’s race. Previously, that was held by Doug Wilder, who pulled 16,590 votes from the city in 1989.
In all, there were 64 entries in the contest. The one that hailed from the farthest away was from Jim Fralin of Palm Springs, California. He guessed 10,378, which was not far off the average of all the guesses for Youngkin. That was 10,843.
The only other out-of-state contestant was Steve Payne of Loganville, Georgia. He guessed Youngkin would take 12,256 votes from Roanoke. Though close, Payne gets no cigar because at least three contestants came closer.
Before we get to them, let’s award some 2021 Election Contest booby prizes. Both of those were won by resident of the city.
George Fischer Jr. incorrectly guessed Youngkin would take 25,350 votes from Roanoke. That was an impressive 13,327 votes off Youngkin’s actual total of 12,023. For the tiebreaker question, Fischer estimated Youngkin would get 66.4% of the Roanoke vote. (Youngkin’s actual percentage was 41.25.)
The second booby prize recipient is Naomi Delzell, another entrant who was clearly guessing with her heart instead of her head.
She estimated Youngkin would take 2,500 votes, which was 9,523 off Youngkin’s total in the city total. Delzell also guessed Youngkin would take 15% of the total, meaning she missed the actual mark by more than 26 percentage points.
“Oh I got the booby prize all right — everyone in Virginia did!” Delzell told me after the election.
Congrats to our booby prize winners! Either or both are free to buy me lunch whenever they want.
Now let’s have a drum roll for the three contestants who guessed closer than anyone else. All are male readers. One lives in Roanoke but two reside outside it.
Our second runner up is Joel Pack, 83, of Roanoke. He’s a retired teacher who taught math in Roanoke County schools, then later at Virginia Western Community College. His wife, Emily, is a retired schoolteacher, too.
Pack guessed 11,925 Youngkin votes in Roanoke, only 98 off the actual mark. He said he expected the city’s voter turnout to come in at 25,000 votes, a reasonable number given the 2017 gubernatorial election turnout in the city of just under 24,000.
Pack estimated Youngkin would take 47.4% of the total. From there, it was a matter of multiplying 25,000 by .474 to get his guess.
(The 2021 Roanoke turnout, according to the Department of Elections on Friday, totaled 29,154 votes. That included 271 ballots cast for Liberation Party candidate Princess Blanding plus 34 write-ins for others.)
Our first runner-up is Howie Burgess, 63, of Roanoke County. Besides being a college basketball referee, Burgess operates a business, Corporate Apparel & Logo Wear, that supplies branded clothing and other items to businesses and sports teams.
Burgess guessed Youngkin would take 12,057 votes from Roanoke. He was only 34 off the actual mark. When I asked Burgess how he arrived at his guess, he fumbled around a bit. The question sent his wife, Kathy, into a giggling fit.
“My wife’s here and she’s dying laughing,” Burgess told me. “She says, ‘He’s not a numbers guy.’ “
And that brings us to our 2021 Election Contest champion. His name is Jamie Reygle and he lives in Floyd County. Reygle guessed Youngkin would take 12,037 votes in the city. That’s a mere 14 votes off Youngkin’s state-tallied result.
Reygle, 58, is a native of Australia, where he was involved in the music industry before he got into meditation and mindfulness. Then in October 2004, he took a trip to Los Angeles for a workshop on meditation. That led to a nearly six-month sojourn in Mexico, after which he returned to the states.
Somehow, in 2005, he made his way to Floyd, and to FloydFest, where he met his future (and current) wife, Elisha. Reygle’s been both a teacher and administrator at Blue Mountain School, a private school in Floyd. Currently he operates a nonprofit called “InStill Mindfulness.” Its website, InStillMindfulness.org, is the best way to learn more about that organization.
Mindfulness, which one achieves through meditation, “changes how we interact with the world, and it changes who we are, really. What we’ve noticed is, it typically changes us for the better,” Reygle said. Who knows? Perhaps it even helps predict elections.
Reygle is a naturalized American citizen. “That’s why I became a U.S. citizen, so I could vote,” he told me. “It didn’t feel comfortable offering opinions [on politics] otherwise.”
One day soon, he and I will sit down at a restaurant for a glorious vegetarian feast to celebrate his triumph.
I can’t wait.