Republicans poised to sweep Virginia, stunning Democrats
Republican candidates were poised to sweep up and down the ballot in Virginia’s off-year elections on Tuesday, undoing a slate of past Democratic wins in the Old Dominion.
Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), while Winsome Sears (R) made history as the first woman and woman of color to be elected to the position of lieutenant governor.
Meanwhile, Republican Del. Jason Miyares appeared on track to defeat incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D) in that race.
Republicans also appeared set to take control of the House of Delegates early Wednesday morning. The party’s gains in the lower house come after Republicans lost a total of 22 seats over the last three elections. A source at the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) told The Hill that their goal going into election night was to net only one seat.
“Tonight’s historic upset is proof that Virginians are ready to move closer to an optimistic vision for the commonwealth marked by the protection of individual freedoms and liberties, where parents are empowered, where businesses are allowed to do what’s best for them and their employees, and the safety of communities is a priority number one,” RSLC President Dee Duncan said in a statement.
However, Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D) told The Hill earlier in the evening that she did not believe that Republicans would gain control, saying, “Unfortunately we still don’t have a lot of the numbers, so we’re still waiting.”
Republican figures and groups were quick to praise the wins before a number of outlets officially called the races. The Republican National Committee declared in an email to the press that “the red wave is here,” while former President Trump fundraised off of the results.
Tuesday’s apparent Republican sweep comes after a number of elections that showed Virginia trending blue. Virginia has had a Democratic state government trifecta since 2019, when the party gained control of the House and state Senate. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) won election in 2017.
While the Republican wins will likely have major implications on policymaking in Virginia, they will also impact how Republicans and Democrats campaign in the 2022 midterm elections. For Republicans, Youngkin provides 2022 candidates and campaigns with a playbook, especially in states where Trump is not particularly popular. Throughout the course of the campaign, Youngkin balanced acknowledging the former president’s support while keeping him at an arm’s length. Youngkin repeatedly said during the campaign that he was “honored” to have Trump’s support, but did not appear with him once on the campaign trail.
“Glenn ran an excellent and inspiring campaign that raises the bar for candidates across the country,” said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Republicans have also signaled they will look to replicate Youngkin’s focus on education-related issues as a means of appealing to suburban voters, which Youngkin was able to win back to an extent after the constituency rejected Trump in Virginia during his administration.
“That powerful coalition’s message should be heard loud and clear by groups like the National School Boards Association and other special interest leaders that all tried to discount the merit of parents’ frustration,” said Alleigh Marre, president of the conservative Free to Learn Coalition. “Parents deserve a seat at the table, because there’s nothing more important than our kids.”
For Democrats, McAuliffe’s loss could illustrate what Democrats should not do in 2022. McAuliffe garnered criticism for invoking Trump on a constant basis during the campaign, leading many to question why he was focused on a figure who was no longer in office.
Democrats argued that the former president was unpopular in the state, having lost in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. However, it appeared that the strategy was not successful with most voters, who said kitchen table issues like the economy and education were a priority for them.
McAuliffe’s strategy opened the door for criticism from Republicans, including Trump.
“All McAuliffe did was talk Trump, Trump, Trump and he lost! What does that tell you, Fake News? I guess people running for office as Democrats won’t be doing that too much longer,” Trump said in a statement. “I didn’t even have to go rally for Youngkin, because McAuliffe did it for me. Thank you to the MAGA voters for turning out big!”
But Democrats will also be working to determine on how Biden affected the race. Questions swirled in the final weeks of the campaign as Biden worked to push his bipartisan infrastructure legislation, along with a massive social spending package. However, the pieces of the agenda were not passed prior to Election Day.
Biden returned from a United Nations climate summit in Scotland just hours after he predicted McAuliffe would win. Youngkin addressed a crowd of supporters in Chantilly as Biden left Air Force One.
“Walking together, sharing dreams and hopes, just like the ones that have always been planted on my own heart, dreams and hopes of a Virginia that soars, a Virginia that never settles, a Virginia where the Virginia promise comes alive for everyone who calls this Virginia home,” Youngkin said.