ChrisWeigant.com

Watching Virginia's Returns

[ Posted Tuesday, November 5th, 2019 – 17:53 UTC ]

Tonight, I will be watching the election returns from Virginia come in. There are other races happening today that the national pundits will be watching more closely (namely, the governors' races in Kentucky and Mississippi), but while they may provide some exciting news for Democrats, the outcome in Virginia is more interesting to me. Democrats winning a governor's race in a deep red state is certainly newsworthy, but in terms of long-term political shifts, Virginia is the one to watch.

I don't mean to be dismissive of the news that Democratic gubernatorial candidates even have a chance in three Southern states -- that is big news indeed. Kentucky and Mississippi voted today, while there will be a runoff governor's election in Louisiana on November 16 -- and all three races are too close to call at this point. While Kentucky and Louisiana often still elect conservative Democrats, the fact that there's a close race in Mississippi is pretty stunning. The outcome of these races could determine whether millions of their citizens will benefit from Medicare expansion (or continue to benefit from them, in the case of Kentucky). And that's just one big issue out of many.

The Republicans are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the spin that emerges after these three elections. If the Republican candidate wins, there's simply no way to paint it as any sort of upset, or any sort of political shift at all. These are very red states, after all, so if they elect a GOP governor it's definitely a "dog bites man" sort of story. Democrats may be disappointed in all three, and have to claim "moral victories" for the fact that the vote was even close -- that's all the spin that they'll have left available if all three of their candidates lose.

But if a Democrat or even multiple Democrats win, then Democrats will be touting the victory as a harbinger of things to come, as a rejection of President Trump, and as a big shift in electoral politics. This may be somewhat overblown (such post-election spin usually is), but that won't stop Democrats from gleefully making the case. For the Democrats, a big win in Kentucky and/or Mississippi will be especially fun, since they'll then point out that Donald Trump visited both states right before the election and it didn't work. He's convinced he has a magic ability to rally the base, and if this proves not to be the case, Democrats will indeed point it out, with a big helping of schadenfreude on the side.

But even if Democrats win governors' elections in any or even all of these three states, it will be brushed off by Republicans as just a fluke, bereft of any sort of national importance. There will be at least some truth to this, since winning the governor's race in Kentucky in no way guarantees that next year a Democrat will even be able to beat Mitch McConnell -- much less flip Kentucky in the presidential race (to give just one example).

In Virginia, however, Democrats are poised on the brink of taking control of the entire statewide government. They've already got a Democratic governor, and they are now within sight of flipping both chambers of their state legislature as well. If this happens, it will not be a sudden surge that surprises everyone, but rather the end of a long process of Democrats converting a very red state into a purple state, and then finally into a reliably blue state. Importantly, this will give them the power to redistrict both Virginia's U.S. House of Representatives districts as well as all the state legislative districts, after the 2020 Census. This means denying the GOP gerrymanderers a big prize -- after they've already seen major losses in state courts in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina. This could wind up altering the electoral dynamics in the House for the next decade to come.

Currently, the Republicans hold a 51-49 seat advantage in the Virginia House of Delegates (the lower legislative chamber) and a 20-19 advantage in the Virginia Senate (with one seat vacant, after a Republican resigned). All 140 of these seats are up for grabs in today's election. If Democrats pick up two seats in both chambers, they will have won a clear majority in both. If they pick up one seat in the senate, they will also effectively win control, since the lieutenant governor is currently a Democrat and would cast the tie-breaking vote. The lower chamber's rules aren't as clear-cut, and if there was a 50-50 tie then the two parties would have to come to some sort of power-sharing agreement (which has happened as recently as the late 1990s). Virginia Democrats seem more confident in their chances in the lower chamber, though. There are fewer state senate seats to flip, which means it may be harder to win control in the upper chamber. But even a split legislature would preclude Republicans from dominating the redistricting process.

