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22 for 2022: Here Are 22 Things to Keep an Eye On as Virginia Heads Into 2022

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See below for a list of 22 things to keep an eye on as Virginia heads into 2022. Of course, this list is NOT exhaustive, so feel free to add your suggestions, in the comments section. Thanks, and happy New Year!

  1. After running a campaign during which he (appallingly) stated that he was *honored* to receive Trump’s endorsement, and even (bizarrely) claimed that “President Trump represents so much of why I’m running” (what, the corruption? the authoritarianism? the completely disregard for the rule of law? the contempt for democracy? the incompetence? other?), will Glenn Youngkin look to govern Virginia as: a) someone who looks to Trump and Trumpism (e.g., Florida’s appalling bad governor Ron DeSantis) as a model; b) someone who was mostly *pretending* to be a Trump fan in order to gain right-wing support, but instead will govern as a *relatively* sane, albeit conservative, Republican (you know, the kind we used to have in this country); c) a center-right, pragmatic business guy (more like he was at the Carlyle Group?); d) some other option? Based on his early Cabinet picks, and also the fact that he’s got a narrowly divided legislature to deal with, I’m guessing Youngkin will probably be closer to “b” than to “a,” with maybe some aspects of “c.”  Of course, if Youngkin is running for Vice President in 2024 (he’s be a potential pick for his buddy Ted Cruz, or possibly for Trump or Ron DeSantis), he might feel the need to govern more to the hard right, in order to position himself for that (alternately, in a sane world, he’d want to build up a record of accomplishment and competence…but that’s not what today’s Republican Party cares about, clearly). What do you think?
  2. Speaking of Youngkin’s Cabinet picks, so far he’s only announced three – who else will he end up going with? So far, Youngkin has named Aimee Rogstad Guidera as Secretary of Education, Caren Merrick as Secretary of Commerce and Steve Cummings as Secretary of Finance. None of them appear to be hard-right Trumpist types, but there are still a slew of Cabinet picks left for Youngkin if he wants to move hard right. For instance, will Youngkin pick a hardline on criminal justice issues as Secretary of Public Safety And Homeland Security? Will Youngkin even have a Chief Diversity Officer at all? Will Youngkin go anti-environment with his Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources pick? Will he go anti-union/anti-labor with his Secretary of Labor pick? etc.
  3. Will Youngkin start appointing “Big Lie”/anti-democracy/”election integrity” (in air quotes) people to the State Board of Elections and to local electoral boards? This will be an early indicator for how Trumpist and/or hard-right Youngkin will end up being. Also, as we saw in 2020, these positions have become *extremely* important, at a time when Trump and his minions are attempting to subvert U.S. democracy. The question is, will Youngkin go along, or will he appoint serious, knowledgeable, competent people (who respect the constitution and the rule of law) to electoral boards?
  4. Now that we’ve got new lines for Virginia’s US House of Representatives’ districts, how will things play out in the November general elections? Will Democrats be able to maintain their current, 7-4 edge in the delegation? Will Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA02), who’s almost certainly the most vulnerable Democrat under these new lines, be able to hang on? How about Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10)? Is there any chance of a Republican incumbent possibly losing in November, or are they all in safe seats now? Finally, will we see a “red wave,” “blue wave,” or more of a “wash” next November? Given how far right the Republican Party has gone, the country’s future really depends on it…
  5. Before we get to November, how will Democratic and Republican primaries for U.S. House nominations play out? There are a bunch of these, all over the Commonwealth, so we’ll break them out by district (see below).
  6. Will Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07) mostly “clear the field” in the newly configured VA07, or will she face serious competition for the nomination there? Which republican will win the VA07 nomination – State Sen. Bryce Reeves? Prince William County Supervisor Yeslie Vega? Other?
  7. Who will win the VA02 GOP nomination to take on Rep. Elaine Luria (D) – conservative State Sen. Jen Kiggans or VERY right-wing Jarome Bell (or someone else)? And who would Rep. Luria rather face in November?
  8. Will Trumpist State Sen. Amanda Chase (R) primary Rep. Rob Wittman (R) in VA01? If so, who would win that?
  9. Which Republican will win the primary to take on Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) in VA10? Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson? Manassas Council member Teresa Coates Ellis? Other?
  10. Who will Democrats nominate in VA01 to take on Rep. Rob Wittman (R), in VA05 to take on Rep. Bob Good (R), in VA06 to take on Rep. Ben Cline (R), and in VA09 to take on Rep. Morgan Griffith (R)? These “red” districts are highly unlikely to be winnable for Democrats in 2022, but it’s still important to challenge Trumpists like Wittman, Good, Cline and Griffith, and to make the case why the people of their districts would be FAR better represented by a Democrat…
  11. Will any Democratic incumbents (other than Abigail Spanberger, who we’ve already discussed) face serious primary challenges this year? (Currently, VPAP lists a Democratic challenger – Victoria Virasingh – for Rep. Don Beyer in VA08, and a Democratic challenger – Ally Dalsimer – for Rep. Gerry Connolly in VA11)
  12.  Will courts order new House of Delegates elections in 2022, under newly drawn district lines, or will that wait until 2023? If we DO end up having House of Delegates elections in 2022, what will happen with all the incumbents who were paired or tripled up? Will most move or retire? Will we see a ton of primaries? And if the latter, will we see Republicans continue to move to the far right? Will Democratic voters – who in 2021 nominated a relatively “moderate” statewide ticket of Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala and Mark Herring, stay in the “center-left”…or move more in the progressive direction? Finally, will Democrats be able to pick up three seats to take back control of the House of Delegates? Or will Democrats stay about the same (at 48 seats) or even lose one or two more? Stay tuned…
  13.  Having lost their “trifecta,” the governorship, the LG and AG’s offices, and the House of Delegates, who will step up to fill Virginia Democrats’ power vacuum? Obviously, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are important leaders for Virginia Democrats – and for Virginia more generally – but they’re also just a wee bit busy in the US Senate, so I’m not sure how much time/energy they’ve got to be focusing on leading Virginia Democrats. As for Gov. Northam, it sounds like he will mostly be returning to his medical practice, so we’ll see how involved in Virginia politics he is after he leaves the Governor’s Mansion. So who else might step up to fill Virginia Democrats’ leadership vacuum next year?
