Home 2020 Elections Top 24 Virginia Political Stories of 2020

Top 24 Virginia Political Stories of 2020

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The following is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but these are 24 (I know, kind of a random number, but that’s what I came up with, lol) of the top Virginia political stories of 2020 as I see them…in no particular order – and I’m sure I missed some. The bottom line is that 2020 was one of the wildest, craziest, and worst years this country has ever had, but in terms of Virginia Democrats, it was mostly solid, with the main exceptions of Dr. Cameron Webb losing to far-right extremist Bob Good in VA05 and Democrat Jody Wagner losing the Virginia Beach mayoral race to Republican incumbent Bobby Dyer. With that, here are the top 24 Virginia political stories of 2020.

P.S. Obviously, Trump and his insanity hung over everything this year, but I’m keeping this list focused on Virginia specifically, not on the insanity in the White House.

  1. In January 2020, history was made here in Virginia, as Del. Eileen Filler-Corn was sworn in as the first-ever female (and first Jewish) Speaker of the House in our state’s history. So awesome. As if this wasn’t enough history in the making, we also had State Senator Louise Lucas become the first-ever African-American and first-ever woman to hold the position of President pro tempore of the Virginia State Senate; and of Del. Charniele Herring became the first African-American female House Majority Leader. Signs of Virginia changing for the better, for sure!
  2. In the Nov. 5 general election, Joe Biden carried Virginia easily: It wasn’t even close here in Virginia this presidential election, with Biden cruising to victory over Trump by over 10 points…a higher margin than Barack Obama’s largest (6 points in 2008) or Hillary Clinton’s in 2016 (5 points). And while this might not mean that Virginia is a safe “blue” state in non-presidential years, it’s certainly not looking like a “swing state” anymore in presidential election years.
  3. Joe Biden easily won the March 3, 2020 Virginia Democratic presidential primary: Biden ran away with the Virginia Democratic primary, winning 53.3% of the vote, with Bernie Sanders finishing second at 23.2%, Elizabeth Warren at 10.8% and Michael Bloomberg at 9.7%. These are definitely not the results a lot of people would have expected after Biden got crushed in New Hampshire and Nevada, but then he had an amazing comeback in South Carolina on February 29, and the rest is history…
  4. In the Nov. 5 general election, Sen. Mark Warner easily won reelection: What a different six years makes. After barely winning reelection in 2014 against Republican Ed Gillespie, Warner romped in November 2020, with 56% of the vote versus 44% for his Republican opponent, Daniel Gade. It really shows what a difference Democratic turnout – or lack thereof, as was the case in 2014 – can make. Also, Warner took nothing for granted this time around and ran a strong, energetic, well-funded campaign.
  5. In the Nov. 5 general election, Democrats held all of their U.S. House seats from Virginia. The biggest risks for Democrats in terms of the U.S. House delegation this November were that either/both Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA02) or Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07) could lose their seats, given that they represent “purple”/”swing” districts. In the end, Luria won relatively easily (51.6%-45.8%) over former Rep. Scott Taylor (R), and Spanberger hung on, edging out Del. Nick Freitas (R) by just over 8,000 votes out of 450k+ votes cast. But heck, a win’s a win, even if Freitas *still* hasn’t conceded – lame!
  6. In the Nov. 5 general election, Bob Good defeated Dr. Cameron Webb in VA05: Prior to this election, many election prognosticators had VA05 as a tossup, with Dr. Webb being widely hailed as one of the strongest Democratic candidates for Congress this cycle. Also, Republicans seemed divided here, after Rep. Denver Riggleman (R) was ousted by Good in a highly contentious nominating process. And yet, in the end, Good won by just over 5 points (52.4%-47.3%), as VA05 showed that it’s basically solid-“red” at this point. Maybe 2021 redistricting will help matters?
  7. Virginia Republicans voted to go with a convention for their 2021 nominee:  It took hours and hours of discussion, debate and voting, but the Virginia GOP State Central Committee finally opted to go with a convention, not a primary, to select its 2021 statewide nominees. We’ll see how that works out, but the last time they did this was 2013, and they ended up nominating the “extreme team” of Ken Cuccinelli for governor, E.W. Jackson for Lt. Governor and Mark Obenshain for Attorney General…all of whom lost in November 2013 (to Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam and Mark Herring, respectively).