Some Democrats would love to see their party pay back the Republicans and gerrymander the heck out of the map to ensure as many Democratic House members as possible in the 2022 election (and beyond). But most voters are more interested in a fair outcome rather than swinging wildly from an unfair GOP map to an unfair Democratic map. This is a nationwide trend that has been slowly building, as more and more states have voted (via ballot measures) to move to empowering nonpartisan commissions to draw these maps every 10 years. Republicans, for the most part, have no shame when it comes to unfair redistricting, so stopping such an effort in Virginia would be huge -- even if all it means is a fair and balanced map with plenty of competitive swing districts.

Virginia's shift from red to blue is happening because of demographic changes to the state's overall population. The Northern Virginia suburbs (bordering Washington D.C. and a few large military bases, for the most part) have been steadily growing in population, and the people moving in are a lot more liberal than the state's rural and small town population. This has been a slow process which has taken place over the past two decades, and it doesn't show any sign of reversing any time soon. The fact that Republicans still control so many seats in the state legislature, when the state now votes reliably Democratic both in national elections and for statewide offices, is entirely due to the redistricting that happened after the last Census. To put this another way, the legislature probably should have flipped years ago, if the maps had been more fair. But even with the advantage of Republican-drawn districts, Democrats are now on the verge of taking control in both chambers anyway. After the next redistricting, it is quite likely that Virginia will get bluer and bluer throughout the 2020s.

Democrats are fervently hoping that this model of demographic change leading to political change is a model that could be followed in other key currently-red states. Two in particular spring immediately to mind: Georgia and Texas. The Atlanta suburbs have been growing, and much of the growth has come from out of state. This could mean the same dynamic that shifted Virginia is already underway there. Texas, long considered to be the ultimate prize, is also eyed hopefully by Democrats in just about every election cycle. In the past Census, Texas grew faster than any other state in the Union, and actually added four new House seats as a result. But again, much of this growth came from out of state, and large migrations of population can mean a changing political makeup.

It's worth pointing out that if Democrats ever did successfully flip Texas, it would probably put the White House almost permanently out of reach for Republican candidates. If Democrats started each race with California, Texas, New York, and Illinois in their pocket, it would mean starting with 142 Electoral College votes in the bag. That would probably be an impossible hurdle for any Republican to overcome -- that's how important the state would be to the presidential math.

But getting back to Virginia, tonight's election results may be more important than even flipping a red-state governor's office. It will definitely not be a fluke or some sort of "well, we ran a bad candidate" outcome. It will instead be the culmination of a decades-long demographic shift that has already put the state pretty solidly in the Democratic column in presidential elections. Flipping Virginia means eating into the Republican stranglehold they currently have over the entire South (with the exception of purple-state Florida). It will mean that Virginia's House seats will become a lot more competitive for the next decade. It will mean Democrats will be able to move important legislation (such as on gun safety) that Republican legislators have bottled up until now. It will be a significant political seismic shift. Which is why I'll be paying more attention to the Virginia results than the big-ticket races in Mississippi and Kentucky tonight.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

71 Comments on “Watching Virginia's Returns”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, let's see where things stand.

    27-10 in the Assembly

    11-1 Senate

    Both in Democrats' favor (mostly because of seats where Dems ran unopposed).

    -CW

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    Are you seeing Kentucky?

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    wow, super tight there, less than a point difference?

  4. [4] 
    Paula wrote:

    Looking like Bashear has won in KY!

    Dems take Virginia Senate and in a an especially sweet VA win:

    REAKING: @shelly_simonds just flipped Virginia's HD-94! Shelly's race for this seat in 2017 resulted in a tie, and was decided in favor of the Republican after his name was randomly drawn from a bowl. This win is well fought, well deserved, & a long-time coming!

  5. [5] 
    Paula wrote:

    Posted [4] then saw MSNBC not calling it for Bashear yet. Sigh.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    most of the remaining districts are deep red, so it's still too close to call.

  7. [7] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula

    It's going to be really close, but there's still 4% out in Jefferson and some slivers in other Blue counties that Bashear might be able to hold off and still win despite the Red counties still out.

  8. [8] 
    Paula wrote:

    Bluegrass Politics
    @BGPolitics
    · 4m
    With 95.76% of precincts reporting, it's 49.45% Andy Beshear and 48.58% Matt Bevin. #KyGov ^JC

  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Have they actually called KY yet?

    -CW

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:

    JL
    6

    Jinx!

