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No end of a lesson: Democrats discover Virginia is not that “woke”

Why leftward lurch in Richmond was a misreading of the Old Dominion’s electorate, leading to Tuesday’s political catastrophe

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Heading into Tuesday’s elections in Virginia, the Republicans’ theory of the case was that they could ride a backlash against two years of total Democratic rule in Richmond back into power – that voters in the suburbs were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

The results, if anything, may have understated the case’s potency.

Before Tuesday, Democrats held all three statewide offices and majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate. Come January, all they will have left is a one-seat margin in the Senate, where a defection from a single Democratic senator will create a tie to be broken by the new Republican lieutenant governor, Winsome Sears.

In other words, every Virginia senator can play Joe Manchin – and Democratic senators hoping to win re-election in 2023 may find it in their political interests to cooperate with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

Since the Democrats’ debacle in the Old Dominion, the chattering class has been busy theorizing that the inability of Democrats in Washington to push through President Joe Biden’s domestic spending agenda is to blame. But there is a deeper, much more local, reason for what happened.

Virginia is not nearly as “woke” as Democrats had convinced themselves that it was, and they are now paying the price.

In 2019, Democrats took control of all of the levers of power in Richmond for the first time in a quarter century – and they proceeded to go off on what can only be described as a liberal toot.

Marijuana legalized. Death penalty abolished. Police chokeholds and no knock warrants gone. Background checks for gun purchases imposed. LGBTQ discrimination protections enacted. Confederate monuments removed. Waiting periods and ultrasounds before abortions eliminated. Voting rules eased.

Inexplicably, they even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it – a purely symbolic gesture that will have no actual impact on policy, as its ratification deadline expired nearly 30 years ago.

The one person who might have stopped this march to the left was Governor Ralph Northam, but he was busy hanging on to his job in the face a scandal over wearing blackface in medical school that caused many in his own party to abandon him. He firmly jumped on board the leftward train.

Democrats would no doubt argue that all of those reforms they enacted were necessary, even righteous. But Virginia is still, well, Virginia — a generally conservative place populated by conventional suburban people, many of whom didn’t take kindly to being governed as if they were living in Seattle.

Whether from hubris or cluelessness, Virginia Democrats fundamentally – and fatally — misread their electorate.

The most fiery issue in the recent campaign was critical race theory, which Youngkin vowed to eradicate from public schools, even though it is not being taught in any public school in the commonwealth.

Democrats denounced Youngkin’s crusade as factually unfounded, silly and racist. But what they didn’t understand was that critical race theory was actually shorthand proxy for another concern of many parents – that teachers and schools were delving, or preparing to delve, into discussions of race and sexuality in the classroom in pursuit of a more just, tolerant society.

On Tuesday, many of these parents made it clear that they do not believe those topics are appropriate in schools, even in pursuit of admirable ends. Full stop. And they were prepared to reward Youngkin for his opposition, couched as it was in criticism of critical race theory that is taught in graduate schools, not kindergartens.

Republicans have struck a nerve here that will echo into next year’s midterms; Democrats need to come up with a counternarrative, rather than simply dismissing this heartfelt sentiment as irrelevant or racist.

Virginia Democrats’ last rampart against Republican rule is their 21-member Senate caucus, all of whom are all up for election in 2023 in a political climate they now know to be unfavorable. Their number includes Joe Morrissey, a colorful, unpredictable lawmaker from Richmond who opposes legal abortion, and Chap Petersen, a moderate from Fairfax who supports gun rights.

In other words, not much of a rampart with which to go scorched earth on Youngkin.

The statewide offices are out of Democratic hands until at least 2026, which means any comeback will need to be in legislative races.

The bright spot for Democrats in this regard is that new House and Senate maps will be drawn before the next election in 2023. Because of population growth, more seats will need to be located in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, where Democrats dominate, shifting some power away from more Republican areas.

Given that Republicans only have a two-seat House majority, and Democrats a single-seat majority in the Senate, those new maps could have a significant impact on party legislative control. And because the newly created bipartisan redistricting commission has imploded, those maps are likely to be drawn by the state Supreme Court, where partisan gerrymandering will be limited.