  8. 2021 VA GOP gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase threatens to run as an independent, calls for martial law, etc.: On a related note, one of the Republicans’ leading candidates for governor in 2021 – State Sen. Amanda Chase – threatened that if Republicans selected a convention as their nominating method, that she’d run as an independent. But, in the end, Chase decided to seek the Republican nomination in the convention. Other than that, Chase was busy in 2020 refusing to wear a mask or practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also encouraging Trump to declare “martial law.” Never a dull moment…
  9. Former VA House Speaker Kirk Cox (R) announced his candidacy for governor: Meanwhile, former VA House Speaker Kirk Cox (R) announced his gubernatorial candidacy on November 17, railing against “cancel culture,” “big city elites,” “one-party control in Richmond,” etc. We’ll see how he fares against Chase and possibly other Republican gubernatorial candidates (Pete Snyder? Glenn Younkin? Emmett Hanger? others?) at the convention…
  10. Three Virginia Republican Congressmen signed on to amicus brief on a Texas lawsuit before the Supreme Court to overturn results of the 2020 presidential election.  For the historical record, the three who signed on to this seditionist claptrap were Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA01), Ben Cline (R-VA06) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA09). Fortunately, the Supreme Court slapped down this nonsense, but still, none of us should ever forget or forgive who signed on to this attempt to overturn the U.S. presidential election. Disgraceful.
  11. Democrats announced for governor in 2021: State Senator Jennifer McClellan, former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (who announced her resignation from the House of Delegates, prompting a special election set for January 5, 2021, with the Democrats selecting Candi King as their nominee), Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and possibly Del. Lee Carter will contend for the 2021 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, with a primary to be held in June. Currently, McAuliffe is considered the favorite by almost all Virginia political analysts, but we’ll see how it goes…that’s what campaigns are for, after all. Oh, and of course political analysts can be wrong, as they’ve shown many times over the years.
  12. AG Mark Herring decided to run for reelection, setting up a primary against Del. Jay Jones. Herring had announced for governor in late 2018, but changed his mind and announced that he would be seeking reelection as Attorney General, for a third term. Herring joined Del. Jay Jones – who had announced his candidacy back in July – in the Democratic field. This one will be interesting, given that Herring’s a two-term incumbent who is generally quite popular, by all accounts. The challenges for Jones will be to get his name ID up and also to make both a strong case as to why voters should consider replacing Herring, and also why they should consider Jones as the person to do so.
  13. The 2020 Virginia General Assembly, under Democratic control, passes a slew of historic bills on a wide variety of topics. It’s amazing, really, when you think about it, but in almost any other year, if the General Assembly had passed even *one* of the major pieces of legislation they passed in 2020, it would have been considered a major accomplishment, if not historic. This time was different, though, with Democrats taking control in January 2020, passing dozens of pieces of major legislation, then…having the COVID-19 pandemic hit and taking everyone’s attention away from what they just accomplished. For the record, Democrats accomplished a TON in the regular session, as well as in the special session this fall – see Virginia House Democrats Applaud Their Landmark Legislation Becoming Law, Virginia House Democrats Celebrate Historic Legislative Accomplishments, VA House Democrats Celebrate Passage of Crucial Legislation, etc. – on areas ranging from clean energy to LGBTQ equality to voting rights to criminal justice and policing reform to ratifying the ERA to COVID-19 relief to gun violence prevention to raising the minimum wage to…you name it, basically. And yes, elections really do have consequences!
  14. Virginia voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 despite opposition by most Virginia House Dems, the Democratic Party of Virginia, etc. In the end, after much debate and opposition by the Democratic Party of Virginia and numerous large local Democratic committees, the “redistricting amendment” (Amendment 1) passed 66%-34%, which obviously wasn’t even close. So now we’ll see how it works out, and whether the advocates or those of us who opposed the amendment’s passage end up being vindicated (or not).
  15. COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic dominated Virginia in many ways in 2020, and of course impacted our politics. Among other things, COVID-19 resulted in major economic and budgetary hits, shutting down many schools and businesses, as well as significantly changing the way politicians campaign (virtually, for the most part) and the way we vote (heavily early/by-mail). Another impact of COVID-19 was to change the way our legislature operates, as the House of Delegates went mostly “virtual” and the State Senate moved to a different locale where it could “socially distance.” Meanwhile, Gov. Northam – who also, of course, is a medical doctor – held numerous press conferences to update the state on the pandemic, while imposing a statewide stay-at-home order in late March, then moving the state into phased reopening, etc. All in all, COVID-19 had a massive impact on Virginia in 2020, in pretty much every area of our lives.
  16. Dominion Energy cancels the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but the Mountain Valley Pipeline goes on: After years of planning, building and determined opposition to Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline multi-billion fracked-gas project, on July 5 Dominion and Duke suddenly announced that they were pulling the plug. That was great news, obviously, and somewhat unexpected, although perhaps it shouldn’t have been, given the rapidly shifting economics of energy (e.g., wind and solar costs plummeting) and also passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act in the 2020 General Assembly session. With the “ACP” gone, now it’s time to deep-six the “MVP” (Mountain Valley Pipeline) as well, because the fact is, given the climate crisis, scientists are very clear that we need to stop building any new fossil fuel projects and to rapidly transition away from the ones we have. So let’s do it already!