  14.  Along those same lines, what will happen with the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA), now that Democrats don’t have a governor in power or a gubernatorial nominee on the ballot? Will there be major changes in how DPVA operates? How will fundraising go? Will DPVA Chair Susan Swecker and Executive Director Andrew Whitley stick around, or will there be new leadership coming on board in 2022?
  15. Given Republicans’ narrow majority (52-48) in the Virginia House of Delegates, and with a 21-19 Democratic edge in the State Senate, how will soon-to-be Speaker Todd Gilbert (R) handle his new job? Will he try to rein in the crazies (and there are a LOT of those!) in his caucus…or will he give them free rein, whether because he agrees with them or because he has no choice in the matter? Will he try to actually govern in a reasonable, sane way, or will he push to repeal anything/everything he possibly can from the past two years, during which time Democrats passed HUNDREDS of pieces of progressive and environmental legislation? We’ll start to find out very soon, as the regular session of the Virginia General Assembly kicks off on January 12, 2022.
  16. How will the Democrats’ loss of the governorship and the House of Delegates impact the Virginia Supreme Court – and other courts, as well as important bodies like the State Corporation Commission – going forward? This could be one of the worst consequences of Democrats’ losses in November 2021; the question is, how bad are we talking about?
  17. Will Virginia House and Senate Democrats hang together, or will they “hang separately,” as the famous saying by Ben Franklin goes? This will be a real test for the leadership skills of House Democratic Leader Filler-Corn and her leadership team, as well as for Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw and his team. The danger is that on any specific issue, one or two Democratic State Senators could defect, resulting in Republicans being able to push their legislation through, possibly with the tie-breaking vote of Lt. Governor Winsome Sears. The question is, will Senate Democrats be able to maintain their unity, or will one or two Senators – just as we’ve seen in the US Senate with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on voting rights and “Build Back Better” – be able to derail things? And on the Republican side, will they all vote in lockstep, or might there be some defections on specific issues as well? We’ll see…
  18. Will Jason Miyares (R) actually try to be a serious, professional Attorney General, or will he continue to mostly focus on social media trolling, hard-right rhetoric to “own the libs,” and hard-line/”tough-on-crime” policies that actually make Virginians *less* safe? In other words, will he be an AG more like the faaaar-right Ken Cuccinelli, or more like a relatively sane Republican AG such as Jerry Kilgore or even Bob McDonnell? I’m betting on the Cuccinelli option, but we’ll find out soon enough…
  19. How will Winsome Sears (R) handle her new role as Lt. Governor? Will she tone down her right-wing rhetoric somewhat and mostly stick to running the State Senate smoothly and professionally, or will she use that office as a platform for hard-right policies/rhetoric and possibly for her own political future? We’ll see…
  20.  What will the 2021 Democratic candidates for statewide office do next? Will Terry McAuliffe stay involved in Virginia politics, including getting involved in primaries, in fundraising and/or in helping Democrats win in November 2022? What will 2021 Democratic gubernatorial primary runner-ups Jennifer Carroll-Foy (maybe a run for Congress in VA07 or State Senate in the new SD33?) and Jennifer McClellan do next? Will Mark Herring play an active role in Virginia politics, or will he move on to something else (e.g., the private sector)? What will LG Justin Fairfax do next? How about the Democratic candidates for LG – Hala Ayala (maybe a run for State Senate from the new SD33?), Andria McClellan, Mark Levine, Sam Rasoul, Sean Perryman, Xavier Warren, etc? Del. Jay Jones, who got 43.4% of the vote in his primary run against AG Mark Herring, and who is now retiring from the House of Delegates?
  21. What will the 2021 Republican candidates for statewide office do next? Pete Snyder’s been very quiet since he finished second to Glenn Youngkin for the VA GOP gubernatorial nomination last May 8th; will he stay involved in Virginia politics in some way? How about Kirk Cox? Same question for the VA GOP’s 2021 Lt. Governor candidates and AG candidates.
  22. What will Gov. Ralph Northam’s Cabinet members  – and people who thought they would be in Terry McAuliffe’s Cabinet – end up doing? For instance, will Brian Moran – a former delegate who ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2009, then served two terms as Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security – stay involved/engaged in Virginia politics? How about Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, who had previously run for House of Delegates and State Senate? Northam’s Chief of Staff, Clark Mercer (he’s in his early 40s, is very talented and could certainly have Virginia political aspirations). How about Mercer’s wife, Kelly Thomason, who has served as Secretary of the Commonwealth since 2016 (where she has restored more rights than anyone in US history *and* was named Top 40 Under 40 by Style Weekly in 2017)? Janice Underwood, who served as Gov. Northam’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer? Secretary of Labor Megan Healy? Others?
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