FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- When Charlie Ambrus was asked why he, as a lifelong Democrat and enthusiastic Obama voter, stumped for a Republican candidate for the state legislature this fall, he answered simply: "She came to my door."
With help from the likes of Mr. Ambrus, Barbara Comstock and other Republican candidates on Tuesday pulled off victories in Democratic strongholds of northern Virginia that helped lift a Republican resurgence across the state.
The successful candidates ran grassroots campaigns in the wealthy, politically savvy communities outside Washington that focused on solving quality-of-life problems plaguing suburbia, and avoided touchy national issues.
The Republicans picked up several seats in the state House of Delegates from this region by beating Democratic incumbents. Fairfax County Republican James M. LeMunyon beat two-term Del. Charles Caputo. Loudoun County Republican Thomas Greason easily defeated Del. David E. Poisson. And Prince William County's Richard Anderson narrowly edged out freshman Democratic Del. Paul Nichols.
In state House District 34, Ms. Comstock, 50 years old, defeated Democratic Del. Margaret Vanderhye by roughly 400 votes, restoring Republican representation inside the Washington area Beltway after a two-year absence.
"It wasn't so much her or what she stood for," Mr. Ambrus said. "It was her willingness to listen to us on the issues. Anyone willing to put in the work to knock on thousands of doors and listen is someone who's going to be progressive about finding solutions to our problems."
"I did a lot of door-knocking, on probably 10,000 doors," said Mr. LeMunyon, a technology executive who worked in the administration of President George H.W. Bush in the 1990s. "I think people appreciated the old-fashioned stuff, and people made it very plain -- a great many of them were people who voted for the president -- that they want some results without tacking onto the debt."
Mr. Ambrus said he still believed in Mr. Obama and wasn't switching parties.
"Absolutely, there is no question it has to do with dissatisfaction over the economy," he said. "Let's face it: Obama is the top dog, so that's who those personal frustrations are going to be taken out on."
Tuesday's results upend the notion that northern Virginia is a safe harbor for Democrats in a state that gets more conservative the farther one goes south or west. That is a concern for U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, the freshman Democrat who represents this district.
Ms. Comstock, an attorney, has worked for U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, whose district includes Fairfax; ran the Justice Department's Public Affairs office under Attorney General John Ashcroft; and later, while in private practice, was a member of the legal defense team for former vice presidential aide I. Lewis Libby. This is her first run for office.
One of her pledges was to find new ways, other than raising taxes, to fund transportation improvements to relieve traffic gridlock -- the biggest concern in northern Virginia and an issue both parties have failed to solve.
"That was something that people understood," she said. "That's not a left or right issue. That's just policy."