Home 2019 Elections Top 20 Virginia Political Stories of 2017

Top 20 Virginia Political Stories of 2017


The following is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but these are 20 of the top Virginia political stories of 2017 as I see them…in no particular order. And yeah, despite 2017 being a horrible year in the country, it was pretty good politically speaking in Virginia.

  1. Following the shocking Trump win in November 2016, Tom Perriello surprisingly announced he was running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, ran a strong race against “establishment” pick Ralph Northam, but lost by 11 points.
  2. In November, Democrats swept the statewide races for governor (by 9 points), Lt. Governor (by 6 points) and Attorney General (by 7 points), in part due to a sharp increase in Democratic turnout compared to usual gubernatorial elections in Virginia. Thank you, Donald Trump?
  3. Also in November, Democrats picked up a stunning 15 (or 16? 17? we’ll see..) seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, with numerous longstanding Republican incumbents going down to defeat (e.g., our old pal “Sideshow Bob” Marshall, who predictably and classlessly attacked the woman who beat him, Danica Roem).
  4. The era of Del. Bill “ALEC” Howell, who served as Virginia House Speaker for 15 years, finally – mercifully – has come to an end.  As for Howell’s plan to nominate his successor (Kirk Cox) as Speaker, that remains in limbo, pending a tiebreaker in HD-94 and possible litigation (and even a new election?) in HD-28.
  5. Democrats/activists stepped up in droves (to run for office, door knock, phone bank, you name it) following Trump’s election, the Women’s March, etc., with a bunch of new grassroots groups working to take back our state and our country from the orange menace in the White House.
  6. 2017 was the year of the woman in Virginia’s House of Delegates, with women dominating the Democratic primaries in June and with many of those nominees going on to victory in November.  I fully expect some future, female statewide leaders to come out of this impressive group. A couple comments from my Facebook page help capture the scope of what went down in 2017: “We elected reproductive health champions up and down the ballot, and Gillespie especially fully embraced being anti abortion and anti Planned Parenthood”; “Women ran. For school board. For House of Delegates. Women knocked and dialed and texted. They drove GOTV. Women voted. In 39-degree cold and pouring rain. And they didn’t complain. Women won and won big. This win was for every mother, daughter, wife, girlfriend, friend, co-worker.”
  7. Continuing the momentum into the new year, hopefully, a slew of candidates have already stepped up to run for U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. Watch out Rep. Barbara Comstock, as well as Rep. Scott Taylor, Rep. Dave Brat, Rep. Tom Garrett, Rep. Rob Wittman, etc.
  8. The battle over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline raged, with no quick or clean end in sight, despite the recent, qualified – and disgraceful, frankly – approval of the pipelines by the Virginia State Water Board.
  9. The supposedly all-powerful Dominion Energy ran into serious turbulence in its quest for total domination of Virginia’s political and regulatory system. That included a slew of candidates – many of whom won – signing Activate Virginia’s pledge not to take money from Dominion, as well as large-scale protests against Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, flack over Dominion’s coal ash disposal methods, gouging customers, etc, etc.
  10. Terry McAuliffe neared completion of his term-limited four-year stint as governor of Virginia, submitting his final budget and hinting strongly at a presidential run for 2020.
  11. Chaos in Charlottesville during and after the white supremacist rally this past August, with a major report on what went wrong, including the murder of Heather Heyer, issued earlier this month, plus the resignation of the city’s police chief and other political ramifications.
  12. Faaaar-right, Roy Moore-loving Corey Stewart nearly upset Ed Gillespie in the VA GOP gubernatorial primary, demonstrating the strength of the extremist, neo-Confederate right in Virginia. Stewart is now running for U.S. Senate next year, with fellow faaaar-right Republicans EW Jackson and Nick Freitas also vying for the nomination of this off-the-deep-end party.
  13. A high degree of diversity (and talent) is now coming to the Virginia House of Delegates, including the first openly transgender member, the first two Latinas, a slew of women, etc.
  14. The opioid crisis raged, tragically with no quick end in sight.
  15. Battles over transgender kids’ access to school bathrooms continued, with the Supreme Court this past March saying “it would not hear the case of a transgender high school student [Gavin Grimm] fighting to use the bathroom of his choice.”
  16. Two special elections this past spring and summer – for PW County Clerk of the Circuit Court (Jaqueline Smith) and Fairfax County School Board (Karen Keys-Gamarra) – plus massively higher turnout in the June Democratic statewide primaries compared to the Republican statewide primaries served as harbingers of massive Democratic victories to come in November.
  17. Justin Fairfax was elected as the second African-American Lt. Governor in Virginia history, the first being Doug Wilder in 1985. Does this set up a run for governor in 2021 for Justin Fairfax? Stay tuned…
  18. I-66 tolls kicked in, part of a project to fix one of the most congested roads in America, and Gov. McAuliffe pushed back hard against criticism, some of which came from within his own party.
  19. There were a lot of arguments about Confederate statues and school names in Virginia this past year. In addition to the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, we saw the Fairfax County School Board vote to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School to “Justice High School” and Richmond debate what to do with its Confederate monuments.
  20. The power of a single vote was demonstrated in Virginia this year, with the House of Delegates contest in HD-93 (Newport News) currently tied – yes tied – and with control of the Virginia House of Delegates hanging in the balance (drawing of a film canister with one of the candidates’ names inside will be held next Wednesday, December 27). Don’t let anyone tell you, ever again, that their vote doesn’t matter.

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