HARRISONBURG — City voters re-elected two incumbents to City Council on Tuesday and made the panel younger by also selecting independent Abe Shearer.
Mayor Richard Baugh and Councilman Kai Degner, both Democrats, won re-election to second four-year terms and will be joined by the 24-year-old Shearer, according to unofficial results from the Virginia State Board of Elections.
Eight people ran for three open seats on the five-member council.
Degner topped all vote-getters with 6,251 votes, or 16.5 percent. Shearer was second with 6,127, or 16 percent, followed by Baugh at 4,985, or 13 percent.
Christine Johnson, a Republican, finished fourth, 202 votes behind the mayor. Republican Rodney Eagle, a former mayor, was next with 4,512 votes, followed by Democrat Deb Fitzgerald (4,433), Republican Anthony Bailey (4,176) and former city manager Roger Baker, an independent, who had 2,464 votes.
Degner and Baugh joined other Democrats at Blue Nile Restaurant downtown Tuesday night. Along with David Wiens, they were part of a Democratic sweep into office in 2008.
Wiens did not seek re-election this year.
“It’s extra humbling,” said Degner, 32, of winning a second term. “It also underscores that I haven’t created this on my own. This is part of a community of people that believes that working together is how we’re going to move Harrisonburg forward.”
Shearer calls Degner his inspiration for running for council. Without the backing of a party, he relied heavily on knocking on doors, putting up yard signs and handing out any campaign memorabilia possible that had “Abe” on it.
“I had to market myself in a unique way,” said Shearer, who celebrated with supporters at Clementine downtown. “It did raise the question, ‘Who’s Abe?’”
He said he benefited from the “ugly” national and statewide campaigns.
“It turned people off,” Shearer said. “It made people realize they are independents.”
Baugh, who was Shearer’s youth soccer coach, noted that he and Degner are the first mayors to be re-elected since 1990. Degner served as mayor for two years before Baugh took over.
“It’s humbling and an honor that the citizens have decided to let me stay on council,” Baugh said.
He said Harrisonburg’s government has held strong the last four years despite the economy.
“I didn’t have too many people look at me and tell me I’m crazy when I said that,” Baugh said.
Johnson, who was running for office for the first time, was disappointed in the results, but proud of her effort.
“I promised myself that I would try to the very last minute,” she said. “I’m so excited that I did it.”
Johnson said she had “zero energy” to run again as of now, but would consider another bid for council if the time were right.
Eagle, 75, said he is finished after serving two terms — the last one ended in 2008 — and then enduring two defeats in the last four years.
But he is going out on one election high note.
“No one had anything negative to say in this race,” Eagle said.
The new four-year council terms go into effect in January, when the three winners will be sworn in.
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or email@example.com