But even if Virginia Democrats hold their own in 2023, the total control they enjoyed for the past two years won’t come back for at least the next four – and at that point, they might do well to remember Kipling’s admonition: “We have had no end of a lesson, it will do us no end of good.”

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Glenn Youngkin, Republicans sweep all 3 Virginia statewide races

Youngkin beats Democrat Terry McAuliffe in governor’s race; Republicans also win races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, on track to flip House of Delegates

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Republican Glenn Youngkin claimed Virginia’s governorship in Tuesday’s off-year election, defeating Democratic insider Terry McAuliffe in an embarrassing loss for Democrats just a year after President Joe Biden swept to a 10-point win in the Old Dominion.

Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin addresses supporters

Republicans also won the lieutenant governorship and defeated two-term Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring. GOP legislative candidates also appear to have flipped enough seats to take control of the House of Delegates.

For the past two years, Democrats have controlled all of the levers of power in Richmond, ushering in a series of liberal polity initiatives that incensed conservatives; come January, Democrats will control only the State Senate, by just a single vote.

Youngkin, a wealthy private equity executive making his first run for political office, took 51% to 48% for McAuliffe, who was trying to return to the governor’s seat he held from 2014 to 2018.

Speaking to jubilant supporters, Youngkin called his victory “a defining moment that is now millions of Virginians walking together.”

“We are going to change the trajectory of this commonwealth,” he said. “It’s time for Virginia to be the place where everyone wants to live, not leave — where the relentless pursuit for a better life, for prosperity, is not burdened or blocked by self-interested politicians.”

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Republican Winsome Sears, a businesswoman and former state delegate, defeated Democratic State Delegate Hala Ayala by a margin of 51% to 49% percent. She will be the first woman and woman of color to hold the state’s second-highest office, which includes presiding over the closely divided State Senate, which was not up for election Tuesday.

In the attorney general’s race, Republican State Delegate Jason Miyares defeated Herring by a margin of 51% to 49% percent, giving Republicans a post from which to launch legal challenges against Biden administration policies.

All 100 seats in the House of Delegates were up on Tuesday, with Democrats holding a 55-to-45 majority. With 10 races still undecided, Republicans had won or were leading in races for 51 seats, with Democrats winning or leading in 49, which would give the GOP a one-seat majority.

Youngkin had been endorsed by Donald Trump, although he did not invite the former president to come to Virginia to campaign for him.

McAuliffe hung Trump’s endorsement around Youngkin’s neck, hoping antipathy to Trump in the Washington D.C. suburbs would sink his chances statewide. But Youngkin used cultural issues and parental anger over school policies to outperform Trump in suburban areas and also increased Republican margins in areas Trump won, which could be a GOP blueprint for 2022.

This year’s election was the first since Democrats took control of both houses of the legislature in 2019 and embarked on a series of policy changes that drastically altered the political complexion of the Old Dominion.

The Democratic majority abolished the death penalty, legalized recreational marijuana, imposed background checks for gun purchases, eliminated waiting periods for abortions, protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment and housing, and gave cities and counties the green light to remove Confederate monuments.

Legislators even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it.

Republicans used the backlash to Democrats’ shift to the left in Richmond that allowed them to flip the House and win the commonwealth’s three statewide offices.

Once reliably Republican, Virginia has shifted toward the Democrats over the last decade. Both U.S. senators are Democrats, as are seven of its 11 members of Congress, and the last Republican presidential candidate to carry the commonwealth was George W. Bush in 2004.

Still, history was on Youngkin’s side: The Virginia governor’s race is held in the off-year after presidential elections, and since the days of Richard Nixon, the party that won the White House has lost the governorship every time — except in 2013, when McAuliffe won a year after Barack Obama did.

McAuliffe loss is likely to  reverberate in Washington, where Democrats have been struggling to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda. McAuliffe has conceded during the campaign that Biden’s popularity has waned in Virginia, although he still brought both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in to campaign with him.

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Virginians decide statewide, legislative races in Tuesday vote

Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe in tight race for governor

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — Voters in Virginia will cast ballots Tuesday in an off-year election for statewide offices and the House of Delegates, with Republicans trying to reclaim power in a state that has been trending Democratic over the past decade.

