Home 2019 Elections Political Winners and Losers: Virginia Elections 2019

Political Winners and Losers: Virginia Elections 2019

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Here are a few winners and losers  from this election cycle that I believe are worth highlighting. Note that this list isn’t even close to comprehensive – nor is it intended to be – so please add winners and losers of your own in the comments section. By the way, it’s important to point out that you can be a “winner” even if you’re a right-wing Republican (e.g., McDonnell and Cuccinelli in 2009 were huge “winners,” even though they suck!) or whatever, and that you can be a “loser” even if you’re my favorite Democrat in the world, because in this context “winner” and “loser” is all about whether someone “won” or “lost” politically in this election cycle, not whether that makes me happy or not or whether it’s normatively a “good” or “bad” thing, per se.

Oh, one more thing – I’ve always asked people for their opinions, and many of them will be included below, and for this list I “crowd sourced” extensively. So, a lot of the following aren’t originally by me, but I’ve chosen to include them because I thought they were interesting, because I agreed with them in full or part, etc.. Still, you’re welcome to blame me if you don’t like them. 🙂

Winners

1. All Virginians: Every Virginian, even those who voted Republican, were winners last night, as Virginia Democrats will now have the power to pass legislation – on health care, gun violence prevention, clean energy and environmental protection, workers, women’s reproductive freedom, voting rights, civil rights, education, etc, etc. – that will benefit all of us.

2. Democratic Women: First off, none of the Democratic women we elected in 2017 lost their seats (note: Debra Rodman and Cheryl Turpin decided to run for State Senate instead of reelection to the House of Delegates, and they both lost…to Republican women, actually). This time around, more Democratic women won, including Nancy Guy, who defeated Del. Chris Stolle (R); and Shelly Simonds, who defeated Del. David Yancey (R), just two years after Yancey’s name was pulled from a ceramic bowl. Other big-time victories by Democratic women last night include Shannon Taylor for Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney; Ann Wheeler for Prince William County Board Chair; Phyllis Randall for Loudoun County Board Chair; Abrar Omeish, Rachna Sizemore Heizer, Karen Keys-Gamarra, Laura Jane Cohen, Stella Pekarsky, Melanie Meren, Elaine Tholen, Ricardy Anderson for Fairfax County School Board; Juli Briskman and Sylvia Glass for Loudoun County Board of Supervisors; Adele Jackson and Lisa Zargarpur for Prince William County School Board; etc.  And of course Ghazala Hashmi for State Senate, defeating Glen Sturtevant – she is amazing! Congratulations!

3. Virginia House Democratic Caucus (Executive Director Trevor Southerland, Communications Director Kathryn Gilley, etc.): Democrats did particularly well last night in the House of Delegates, gaining another six seats after the 15-seat pickup in 2017. Which means that House Democrats have now gone from just 34 seats in 2017 to 55 seats – a gain of 21 seats in two years (!) – after this election. That, in turn, is a testament – at least in part – to the work of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus. Nice job!

4. Del. Eileen Filler-Corn: Following the House Democrats’ huge wins last night, House Democratic Leader Filler-Corn is now (according to everyone I’ve talked to) the overwhelming favorite to become the first female and first Jewish Virginia Speaker of the House. Over the past several months, Filler-Corn campaigned relentlessly across Virginia, while raising huge amounts of money to help elect Democratic House of Delegates candidates. All that makes Filler-Corn a big winner, by almost any metric.

5. Del. Rip Sullivan: House Democratic Campaign Chair, whose literal job is to gain seats and win back the majority in the House, by recruiting candidates to run, allocating resources among candidates and providing whatever assistance is needed to get them across the finish line. Mission accomplished!

6. Del. Charniele Herring: House Democratic Caucus Chair Herring also worked hard to win the majority, and now – from everything I hear – is running to be House Majority Leader, and is the favorite to be elected to that position. We’ll probably know in the next few days…

7. Susan Swecker: The Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia since 2015, Swecker has led the party to victory after victory, culminating in the state turning almost completely “blue” last night. And she’s done it all with her great sense of humor, deep institutional knowledge of Virginia politics, passion for politics and love of our state. Congratulations to Susan Swecker on a job well done!

8. Take The Majority: Rebranded from the past years’ Coordinated Campaign, and without a traditional “top of the ticket” due to this being an off-off year, this team entirely ran field operations for House and Senate races all over the state, allowing campaigns to concentrate on other priorities. Among other things, they knocked around 1.75 MILLION DOORS. Impressive!