  11. [11] 
    Paula wrote:

    Small victories!

    Travis Akers
    @travisakers
    · 1m
    For the first time in 38 years, Democrats have taken control of City Council in Columbus, Indiana.

    This is the hometown of Vice President Mike Pence and Rep. Greg Pence.

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW
    9

    Have they actually called KY yet?

    Define "they." *wink*

  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Dems looking real good in VA.

    KY there's probably going to be a recount, seems like it'll be razor-thin either way at this point...

    -CW

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    with 3% left, less than 10k votes apart, and probably getting closer.

  15. [15] 
    Paula wrote:

    Another nice win is Danica Roem - she won bigger than her first win 2 yrs ago.

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    Jefferson 4% came in now and boosted Beshear.

  17. [17] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Beshear up 14K votes, but it seems like all the blue counties have fully reported, and the few that are left are probably red, so it's going to be close!

    -CW

  18. [18] 
    Paula wrote:

    Another nice win: the woman on the bike who flipped off Blotus motorcade and was fired for it just won her first election to a county Board of Supervisors in Virginia.

  19. [19] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Paula [18] -

    Nice! I remember that one distinctly...

    You're just full of good news tonight! Thanks for keeping your eye on the individual victories...

    :-)

    -CW

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW
    17

    Beshear up 14K votes, but it seems like all the blue counties have fully reported, and the few that are left are probably red, so it's going to be close!

    Yes... but... they're also tiny counties. There aren't enough outstanding votes. I think Beshear has got this.

    Bevin will actually have to go to court to get a recount, though.

  21. [21] 
    Paula wrote:

    [19] CW: Thanks!

    It's looking like Bashear made it - seeing more calls on Twitter - but not the AP etc. yet.

  22. [22] 
    Paula wrote:

    Chris Murphy
    @ChrisMurphyCT
    ·
    5m
    Just like 2017, looks like Democrats in Connecticut flipped control of several high profile local governments tonight. Madison, East Haven, Litchfield, Colchester all went from R to D. More results coming.

  23. [23] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    According to WashPost, 20 Dems have now won in VA senate. One more will put us over the top, and Dems are leading in 2 remaining districts...

    Woo hoo!

    -CW

  24. [24] 
    Paula wrote:

    Ari Berman
    @AriBerman
    ·
    3m
    Breaking: NYC voters pass ranked-choice voting with 74% support. Largest city in the country to adopt reform. Good day for democracy
    _________________________________

    Also, FWIW:
    _________________________________

    Laurel M. Davila
    @laureldavilacpa
    ·
    1h
    “With a nearly unanimous vote on Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council—representing the nation's second most populous city—passed a resolution endorsing federal #MedicareForAll legislation.

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    Infair for Republicans...

    They called it for Beshear!

    A 30-point swing, ladies and gents. Holy.... moly.

  26. [26] 
    Paula wrote:

    MSNBC calls it for Bashear who appears to have won by just 6,000+ votes.

  27. [27] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    only 8k votes apart, and deep red russell county yet to report. it's a photo finish!

  28. [28] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    WashPost just called the 21st Dem win in VA senate.

    Woo hoo!

    -CW

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What does the Kentucky race mean for the Democratic presidential nominating process?

    Will progressives learn the right lessons?

  30. [30] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Kick -

    Don't you mean infair for Rupublicans?

    Heh.

    -CW

  31. [31] 
    Paula wrote:

    Run for Something
    @runforsomething
    · 4m
    Omg, literally crying right now!!!! Safiya Khalid was just elected to Lewiston City Council in Maine, making her the first Somali American to serve on the council!!!!!!!!!!
    ????

  32. [32] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW

    Don't you mean infair for Rupublicans?

    Well, dang it... that's exactly what I meant! I botched it up by being able to spell.

    If you lose, they're going to say, "Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world." You can't let that happen to me! ~ Donald Trump

    Apparently, they could let that 30-point swing happen. Thanks for the visit, Donald. Come often. *laughs*

  33. [33] 
    Paula wrote:

    Robert Costa
    @costareports
    · 1h
    I spent the day the Senate, talking with Republicans. They are all paying close attention to the KY gubernatorial race. They are not just watching the returns, but President Trump's political capital as they make decisions about how to handle impeachment and their own future.

