It wasn’t a blue wave but a tsunami that swept over Virginia during Tuesday’s legislative elections. Democrats lay claim to both chambers of the General Election, regaining a political hegemony over the state Capitol that they haven’t enjoyed in 26 years. Along with Democrats in all three statewide offices — in addition to both U.S. Senate seats and seven of the state’s 11 congressional seats — the buoyed party now holds almost absolute power over Virginia government
Tuesday’s election was widely viewed as an early vote on President Donald Trump, who faces re-election next year. Virginia was among eight states with elections, though the only one with control of the legislature at stake. We hope that the Virginia Department of Elections’ issue with its website — which wasn’t showing updated results — was indeed an internal problem, as its spokesman said Tuesday night. This, and technical difficulties on other sites, doesn’t bode well for next year’s federal election.
The legislative races will easily surpass a whopping $100 million in total spending. As of Oct. 24, House candidates had spent more than $54.4 million — almost double what contenders spent in 2015, the last time all 100 seats were up for election, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. For the Senate, that figure stood at $48.1 million, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the final tally matches or exceeds the $52 million raised four years ago.
Tuesday’s vote reflects a changing Virginia. The incoming General Assembly faces many challenges. Among the most important is crafting the state’s budget and, after next year, redrawing legislative districts. Other hot-button issues will undoubtedly emerge, such as guns, abortion rights and possible repeal of the state’s right-to-work laws.
The election watch party at Rare Olde Times for two Henrico County Republicans offered a snapshot into campaign events across Virginia. A crowd of more than 100 gathered around a big screen, hoping that Siobhan Dunnavant, the incumbent in Senate District 12, and Mary Margaret Kastelberg, the GOP nominee in an open House District 73 seat, would help keep the legislature in Republican hands. These were among the most watched races. Inside, the landscape still felt timeless — Irish flags, wooden chairs and stained glass above the bar that read “Rare Olde Times.” Outside, the electorate had shifted.
— Pamela Stallsmith, Robin Beres and Chris Gentilviso