9. Democratic Party of Virginia (Chair Susan Swecker, Executive Director Chris Bolling, Communications Director Jake Rubinstein, Finance Director Justin Jones, Press Secretary Grant Fox, CTO Brenner Tobe, etc.): Kudos to Swecker’s entire team on a job well done…and for helping turn this state into a “blue Virginia!”

10. Sen. Mark Warner: Sen. Warner is just a wee bit busy in Washington, DC these days, dealing with Putin’s pal in the White House, among other things. Yet Warner took the time to campaign all over Virginia for Democratic candidates, helping to deliver lots of “blue” victories last night. Warner now enters his 2020 reelection campaign with a ton of goodwill from Virginia Democrats, and with a bunch of victories under his belt. Nice job.

11. Sen. Tim Kaine: He didn’t have to campaign hard, all over the state, for Virginia Democrats this cycle, but it’s Tim Kaine, so of course he did! 🙂 In fact, I’m told that Senator Kaine did events for more than 60 General Assembly and local candidates across Virginia this year – including more than a dozen candidates in Prince William County like Andrea Bailey, Raheel Sheikh, Babur Lateef, Josh King, Kenny Boddye, and others. Great stuff, especially given that Kaine’s got a lot of other things on his plate.

12. Clean Virginia/Michael Bills: This organization (led by Brennan Gilmore) and its founder, Michael Bills, were among the top donors – overwhelmingly to Virginia Democrats – this cycle. The purpose of this group is to “[a]dvance clean government and clean energy by fighting monopoly utility corruption in Virginia politics.” Among other things, they are taking on Dominion Energy, which is something we all should be glad they’re doing. See here for a list of Clean Virginia’s endorsed candidates and winners. And yes, it’s a long list! 🙂

13. George Soros/Criminal Justice Reformers: Soros got heavily involved in Virginia politics this year, supporting progressive candidates for Commonwealth’s Attorney in several jurisdictions, and as far as I’m aware, all of the candidates he supports won. Now, criminal justice reformers will serve as top prosecutors in Arlington County, Falls Church, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, etc.

14. Gov. Ralph Northam: It’s amazing that Northam’s on this list, just nine 10 months since the “blackface” scandal of February, yet…here were are. Because, the fact is, Northam now is the first Democratic governor in Virginia history to have a real, actual Democratic Party (e.g., not the Byrd Machine or Dixiecrats) controlling the state legislature. This is a huge opportunity for Northam to sign a shit-ton of legislation into law, on a wide variety of issues, and to be a truly historic governor. Of course, having an opportunity is not the same as capitalizing on it, but still…Northam is not only still governor, he now has the potential to be one of the most consequential governors in Virginia history.

15. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe: Worked very hard to win back the House and Senate, and to elected Democrats to local offices, and he succeeded. In doing so, he’s kept himself highly relevant in Virginia politics, whatever he’s thinking about doing next – possibly another run for governor in 2021, for instance.

16. Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor: After her resounding victory yesterday, is set up to run for Attorney General of Virginia in 2021, as she’s rumored to be considering doing.

17. Loudoun County Board Chair Phyllis Randall: After absolutely crushing former VA GOP Chair John Whitbeck yesterday, Randall is set up not just to run Loudoun County, but to run for higher office if she’s interested.

18. Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy: Campaigned all over the state for Virginia Democrats, presumably making a lot of friends around the state as she gears up for a (widely rumored) 2021 statewide run.

19. Gun Violence Prevention: From being completely stymied by Republicans in the pocket of the NRA and Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), to having majorities in the legislature who support commonsense gun violence prevention measures (e.g., universal background checks and “red-flag laws”), gun violence prevention efforts in Virginia just took a major step forward with Democrats’ wins last night. Thanks to all the gun violence prevention groups – Everytown, Giffords, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action, etc. – who helped in this effort!

20. Women’s Reproductive Health/Freedom: Democratic victories will mean that women’s reproductive health and freedom have strong allies in Virginia government. Thanks to all the reproductive health and freedom groups and activists for helping Democrats win last night!

21. Voting Rights: Given that Republicans are the party that believes in having FEWER people vote, while Democrats strongly believe that “when we vote, we win,” last night was a big victory if you care about making it easier for Virginians to vote. I’m looking forward to some great legislation on this front during the next General Assembly session.

22. Clean Energy and the Environment: The climate crisis is by far the most urgent, existential issue facing humanity. Fortunately, the precipitous drop in the cost of clean energy also gives Virginia the opportunity to become a leader in the burgeoning, exploding cleantech industries of the 21st century. Now, we need Virginia Democrats to pass legislation – net metering, mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, “decoupling,” etc. – to make this a reality.