  34. [34] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula
    33

    You don't think Donald Trump is becoming a liability, do you? *wink*

  35. [35] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Dems have won 47 in VA house, leading in EIGHT others!

    Looks like a blowout.

    -CW

  36. [36] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Sorry, I needed a break there.

    Want something to make you smile? Here you go (what would the internet be without cat videos?):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df7g19GzFkg

    Monday Night Football, no less: "That cat's got some great lateral moves!"

    :-)

    You're welcome.

    -CW

  37. [37] 
    Paula wrote:

    Just saw on DKOS: "With only about two dozen precincts outstanding, Beshear has a 7600-vote lead."

  38. [38] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Up to 49 now in VA house. The end is near for the VA GOP!

    -CW

  39. [39] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW
    36

    Monday Night Football, no less: "That cat's got some great lateral moves!"

    I confess, it was me... had to do something to turn that game around. Well, it worked, didn't it!? ;)

  40. [40] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    With one county still not 100% in, Beshear up by ~4700 votes...

    -CW

  41. [41] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    And it's official! 51 seats won, and still leading in 4 more! Dems OWN Virginia!

    :-)

    -CW

  42. [42] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    WashPost has final county in, and Beshear wins!

    They haven't called it yet, since there will likely be a recount, and the absentee ballots will matter, with it so close.

    Even so, a pretty good night for the blue team.

    -CW

  43. [43] 
    Paula wrote:

    [42] YAY!

  44. [44] 
    Paula wrote:

    Bevin not conceding.

  45. [45] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Now that Democrats "OWN" Virginia, what lesson can they share with the Democrats on the national stage?

  46. [46] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM -

    That's tough to say. Um... get a whole bunch of Democrats to move in?

    Heh. It really was kind of a demographic glacial change, so there probably won't be anything that will translate well to other areas. That doesn't mean the pundits won't make the attempt, however.

    :-)

    -CW

  47. [47] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Um … that was great.

  48. [48] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    wow, kentucky. i doubt there's much to extrapolate about trump though. beshear is a legacy candidate running on popular issues, while bevin is hated for messing with people's medicaid. i think it's a case of politics being local.

  49. [49] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM -

    Hey, I grew up next door to VA, and I'm pretty astonished at the changes it has gone through of late, personally. It used to be dominated by the backwoods vote, but no longer...

    -CW

  50. [50] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    nypoet22 -

    Yeah, I tend to agree. Also he had that ham-fisted response to the teacher's strike -- that didn't help him either...

    -CW

  51. [51] 
    Kick wrote:

    i doubt there's much to extrapolate about trump though.

    Trump lost coal country in Kentucky. Extrapolate that. ;)

  52. [52] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joshua[48],

    Well said. And, I suppose it's always a good thing when elections lack a 'Trump effect'.

    But, I think there is much to say about what Democrats can learn in the wake of the 2018 midterms and all elections since the era of Trump began.

    To think otherwise is pure folly.

  53. [53] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Oh, I think Republicans are extrapolating in their pants this evening.

  54. [54] 
    Kick wrote:

    The "Trump effect" from Kentucky will be Republicans rethinking things... things like Trump's promise to kill Obamacare and things like whether or not they want to tie themselves too tightly to Trump -- you know -- since it worked out so well for Matt Bevin in Kentucky.

  55. [55] 
    Kick wrote:

    Congratulations, Kentucky!

    Now ditch Mitch.

  56. [56] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Roger Stone got the extrapolation ball rolling at his court appearance earlier in the day.

  57. [57] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What about the rest of the races in Kentucky, Kick - didn't they all go Republican?

    What will Democrats in the state have to do to "ditch Mitch", what should be their strategy?

  58. [58] 
    Kick wrote:

    EM
    57

    What about the rest of the races in Kentucky, Kick - didn't they all go Republican?

    Totally expected, of course.

    What will Democrats in the state have to do to "ditch Mitch", what should be their strategy?

    Vote.

  59. [59] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Kick [51] -

    Good point.

