In the wake of the 2019 elections, the mainstream media, as is their custom, rushed to analysis of results in Virginia and Kentucky as a foretelling of Republican chances in 2020. Much of the narrative was focused on Virginia and the gains made there in the state legislature. A former NRCC chairman had this to say: if the metropolitan Trump-era movement away from the GOP “…is permanent, there is not much of a path for Republicans nationally.”
However, this has to be placed in perspective. Democrats in Virginia benefitted greatly from court-mandated redistricting in many state legislative districts after the courts deemed the original map was discriminatory against minority voters. The new map substantially increased the black share of the electorate in four of the six districts Democrats captured.
Further, higher-than-normal spending by outside groups focused on three issues- gun control, gay rights, and legal abortion- helped push Democrats over the finish line. The question is whether they can expend as much money and energy in future elections. Although both chambers of the legislature are in the hands of the Democrats, their hold on power is as tenuous as the GOP hold on power was previous to 2019.
What may be disturbing for Republicans in Virginia is not the expected exodus of GOP votes in the DC suburbs, but the increasing Democrat voting patterns further downstate in the Richmond suburbs. Even still, returning to the DC suburbs, for the first time in 50 years, Democrats will represent all the seats in Fairfax county. Loudon and Prince William counties, which were once a bastion of Republican strength, saw Democrats gaining control of their county commissions.
While the mainstream media portrayed this as a doom and gloom for Trump in 2020 in Virginia, and by extension, Republicans in general in the state, most note that Fairfax county regularly voted Republican from 1968 to 2004. The year 2004 is important to note since this clearly predates the arrival of Trump on the scene. Although exit polls are hard to come by, that is a telling fact since the dearth of polling reveals that Trump had little to do with these election results. Still and all, Republicans carried these DC suburbs by an average of 12 points before Trump. In 2016, they carried Trump by a precarious four points. In the exit polls out of, for instance, Fairfax county, most women did mention that they disapproved of Trump’s aggressive style and rhetoric.
Or perhaps the losses in the state legislature were not due to disaffection with Trump or even the GOP, but had something to with the inevitable internecine warfare that rears its ugly head in politics. Take, for example, one legislative race. The state GOP endorsed endorsed Scott Wyatt, a hardline conservative, over incumbent GOP delegate Chris Peace. Peace had drawn the ire of the state GOP over his vote to expand Medicaid. In this Richmond area seat, Wyatt emerged victorious over his Democrat rival despite a strong write-in effort by the incumbent Peace. Although the story ended up a happy one with one Republican beating another Republican and Democrat, the unnecessary GOP warfare made the race closer than it needed to be. It should be mentioned at this juncture that all of this had absolutely nothing to do with President Trump.
Furthermore, one has to question how many other spats similar to those of the Wyatt-Peace one played out in state delegate races. Regardless of whether they did nor did not, many of the races were very close, as in within 5 points or less. Most of this mainstream media tolling of the death bell of Republicans in Virginia may be premature. It must be remembered that this was, essentially, a boring election year and the mainstream media has a vested interest is bashing Trump and attributing every GOP electoral loss at all levels to Trump. Although the DC suburbs may be lost to the GOP as the government expands and many Deep State operatives who loathe Trump find a nice home there, there remains a vast swath of the state that should not be written off.
In the lead up to the election, Delegate Tim Hugo, who represented the DC suburbs and lost had this to say:
Whether it’s on business issues, tax issues, social issues, we’re one heart attack away from a leftist liberal takeover of the General Assembly. This ain’t your granddaddy’s Democratic Party.
How this new Democrat-majority in both houses in the legislature and their governor, Ralph “Blackface” Northam, deal with major issues will be telling. Expected on the legislative agenda is a wet dream of Democrats- gun control, school safety, abortion, and health care. With the latter, the state expects a $460 million in unanticipated costs.
At the start of the new legislature in 2020, Todd Gilbert of Lynchburg was chosen as minority leader in the House of Delegates. Kathy Byron, also of the Lynchburg area, was chosen as caucus leader and Jay Leftwich of Chesapeake was chosen minority whip. All three of them have one thing in common: they do not hail from the DC suburbs… a step in the right direction.
Next: North Carolina