Democrats win control of Virginia Legislature

The Democratic Party won control of the Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday, giving the party total control of the Old Dominion’s state government for the first time since 1994.

Democratic candidates outpaced Republican incumbents and nominees in the three most populous regions of the state, picking up seats in Hampton Roads, Richmond and the surrounding suburbs, and the fast-growing Washington suburbs.

By press time, Democrats had won at least 21 of 40 seats in the state Senate and 51 seats in the 100-member House of Delegates. Several races were left to call as vote counts proceeded into the night. Republicans had held slim majorities in the state House and Senate heading into election night.{mosads}

The early results are nothing short of a major win for Democrats, who now control every lever of power in what was considered a swing state just a few years ago. Democrats now control all three statewide elected offices, both U.S. Senate seats and both chambers of the General Assembly. Democrats also hold seven of Virginia’s 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republicans had held out hope that they could save their majority by winning back some of the 15 seats Democrats captured in the 2017 wave. Instead, all 15 of those Democrats who first won in 2017 won reelection on Tuesday night.

Winning the state Senate also means Democrats have guaranteed themselves at least one seat at the table when congressional and legislative district lines are drawn after the 2020 census. The state senators elected Tuesday will serve through the reapportionment and redistricting process.

The results will worry Republicans keeping an eye on suburban districts across the country, the epicenter of the Democratic wave in 2018 and the crucial battleground shaping up to define the 2020 elections. Democrats made major inroads in suburban House of Delegates districts in 2017, just a year after President Trump won election, and they extended those gains this year.

Republicans held control of both legislative chambers by just a single seat after the Democratic gains in 2017. In that election, control of the House of Delegates came down to a single tied race, in which Del. David Yancey (R) beat out Shelly Simonds (D) when his name was pulled from a hat.

On Tuesday, Simonds easily beat Yancey in a rematch. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Simonds led 58 percent to 40 percent.

Democrats got a boost in Virginia earlier this year when a court ruled that several state legislative districts were drawn to improperly deny political power to African American voters. Several of those districts, newly drawn to give Democrats a better shot at winning, broke against the GOP on Tuesday.

And Democrats put Republicans in a bind over gun control, an issue that gained salience earlier this year when a gunman attacked his former coworkers in a municipal building in Virginia Beach. The Republican-led legislature refused to pass any new gun control measures in a special session called by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), something Democrats highlighted in television advertisements in the closing days of the race.

In Northern Virginia, state Del. John Bell (D) won a critical state Senate district that straddles the line between Loudoun and Prince William counties. Bell, one of the most highly touted Democratic recruits in the state, promised to support new gun control measures if he won. He will not represent a district just a few miles away from the National Rifle Association’s headquarters.

One survivor of the Democratic tide was House Speaker Kirk Cox (R), who has represented his suburban Richmond district for 30 years. Cox, whose district was among those redrawn under court order, took 54 percent of the vote against a well-funded Democratic challenger.

But he will return to Richmond as, at best, the minority leader. When they reconvene next year, House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D) is likely to take the Speaker’s gavel.

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