    TheStig [53] -

    OK, now THAT was funny!

    :-)

    LizM [57] -

    They've got a pretty good candidate lined up to take Mitch on. It's not a totally lost cause. And McConnell is actually not that popular back at home...

    -CW

  60. [60] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Looks like MS was a bridge too far...

    Oh, well, still a great night all around!

    -CW

  61. [61] 
    Kick wrote:

    Now how is Virginia not going to be the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment?

    Ratification of the ERA needs to be pushed front and center in 2020.

  62. [62] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris[59],

    So, you think the Democratic candidate can beat McConnell without lifting much of a finger?

    Okay, I know you don't think that but, why don't you want to talk strategy?

    I guess you're saving it for another column. I can hardly wait. And, I mean that sincerely … I'm not trying to be facetious here. Ahem. Heh.

  63. [63] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    [62] -

    No, no, I'm just savoring the moment, that's all. I think Mitch is going to be very hard to beat, but it now seems a little more possible, that's all.

    To draw larger conclusions, I'm going to have to dig into the campaigns the winners ran versus the campaigns the losers ran. I just don't have the info to answer right now, that's all. I'm not saying it won't be important to study it in hopes of replicating the victories elsewhere, that's for sure!

    :-)

    -CW

  64. [64] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Alright, then ...

  65. [65] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Yes, Virginia, there is a Satan Clause.

    And the Satan Clause is that the Democrats as well as the Republicans are working for the big money interests.

    There is little difference between this and Michale's female immigrant that switched from the Democrats to Republicans in yesterday's comments.

    "It matters not if you're Red or Blue
    as long as big money finances you."
    -Me

    Whatever redistricting is done will be INFAIR.

    If you're in the Democrats, in the Republicans, or in bed with the big money interests it will be fair to you.

    If you're not in with any of those then you will be left right out be cause it is the job of the INs to keep you out.

    And the show of the battle between the two "sides" that both work for the big money interests is how they keep people from catching on to the deception.

    And articles like this help make the deception work.

    Of course, if you are in with the Democrats and/or the big money interests, then you are just doing your job.

    But a real journalist that covers reality would consider pretending the show is real to be the opposite of doing their job.

    To paraphrase Rand Paul:
    "Do your job and print the name of the real opposition to the big money interests that control both CMPs."

    Note: That's two days in row that C-Span was airing a quote I could use while I was typing out my comment.
    What are the odds of that?

    Probably better than the odds of CW becoming in with the real journalists that cover reality and connecting the quote from Warren in yesterday's comments with One Demand. :D

  66. [66] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Bevin is a clownish goon who apes Trump. He says obnoxious things on a regular basis. He went to war with teachers despite the fact that school districts are the largest employers in many KY counties. He called us "soft" because school was cancelled when the wind chill was -20 degrees. It's unclear who he thought he wasn't insulting with that one. Of course, his kids never wait outside for a bus. On the other hand, he intentionally infected his own kids with chicken pox and bragged about it. I'm sure they'll be grateful when they get shingles.

    The turnout was large yesterday, so voters have learned something. The Dems will have to field a good candidate to ditch Mitch. They usually go Republican Lite and probably will again. That will not beat him.

  67. [67] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Bevin is refusing to concede, ludicrously claiming "irregularities" despite the fact that all of the other Republicans won. He might as well paint his face orange.

  68. [68] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    To paraphrase Rand Paul:
    "Do your job and print the name of the real opposition to the big money interests that control both CMPs."

    It’s official — DH does not know the meaning of the word “paraphrase”.

    I’m pretty sure you meant to say, “To misquote Rand Paul:”; and if it wasn’t, then it should have been!

  69. [69] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Listen-
    Because the meaning of a word is more important than the context and content of the comment?

    My dictionary says one meaning of the word is:
    a restatement of a text, passage or work giving the meaning in another form

    Paul referred to journalists doing their job relating to the whistle blower and I used that reference to journalists doing their in reference to One Demand.

    same meaning, different form.

    Typical common, correct use of the word.

  70. [70] 
    Kick wrote:

    Russ
    68

    Heh!

  71. [71] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i've heard that rand paul is in favor of pie.

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