23. Working People/Unions: Democrats might not end up repealing so-called “Right-to-Work” laws (although there certainly will be efforts to do so, or at least to amend them), but it’s certain that Virginia’s working people will benefit from higher minimum wages, increased ability to organize, etc. And no, none of that would have happened if Republicans had stayed in charge. As for the election wins last night, organized labor played an important role, both with money and with bodies. So nice work, and now let’s make sure Virginia isn’t ONLY the top state for business, but also the top state for workers (note: currently, Virginia is the WORST state in the country on this metric – ugh).

24. Metro: Dan Helmer’s defeat of Del. Tim Hugo last night removes one of the major obstacles to Virginia supporting public transit, first and foremost Metro. For more on this topic, see Virginia House Republicans block Metro tax hikes, which means a bigger drain on funds for roads. Needless to say, Metro will be much better off with Helmer as delegate than with anti-transit Hugo.

25. Grassroots “Resistance” Groups: A slew of these groups sprung up in the aftermath of Trump being sworn in to office, and they’ve been going strong since then. What’s great to see is that they didn’t fold up their tents in the off/odd election year, but kept on fighting and mostly kept on winning. Thanks to everyone who got involved and stayed involved in saving our democracy and our planet from Trump’s depredations!

24. 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates:  As far as I’m concerned, every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate (Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang), who came to Virginia to help us out is a winner.  Thanks!

25. CNU Professor Rachel Bitecofer: In addition to her spot-on analysis of the need for Dems to “nationalize” the Virginia elections, Bitecofer nailed it on the need for a boost in Dem turnout in SD7 and SD8, and the urgency of bringing in President Obama. In the end, Obama didn’t come in (for whatever reason), turnout in SD7 and SD8 was not great, and Democrats lost both those districts. Sigh…

Mixed

1. Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw: On the positive side, Saslaw will now be Senate *Majority* Leader, so that would make him a political “Winner.” But…problem is, the Senate Democrats underperformed big time last night (this seems to be a pattern with Saslaw, by the way, who almost lost his own primary last spring, and who failed to take the Senate in 2015, when everyone thought Democrats would do so), picking up just two seats, while losing several close races. Finally, Saslaw will now be plagued by rogue “Democrat” Joe Morrissey, who will attempt to exact whatever favors he can out of Saslaw in order to stay in line with the Democratic Caucus. Have fun?

2. Joe Morrissey: I would have made him a “Winner,” based on his easy win last night in his State Senate race, except that he also got heavily involved in the Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney race, cutting an ad *against* the Democratic nominee, Shannon Taylor, and…Taylor won big time. So, win one/lose one for Morrissey last night.

3. Senate Democratic and House Democratic Internal Polling. From everything I heard about House Democratic polling this time around, it was pretty good overall, with pre-election forecasts of Democrats hitting 53-54 seats (we ended up with 55, apparently). On the Senate side, though, the polling seemed to be shakier, possibly driving resources to flow into races where the Democratic candidates didn’t really need it, as opposed to putting that money into races where they could have used it.

4. Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox (R): He won reelection, but will no longer be Speaker of the House. If that’s not a mixed bag, what is?

5. The Stolle Family: It looks like it was a split verdict here, with Del. Chris Stolle (R) apparently losing to Democrat Nancy Guy in HD83 (note: I say “apparently” because Guy leads by just 18 votes), and with Stolle’s sister, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, winning reelection last night.

6. Mike Pence:  He came to Virginia and endorsed several Virginia Republicans by name.  A couple of them (Jen Kiggans, Bill DeSteph) won yesterday, while several (Colleen Holcomb, Shannon Kane, Chris Stolle) lost. And overall, Virginia Republicans didn’t have a good night at all. So…mixed bag at best for Pence.

7. The Washington Post Editorial Board’s Virginia Endorsements: These were strange all around, including the failure to endorse at all for Loudoun County, Prince William County or Fairfax County Boards of Supervisors. And then there was the WaPo’s weird stab at being “bipartisan,” endorsing an independent candidate for School Board over superbly qualified Democrat Laura Jane Cohen in Fairfax County’s Springfield district. Just weird. Having said that, most of the candidates the WaPo endorsed *did* end up winning, although there’s no particular evidence that the WaPo’s endorsements made any difference in the outcomes, one way or the other.