  17. Democrat Jody Wagner lost her bid to become Virginia Beach Mayor; Republican Bobby Dyer reelected: Most results of the November 2020 elections here in Virginia were good for Democrats, but not this one, with Democrat Jody Wagner losing to Mayor Bobby Dyer (R) by about 8 points (51.6%-43.8%)…even as Joe Biden carried Virginia Beach by over 5 points (51.6%-46.2%). So clearly, there were some Biden/Dyer voters in Virginia Beach…
  18. Democrats nominated their candidates for Congress in VA01, VA05. In June, Qasim Rashid defeated 2018 nominee Vangie Williams (52.5%-47.5%) for the VA01 Democratic nomination, while Dr. Cameron Webb romped over three Democratic opponents with an incredibly impressive 66.6% of the vote (Claire Russo finished second with 18.2%, followed by RD Huffstetler with 9.9% and John Lesinski with 5.4%). Unfortunately, both Rashid and Webb went on to lose in November, despite running very strong races…but in districts with “red” leans that were too tough to overcome.
  19. It was bumpy along the way, but Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is easily reelected to a second term: It was a rough year in many ways for Richmond and for its mayor, Levar Stoney – see Live Blog: Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to Address Protesters – “I want to say sorry. I want to listen”; etc. – but in the end, Stoney won reelection relatively handily, with 37.7% of the vote against Alexsis Rodgers (26.5%), Kimberly Gray (26.1%) and Justin Griffin (7.1%). With his reelection, by the way, the question is what Stoney will run for next…and when. My bet is that he’ll run statewide in 2025, unless a U.S. House seat opens up, in which case he might go for that. Stay tuned…
  20. Jerry Falwell, Jr./Liberty University. This was quite a saga in 2020 –  Jerry Falwell took an indefinite leave of absence from Liberty following sex scandals (including the infamous “pool boy”); Liberty appointed an acting presidentFalwell agreed to resign (then reversed course); Falwell sued Liberty for defamation; etc. And now, it’s reportedly possible that VP Mike Pence could end up as the next Liberty University president. We’ll see about that in 2021, but for 2020, it was a wild ride for Liberty University and its now former president, Jerry Falwell, Jr.
  21. The 2021 Lt. Governor Republican field shapes up: Virginia’s a tough state for Republicans these days, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re not going to try and win back power.  For Lt. Governor, so far we’ve got Del. Glenn Davis (announced on September 10) and former Del. Tim Hugo (announced on August 18), plus Lance Allen and Puneet Ahluwalia. I’m betting that Hugo wins this one, but we’ll see.
  22. The 2021 Lt. Governor Democratic field shapes up: A slew of Democrats (seven so far), with a wide variety of backgrounds, views, ideologies, etc., are vying for the LG nomination — Del. Sam Rasoul, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, Del. Hala Ayala, Sean Perryman, Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan, Paul Goldman and Xavier Warren. I have absolutely no idea who will win this one, especially given that there’s on Ranked Choice Voting, which means all someone needs to do is win a plurality, however small. And yes, we really do need Ranked Choice Voting in Virginia – ASAP.
  23. Charges against Virginia President pro tempore Louise Lucas, 18 others, dismissed. This whole story was so strange – see BREAKING: Charges Against State Sen. Louise Lucas, 18 Others, Dismissed (Also, Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene fired); Weeks After Announcing Felony Charges Against Sen. Louise Lucas and Others in Confederate Monument Case, Portsmouth Police Chief *Removed* From Her Position; BREAKING: Portsmouth Police Chief Announces Felony Arrest Warrants for Virginia Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (“Lucas and others are asked to turn themselves in; warrants relate to protests over Confederate monument in June”). Crazy times in Portsmouth, but it mostly ended well…
  24. An offshore wind industry began to take root off Virginia’s southeastern coast. It’s taken too long, and there are issues with how Dominion energy is approaching this, but still…it’s great to see an offshore wind industry FINALLY start to get moving off the coast of Hampton Roads. Also…no, this isn’t a political story per se, but it’s come about as a result of politics (e.g., passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act) and other factors – economics, the urgent need to deal with the climate crisis, etc., plus it’s highly significant for Virginia’s future, so I think it’s worth putting on this  list. See Major Clean Energy Milestone: Virginia’s First Offshore Wind Installed; Dominion Takes Step in Establishing Offshore Wind Industry: Contracts for Construction/Services Ship; etc. for background…and go clean energy!
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