Virginia governor candidates Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe

Topping the ballot will be the race for governor, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe is trying to reclaim the office he held from 2014 to 2018 in a race against Republican Glenn Youngkin, an multi-millionaire private equity executive making his first run for political office. Late polling has shown the race as a statistical dead heat.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Democratic State Delegate Hala Ayala from Prince William County will be facing off against Winsome Sears, a Republican businesswoman and former legislator from Winchester. The winner will be the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor in state history; Ayala would also be the first Hispanic candidate to win the job.

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking a third term against Republican State Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach, the son of a Cuban immigrant who would be the state’s first Hispanic attorney general.

Also at stake Tuesday is control of the House of Delegates, where Democrats currently hold a 55-to-45 majority. The State Senate, which Democrats control 21-to-19, is not up for election this year.

In-person polling opens Tuesday at 6 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m.

This year’s election will be the first since Democrats took control of both houses of the legislature in 2019 and embarked on a series of policy changes that drastically altered the political complexion of the Old Dominion.

The Democratic majority abolished the death penalty, legalized recreational marijuana, imposed background checks for gun purchases, eliminated waiting periods for abortions, protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment and housing, and gave cities and counties the green light to remove Confederate monuments.

Legislators even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it.

Republicans are hoping that a backlash to Democrats’ shift to the left in Richmond will allow them to flip the House and win the commonwealth’s three statewide offices, which Democrats have swept in the last two elections.

Once reliably Republican, Virginia has shifted toward the Democrats over the last decade. Both U.S. senators are Democrats, as are seven of its 11 members of Congress, and the last Republican presidential candidate to carry the commonwealth was George W. Bush in 2004.

Still, history may be on Youngkin’s side: The Virginia governor’s race is held in the off-year after presidential elections, and since the days of Richard Nixon, the party that won the White House has lost the governorship every time — except in 2013, when McAuliffe won a year after Barack Obama did.

A loss by McAuliffe would reverberate in Washington, where Democrats have been struggling to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda. McAuliffe has conceded during the campaign that Biden’s popularity has waned in Virginia, although he still brought both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in to campaign with him.

By contrast, Youngkin has not invited former President Donald Trump into the state to campaign with him in person, even avoiding a rally where Trump phoned in an appearance. Trump lost Virginia to Biden by 10 points in 2020.

Virginia governors are limited to a single term, and McAuliffe is trying to become just the second person to reclaim the office for a second time. (The first was Republican Miles Godwin, who served from 1966 to 1970 and 1974 to 1978.)

While the Senate will remain in Democratic hands after Tuesday, the lieutenant governor presides over the chamber, which could cause a wrinkle for Democrats if Sears defeats Ayala.

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Candidates for Virginia governor square off in first debate


Posted September 19 (From WUSA via YouTube)

Taking Virginia back: State GOP hopes to ride liberal backlash back into power

Reclaiming control in Richmond in November could serve as template for Republicans nationally in 2022

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RICHMOND (CFP) — After Democrats took over the entirety of Virginia state government in 2020, they got to work.

Photo ID requirement to vote — gone. Ultrasounds and waiting periods for abortions — gone. Death penalty — abolished.

New background checks are now required for gun purchases. LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in employment and housing,  and conversion therapy was outlawed. Undocumented students can get in-state tuition.

Marijuana was first decriminalized and then legalized for recreational use. Utility companies were told to retire their fossil fuel plants by 2045. Cities and counties got the green light to remove Confederate monuments.

Democrats even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it.

What Democrats tout as progressive, long-overdue change, Republicans bash as a misguided, ill-advised liberal toot. In November, Virginia voters will be asked to render their verdict, with Republicans banking on a backlash among Virginia’s more conservative-minded voters to lead them back into power.

As the party’s nominee for governor, Glenn Youngkin, put it in a Tweet after his victory at the recent state convention, “It’s time to get our Commonwealth back and put Virginia on the right track to make her the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family.

If Republicans are successful in their quest to take Virginia back, it could serve as a template for Democrats nationally who are banking on a similar backlash against the Biden administration to break the Democrats’ lock on power on Washington — although Biden is, at least so far, not going nearly as far as his compatriots in Richmond.