8. Dominion Energy – On the one hand, Dominion now has to deal with a General Assembly filled with pro-environment, pro-clean-energy Democrats who are not necessarily friendly to Dominion (e.g., many have signed a pledge not to accept money from Dominion). On the other hand, Dominion still has lots of friends in Virginia government, which the company has spent many years and a LOT of money working to “capture.” Clearly, Dominion isn’t going to give up its grip over Virginia politics easily or willingly. But, at this point, even Dominion CEO Tom Farrell must be getting a bit nervous, and hopefully has figured out that the status quo can’t be maintained indefinitely.

9. The “Virginia Way”: It’s not going to go down easily, but the times they are a changin’, and the cozy, slimy, good ol’ boy, revolving-door, corporate domination of Virginia politics has been taking some hits in recent years. We’ll see if all the new Democrats in the General Assembly, including numerous reform-minded ones, finally start to put a dent in this corrupt system, including through serious ethics and campaign and finance reform legislation.

10. Elections Prognosticators:  Definitely a mixed bag on this front. For instance, Chaz Nuttycombe’s final predictions had Democrats picking up 7 seats in the House of Delegates (they ended up picking up 6 seats, it appears) and 4 seats in the State Senate (they ended up picking up 2 seats). Pretty close. [Note: Chaz informs me that he got got 99/100 (assuming Nancy Guy wins following the recount) right in the House of Delegates and 38/40 right in the State Senate – not bad at all!] For his part, Christian Heiens predicted +7 or +8 Dems in the House of Delegates and +4 in the State Senate. So again, pretty close. For his part, Ben “Not Larry Sabato” Tribbett came VERY close in the State Senate, predicting 21-19, with the possibility of a bit higher (22-19 or 23-17), although he only had it Dems as a 50/50 shot at taking back the House of Delegates. Finally, PredictIt markets failed badly, wayyyy overestimating Democratic performance last night, although at least they predicted that Democrats would win back the House and Senate. Sen. Dave Marsden’s Chief of Staff Matt Rogers predicted “55 Democrats in the House of Delegates after the election and 25 Democrats in the State Senate,” which means he nailed it in the House of Delegates but was too optimistic by four seats in the State Senate. Del. Mark Levine came close to nailing it, predicting 21 Ds in the Senate (exactly) and 54 Ds in the House (off by one). And Trumpster/right-wing talk radio host John Fredericks predicted 21-19 in the State Senate (that one was spot one), Republicans 51-49 in the House of Delegates (that one was wildly wrong), and Republican John Whitbeck winning the Loudoun County Chair race (that one was even MORE wildly wrong, as Democrat Phyllis Randall demolished Whitbeck 57%-39%). So…a mixed bag on predictions.

Losers

1. Donald Trump: Basically toxic in Virginia, Republican candidates largely avoided mentioning his name. To the extent Trump did weigh in, it clearly didn’t work, either in general or on specific races, such as for Republican Geary Higgins in SD13, where Democrat John Bell easily won.

2. Corey Stewart: Prince William County voters yesterday resoundingly rejected Corey Stewart’s brand of Trump Republicanism, including giving the Trump Republican candidate to succeed Stewart just 35% of the vote (20 points behind Democrat Ann Wheeler, who will presumably shift course dramatically from Corey Stewart).

3. Prince William County GOP: This crucial suburban Northern Virginia county has been moving in the “blue” direction for years, with the one exception being the off/odd election year, where Republicans have dominated. Not this year! Now, with the County Board, School Board, Commonwealth’s Attorney office, General Assembly delegation, etc. overwhelmingly Democratic, the Prince William County GOP is basically on life support. Maybe time to put it out of its misery?

4. Fairfax County GOP: The largest jurisdiction in Virginia, with nearly 1.2 million people, has gone from being a place where Ken Cuccinelli used to win, and where Bob McDonnell won (albeit narrowly) in his 2009 governor’s race, to an almost all-Democratic county in terms of its elected officials. County Board: one Republican (Pat Herrity) appears to be still standing – albeit barely, assuming his narrow victory over Democrat Linda Sperling is confirmed. School Board: ZERO Republicans will be left on the Board starting in January 2020, with the ouster of far-right Republican Elizabeth Schultz and Republican Tom Wilson. Commonwealth’s Attorney: progressive Democrat Steve Descano romped over Independent/Republican-endorsed Jonathan Fahey. General Assembly delegation: with Del. Tim Hugo’s loss last night to Democrat Dan Helmer, the Fairfax County delegation to Richmond will have a grand total of ZERO Republicans in it. Bottom line: the Fairfax GOP is in even worse shape than the Prince William County GOP. Will the last Republican elected official in Fairfax County please turn off the lights? LOL

