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Top 28 Virginia Political Stories of 2018

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The following is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but these are 28 (I know, kind of a random number, but that’s what I came up with so far) of the top Virginia political stories of 2018 as I see them…in no particular order. And yeah, despite 2018 being a horrible year in the country, it was pretty good politically speaking for Virginia Democrats. Let’s keep that going in 2019 and beyond!

  1. Tim Kaine crushed neo-Confederate Corey Stewart 57%-41%, although frankly, it’s VERY disturbing that 41% of Virginia voters would opt for a white nationalist, climate science denier, xenophobe, and self-described “vicious” campaigner over the level-headed, brilliant, experienced, knowledgeable, compassionate, sensible Tim Kaine. So…good news that Kaine won by 16 points, but bad news that there are actually people willing to vote for someone as heinous as neo-Confederate Corey.
  2. Democrats picked up three U.S. House seats (VA-02, VA-07, VA-10) and will take a 7-4 advantage in House delegation starting January 3, 2019. And of course, for the best closing statement in a Virginia House of Representatives debate during 2018, see “Abigail Spanberger Is My Name!” – while crazy Dave “I’m an economist!” Brat just kept repeating Nancy Pelosi’s name over and over and over and over and…yeah, how did that work out for you Dave?
  3. Virginia Democratic women romped in primaries yet again (just as they did in 2017). In VA-01, for instance, Vangie Williams defeated two men (Edwin Santana and John Suddarth) for the Democratic nomination there. In VA-02, Elaine Luria defeated another woman, Karen Mallard, after several men failed to qualify for the ballot or dropped out. In VA-05, Leslie Cockburn crushed three male candidates (Andrew Snearthern, RD Huffstetler, Ben Cullop). In VA-06, Jennifer Lewis defeated two men (Peter Volosin, Sergio Coppola) and one other woman (Charlotte Moore) for the nomination there. In VA-07, Abigail Spanberger defeated Dan Ward 73%-27%. And in VA-10, Jennifer Wexton easily defeated five other primary candidates, including two men (Paul Pelletier, who finished second-to-last with just 3.8% of the vote, and Dan Helmer, who finished fourth with 12.6% of the vote). Sensing a pattern here?
  4. Strong opposition to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline – A significant movement against Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline grew during 2018. That included tree sits (“Red” and “Minor” Terry, etc.) and other protests of various kinds; statements and press conferences by Democratic elected officials, committees and candidates; court decisions (mostly against the pipelines); major controversy over Air Board replacements/who’s allowed to vote on Dominion’s proposed fracked-gas compressor station in Union Hill, etc., etc. Watch for a lot more of this in 2019.
  5. Medicaid expansion finally, at long last, passed the Virginia General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam. For anyone who ridiculously claims that elections don’t matter, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who will benefit from this. Would Medicaid expansion have happened if Democrats hadn’t won the governorship and picked up 15 seats in the House of Delegates? Highly, highly doubtful.
  6. “Petitiongate” in VA-02 ensared Rep. Scott Taylor (R) in a web of his own – or at least his own staff’s – making, and contributed to his defeat in November. We’ll see in 2019 if legal action is taken against Taylor and/or his staff.
  7. Rep. Tom Garrett fell (he resigned due to scandal and other factors); Denver “Bigfoot Erotica” Riggleman rose!
  8. Lots of Democratic primaries started shaping up for 2019, including against incumbents like Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw, Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, Del. David Toscano, and potentially many more from what I’m hearing.  There will also be numerous Democratic primaries to take on Republicans in 2019, for instance against State Senators Glen Sturtevant, Dick Black, Siobhan Dunnavant, etc.
  9. AG Mark Herring announced in an exclusive Blue Virginia interview that he will no longer “accept contributions from state-regulated monopolies or their registered lobbyists or key executives.” Herring’s came amidst what appeared to be a growing movement among Virginia Democrats not to take money from Dominion. I’m hoping for more statements in coming weeks/months on this front.
  10. Virginia Republicans saw some wild, far-right freak-show nomination contests in 2018, including in VA-05 (see Updates From VA-05 GOP Freak Show, aka 19 Hard-Right Party Insiders Choose Replacement to Rep. Tom Garrett [UPDATED: GOP Nominates Riggleman in Stunning Upset!] and VA-06 (see LIVE: Tweets, Photos, Video, etc. From VA-06 GOP Convention Freak Show This Morning [UPDATED – Cline Wins on 1st Ballot], not to mention the extreme-fest for the U.S. Senate nomination between bigoted theocratic extremist EW Jackson, neo-Confederate extremist Corey Stewart and self-proclaimed “Libertarian” (but actually hard-right in basically every way) Nick Freitas.