What has happened during the last two years in Virginia is an illustration of a split that has also been seen nationally — Democrats from urban and suburban districts whose political interests have radically diverged from their more conservative neighbors in rural areas and small towns.

Once Democrats regained control of the legislature after 25 years out of power, the pent-up demand for liberal innovation could be indulged, to the significant chagrin of conservative Virginians who are angry because they increasingly don’t recognize their state, or at least its government.

Republicans, once dominant in Virginia, have seen their fortunes fade. The last Republican presidential candidate to carry the state was George W. Bush, and they haven’t won a statewide race since 2009. Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the House of Delegates and a 21-18 margin in the Senate, which isn’t up for election in November. (Conservative firebrand State Senator Amanda Chase, elected as a Republican, sits as an independent after a dispute with her party leadership.)

Most of the attention in November will be the battle for control of the House — which, because of COVID-related census delays, will be fought using districts drawn by Republican legislators in 2011 — and the governor’s race between Northam and his likely Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018 and holds a wide lead in polls for the June Democratic primary.

McAuliffe, 64, a Clinton confidante and prolific Democratic fundraiser, was forced from office by a rule unique to Virginia that doesn’t allow governors to run for a second term. If his comeback is successful, it will mark only the second time that a former governor has reclaimed the office (the other was Democrat Mills Godwin elected in 1965 and 1973).

Youngkin, 54, is a political newcomer who lives in the Washington D.C. suburbs and is running as a Christian conservative allied with Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. He made a fortune running a private equity company, allowing him to loan his campaign $5 million during the nomination campaign.

The governor’s race in Virginia is one of just two contests in the off-year election (the other is in New Jersey), making it a key early test for Democrats’ new tenure in Washington.

Four years ago, Democrats took both of those governorships, an early warning sign of the blue wave that would sweep Republicans aside in 2018.

Donald Trump remains a looming presence over this race. Youngkin spent much of the nominating contest dodging questions about whether he thought Joe Biden really won in 2020; after securing the GOP nod, he finally conceded Biden’s election was legitimate.

Democrats will try to tie Youngkin and other Republicans firmly to Trump; they will have to navigate those waters in a way that keeps Trump happy without unduly harming their prospects in the vote-rich suburbs.

The race for control of the House of Delegates will likely be decided in the Washington D.C. suburbs, where Democrats flipped a slew of seats in 2017 and 2019 amid a suburban backlash against Trump. Republicans need a net gain of just six seats to reclaim control.

One of the changes pushed through the legislature by Democrats was to shift redrawing of political maps from legislators to an appointed independent commission. But because 2020 census results have been delayed by the pandemic, the existing maps will be used.

That means House battles will be fought using maps originally drawn by Republicans in 2011, although Democrats already won a majority with those maps in 2019.

The Republican challenge will be to persuade suburban voters who gave Democrats the keys to the castle two years ago that they have gone too far — that what has been coming out of Richmond isn’t what they voted for.

For the other two statewide offices on the ballot in November, Republicans selected former Delegate Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor and Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach for attorney general

Sears, 57, who served a single term in the legislature nearly 20 years ago and hasn’t held office since, was the biggest surprise to come out of the Republican convention, dispatching five rivals. A Jamaican immigrant and former Marine from Winchester, she served as national chair of Black Americans to Re-Elect President Trump in 2020, and her campaign posters and Twitter feed showed her carrying an assault rifle.

Should she prevail in November, Sears would preside of the Democratic-controlled Senate, giving Republicans at least some leverage in the upper chamber.

Eight Democrats are competing in the primary for lieutenant governor, with no clear front-runner.

The attorney general race is the only statewide contest where the incumbent is running, Democrat Mark Herring, who is seeking a third term. However, he is facing a stiff primary challenge from Delegate Jay Jones.

The survivor will face Miyares, 45, the first Cuban-American to serve in Virginia’s legislature.

The post of attorney general would be a perch which a Republican could try to use to thwart Democrats in the legislature by filing legal challenges. Republican attorneys general have also been leading the charge against Biden administration policies in Washington.

All of the statewide races, and the battle for control of the House, will get out-sized national attention, given the small number of contests this year and the bragging rights that will go to the victors.

As for 2022, November will set up this question: “As Virginia goes, so goes the nation?”

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