5. Loudoun County GOP: They’re not in quite as pathetic shape as Fairfax Republicans, but it’s pretty bad, with Democrats flipping the County Board, with Democrat Phyllis Randall crushing Republican John Whitbeck (see below), with Democrat Buta Biberaj defeating Republican Nicole Wittmann for Commonwealth’s attorney, etc. What’s left for Republicans in Loudoun County at this point? Well, they’ve still got Sheriff, Commissioner of the Revenue, Treasurer and three County Board seats (out of nine). And the trend lines are not heading in the “right” direction, so to speak, for the Loudoun GOP. Can anyone imagine Loudoun County going Republican anytime soon for President? Governor? U.S. Senate? U.S. House? And why is that? Simple: because Loudoun County voters aren’t buying the Republican brand or message – and for good reason!

6. John Whitbeck: Nope, it’s not your imagination; everything this guy has touched politically has been a disaster. Let’s review. First, in August 2011, Whitbeck lost a Republican primary for House of Delegates to Randy Minchew. Then, in 2014, Whitbeck was clobbered (53%-38%) by Democrat Jennifer Wexton for State Senate. Then, Whitbeck basically presided over loss after loss for Virginia Republicans from 2015 to 2018. And finally, last night, Whitbeck lost 57%-39%, in spite of outspending Phyllis Randall, and despite his absurd efforts to reinvent himself as some sort of moderate.  All-around #FAIL.

7. Virginia GOP: What can you even say about a party that hasn’t won a statewide election since 2009, that now has only four U.S. House members out of 11, that just lost control of both the State Senate and House of Delegates, that has largely been devastated in urban and suburban parts of Virginia, and that even “Virginia’s Conservative Voice” “is broken close to beyond repair?” Perhaps it’s time for these guys to take up a new hobby. Bocce? Bridge? Strategy games? Golf? LOL

8. Del. Tim Hugo (R), State Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R) and other Virginia General Assembly Republicans in urban or suburban districts: This basically segues off of the previous point, about the Virginia GOP, but increasingly it doesn’t look like Republicans can win in urban or suburban parts of Virginia, such as the broad “crescent” running from Hampton Roads to the Richmond area to Northern Virginia. Given that most of Virginia’s increasingly diverse population (and economy) is located in that “crescent,” if you can’t win there, you’re in deep deep trouble in Virginia these days – with no sign of it ever getting better.

9. Ranting and Raving About the Phantom of “SOCIALISM!”: That was one of the Republicans’ favorite things to do this campaign, but there’s no particular evidence that it worked. In one case, a Republican (Ian Lovejoy) ran against an *actual* socialist (actually “Democratic Socialist” Lee Carter) and…lost. By 7 points. So much for that strategy, it appears.

10. VPAP and the State Board of Elections Websites on Election Night: It feels like Groundhog Day with this, and if you’ve been around Virginia politics for a while, you know what I’m talking about. In short, it seems like every election day, like clockwork, either the State Board of Elections website and/or the the VPAP website has major problems – crashing, burning, you name it.  Last night was a complete mess, as both sites went down repeatedly, for long stretches of time, and also had a bunch of errors, such as the State Board of Elections site *starting* the evening with 100% of precincts reporting. Neat trick, huh? Anyway…my god, fix this mess so it never happens again!

11. Immigrant Bashing: The Virginia GOP’s third-straight attempt to run on anti-immigrant race baiting didn’t seem to work any better than in previous iterations (Ed Gillespie 2017, Corey Stewart 2018). Will Republicans ever learn from their repeated drubbings, despite (because of?) their relentless xenophobic demagoguery? Nope, don’t hold your breath; these are Trump Republicans, after all!

12. “Voices of Fairfax”: As a leading Fairfax Dem put it to me, this group “tried to drive a wedge into our school board elections and failed miserably ending with their illegal white copies of the ballot.”

13. The Gun Lobby: Not a good night for the NRA and VCDL, with a slew of gun violence prevention legislation now likely to be introduced – and passed – in the next General Assembly session.

14. House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert: This guy basically epitomizes everything that moderate, suburban voters in Virginia HATE about hard-right, hyper-ideological Republicans like him. Check out Gilbert’s over-the-top, embarrassing statement, below, to see what I’m talking about. Luckily, Gilbert will no longer be in the majority, and he never will be if his delusional, unhinged ravings are widely held within his party.

15. Sen. Dick Black: The far-right, Assad-loving State Senator is retiring, so he didnt lose personally, but his chosen successor (Geary Higgins) DID lose (to Democrat John Bell), as did Black’s son-in- law Mick Staton for County Board. All in all,  not a good night for Dick Black