When Orange County voters go to the polls next Tuesday, they’ll see quite a few names on their ballots, but not many contested races. 

All county citizens will be selecting their representatives to the state legislature, constitutional officers and Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District directors.

Those voters who live in District 2, 3 and 5 also will choose their school board and board of supervisors’ representatives.

Virginia Senate, 17th District

Republican incumbent Bryce Reeves and Democratic challenger Amy Laufer seek the senate seat representing the 17th District which stretches from Fredericksburg to the eastern part of Albemarle County. It includes a swath of Spotsylvania County, much of Louisa County and a portion of southern Culpeper County. Orange County is the only county entirely included within the district.

Reeves, 52, was born in California and graduated from Texas A&M University. An insurance agent who served as an airborne ranger in the U.S. Army, he narrowly defeated longtime Democratic Sen. Edd Houck in 2011, but won reelection in 2015 with 63 percent of the vote. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination in 2017. He is seeking his third term in Richmond.

He identified health care, protecting the most vulnerable—foster children and the unborn—and supporting and ensuring the wellbeing of military personnel, veterans and law enforcement officers as key issues of his campaign.

He and his wife, Anne, have two children, Nicole and Jack.

Laufer, 47, was born in Wisconsin where she grew up on a dairy farm and is a first-generation college graduate, majoring in geology before serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. Later, she taught middle school math and science before serving seven years on the Charlottesville City School Board. She is the founder of Virginia’s List, an organization supporting women running for state office.

She identified education, expanding broadband and clean energy as key issues of her campaign. This is her first bid for statewide office.

She and her husband, Aaron, have three children, Hannah, Adam and Henry.

Virginia House of Delegates,

30th District

When Orange County voters are handed their ballot next week, they’ll see only Ann F. Ridgeway’s name for this seat. However, the political newcomer from Locust Dale isn’t running unopposed.

Instead, two-term incumbent Nick Freitas has launched a write-in campaign, after he and his campaign failed to file the proper paperwork to be listed on the Nov. 5 ballot.

A former U.S. Army Green Beret, Freitas, 40, is a Republican who favors limited government, economic liberty, fiscal responsibility and the Second Amendment. He ran unsuccessfully in the Republican U.S. Senate Primary in 2018, losing to Corey Stewart.

Ridgeway, 67, a Democrat, was instrumental in establishing the Orange County Youth Commission and Orange County Youth Council. She cites education, healthcare, rural high-speed broadband and the environment among key campaign issues. This is her first bid for elected office.

After multiple unsuccessful attempts to be included on the ballot, Freitas instead mounted a write-in campaign in a bid for a third term.

Many voters in the district wonder if they’ll even know who their delegate is by the end of next Tuesday.

According to Orange County Registrar Donna Harpold, local election officials will know Tuesday evening the total number of write-in ballots that have been submitted. On election night, if Ridgeway wins and wins by more than 5% (above the number of write-in votes), she likely will be the winner. If the write-in votes exceed the total for Ridgeway, electoral officials must determine who those write-in votes are for.

The actual tallying of the individual write-in votes will take place at the canvass the following day, and continue into the next day if necessary,” Harpold said.

Representatives from both campaigns likely will observe that process, she added.

District 3 Board of Supervisors

Another “contested” election also features a write-in candidate, but on a much smaller scale.

Incumbent Teel Goodwin, 61, is seeking a fourth-term as the District 3 Supervisor. The Orange resident said he hopes to finish a number of the projects the board has initiated in his current term, including broadband expansion, public radio system upgrades and the new county public safety facility.

Goodwin, who grew up in Orange, attended the College of William & Mary before graduating from Mary Washington College. He and his wife, Linda, have a son, Spencer. Goodwin has worked at Union Corrugating Company in Orange for the past 19 years and plans to retire in December.

Until early September, Goodwin was running unopposed. But that changed in September when Ellen Pitera, announced her intent to challenge Goodwin as a write-in candidate.

Pitera grew up in Orange and later attended Sweet Briar College before embarking on a teaching career abroad and at home. She was one of a seven-member board that helped save the college from closing in 2015.

Now, Pitera, 48, operates her family’s Rounton Farm on Rapidan Road as an event venue.

She said she’s running because she wants to inform local residents what’s going on in the county and give them the opportunity to weigh in on important issues. She said she especially is concerned that young people have no idea what’s going on in the county.

She and her husband, Rob, have two sons, Charlie and Douglas.

Orange County

Commonwealth’s Attorney

The final contested race Orange County voters will decide is for commonwealth’s attorney.

Diana Wheeler O’Connell is seeking a fifth term as the county’s top prosecutor. She’s challenged by Orange defense attorney Page Higginbotham after running unopposed four years ago.

O’Connell, 62, is the daughter of a retired Air Force fighter pilot who later became a minister. She is a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University in Texas and the University of Richmond’s T. C. Williams School of Law. She said she enrolled in law school because she went through a difficult divorce from her first husband and wanted to be able to protect her children during custody hearings.

She said rising caseloads and growing drug crimes are problems facing the county, as well as the increase in cases involving young children as victims. She’s hoping voters recognize her experience over the past 16 years.

Higginbotham, 45, is a native of Orange County and the son of longtime local attorney “Sammy” Higginbotham and the grandson of the late Page Higginbotham, who served as commonwealth’s attorney for 27 years. He has worked as a defense attorney at Bowman and Harper in Orange since 2016 and said local attorneys and law enforcement officers encouraged him to run.

He grew up on the family beef cattle farm off Old Gordonsville Road, and attended the College of William & Mary for several years. He worked in the wine industry and helped run the family farm before moving to Richmond and enrolling in the University of Richmond, where he graduated in 2011. In 2016, he earned his law degree from the University of Richmond’s T.C. Williams School of Law and returned to Orange to practice law.

He said drug and addiction-based crimes are key concerns and expressed a desire to keep Orange County safe, ensure justice is served and everyone is treated fairly. He also said improving the office’s working relationship with local law enforcement is a key element of his campaign.

Other races

The rest of those listed on Orange County ballots are unopposed.

Mark Amos is seeking a fourth term as Orange County Sheriff—and, for the first time, is not challenged for his seat.

Dawn Watson is running for a second term as Orange County Treasurer.

Renee Pope is seeking her second complete term as Orange County Commissioner of Revenue, after completing the unexpired term of the late Donna Chewning.

Jim White is running unopposed for a second term as District 2 Supervsior, with Sherrie Page seeking a second, unopposed term on the school board.

In District 5, both Lee Frame (board of supervisors) and Jim Hopkins (school board) will run unopposed for their fourth terms.

In District 3, Mike Jones is seeking his first full term on the school board, after being appointed to the board last fall following Judy Carter’s death.

Bob Brame is running for a second term on the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District Board, while Robert Bradford is the longest-tenured incumbent seeking a sixth term. They are the only two candidates for the two openings on the board.

Orange County polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, and will remain open until 7 p.m. Absentee voters have until Saturday, Nov. 2, to visit their local voter registration office and cast their ballots in person. All absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 5, in order to be counted.

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