  11. The Virginia GOP was in disarray on many levels, including the resignation of its chair, John “Anti-Semitic ‘Joke’ Dude” Whitbeck. Also, of course, they had their second devastating year in a row at the polls and with almost no cash on hand. What a freak show.
  12. Virginia House Democrats elected a new leader (Del. Eileen Filler-Corn) after David Toscano announced he’d be stepping down at the end of 2018. Other candidates for the position included Sam Rasoul, who finished second; Charniele Herring (third); Rip Sullivan (fourth); and Marcus Simon (fifth).
  13. There will be several changes on the Fairfax County School Board, with incumbents either running for County Board (e.g., Dalia Palchik), not running for reelection (e.g., Sandy Evans, Pat Hynes) or deciding what to do (e.g., Ryan McElveen).
  14. Republican Martin Nohe announced that he’s running for Prince William County Board chair, apparently regardless of what current Chair Corey Stewart (R) decides to do. Democrats Ann Wheeler and Deshundra Jefferson both also said they were running for Chair, while numerous Democrats announced for other seats on the Board. Should be a fascinating 2019 in PW County!
  15. One of only two Republicans – the other being Pat Herrity – on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, John Cook (Braddock district) announced that he’ll be leaving after his current term expires in 2019 after Rep. Gerry Connolly’s Chief of Staff, James Walkinshaw, announced for the seat. As of the moment, Walkinshaw is the only candidate – and the heavy favorite – for this seat.
  16. Also on the Fairfax County Board, Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth (D, kinda/sorta) announced she’ll be retiring after her current term ends next year. I’m hearing that multiple Democrats will be running to replace Smyth, including School Board member Dalia Palchik, Erika Yalowitz, Edythe Kelleher, Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner and possibly others.
  17. Having served for over a decade, Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova (D) announced that she will retire after her current term ends next year. Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay (D) announced he is running for that job, as does Tim Chapman (D). At least two candidates so far (Larysa Kautz and Rodney Lusk) have announced for McKay’s seat.
  18. Amazon HQ2 announced it’s coming to Virginia. And don’t forget Micron’s $3 billion expansion in Manassas! On the down side, Norfolk Southern is leaving Norfolk…
  19. With the victory of Matt de Ferranti over John Vihstadt (R/I), Arlington County Board will return to unanimous, 5-0 Democratic majority. For his part, Vihstadt is going out the same way he came in.
  20. Democrat Babur Lateef was elected Prince William County School Board Chair over Republican Alyson Satterwhite. Yesterday, the State Board of Elections imposed  a fine against former Prince William County Democratic Committee Chair Harry Wiggins regarding a “political action committee called Republicans for Stanley Bender.”
  21. General Assembly Republicans killed pretty much every single commonsense gun violence prevention measure. Why? Because they’re crazy, of course (see here, for instance) and also because they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the gun lobby.
  22. The largest class – and by FAR most diverse – of freshmen House of Delegates Democrats was sworn in. That includes, among other things, the first transgender member of the Virginia General Assembly (Danica Roem), the first two Latina members (Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala), etc. Great stuff – let’s keep it going in 2019!
  23. The “racial packing” lawsuit (“Bethune-Hill”) moved along, with new maps submitted by the “Special Master” and Virginia House Republicans desperately trying to prevent non-racially-packed districts from being drawn, because, you know, they are not big fans of democracy.
  24. AG Mark Herring announced his intention to run for Governor in 2021. The question now is who else runs for Governor on the Democratic side – Justin Fairfax? Levar Stoney? others?
  25. Virginia FINALLY approved “historic” funding for Metro, but thanks to Republicans like Del. Tim Hugo, the Metro funding wasn’t as good as it should have been, while other transportation funding was messed up. In 2019, let’s make sure we show Hugo the exit door (from the House of Delegates AND from messing around with Metro).
  26. The year ended with the federal government shutting down, something that of course impacts Virginia, home of hundreds of thousands of federal employees.
  27. The “Dominion Bill” boondoggle passed the General Assembly, highlighting basically everything that’s wrong with the “Virginia Way.” We need reform, badly, in terms of ethics, campaign finance, etc. etc.
  28. General Assembly Republicans (mostly men) killed ERA ratification, for no good reason of course (and a LOT of crazy/bad “reasons”). Fortunately, this fight isn’t over – it’s coming back big time in 2019, and I’d say it’s got a good shot of passing this time, given the tremendous popular support for this long-overdue amendment.