Home 2022 Elections 2022 Shaping Up to Be the Quietest Year in Virginia Politics Since…1998?

2022 Shaping Up to Be the Quietest Year in Virginia Politics Since…1998?

A quick stroll down memory lane, for Virginia elections back to 1990...

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With the Virginia General Assembly session mostly concluded (the “reconvene” session still has to finalize the budget, of course), and with the initial backlash to Glenn Youngkin’s governorship subsiding, things are VERY quiet in Virginia politics right now. As for the rest of 2022, it’s also shaping up to be quiet, politically speaking, in Virginia, with:

  • No statewide elections – for president, US Senate, governor, LG or AG.
  • No elections for either Virginia House of Delegates (barring a very unlikely decision by the courts to order them this year) or the State Senate (those elections will be held next year, of course).
  • Very few “top-tier” US House races…one for sure in VA02, with another possible in VA07, and a couple other borderline competitive districts (VA10? VA05?).
  • A divided General Assembly, which means a lot of stalemate there…certainly NOT a slew of conservative or progressive legislation.

All this got me to thinking about the last time there was such a “quiet” year politically in Virginia. So…let’s take a quick trip down ol’ memory lane, with quick synopses of what went down in Virginia election years going back to 1990!

  • 2021:  Statewide Democratic and Republican nominating contests, plus general elections for governor (Glenn Youngkin narrowly defeating Terry McAuliffe 50.6%-48.6%), Lt. Governor (Winsome Sears defeating Hala Ayala 50.7%-49.2%), Attorney General (Jason Miyares defeating Mark Herring 50.4%-49.6%); House of Delegates elections. The first election with Trump out of the White House and…not surprisingly, Republicans surged back, although only enough to barely defeat Democrats, indicating that despite this setback, Virginia has trended in the “blue” direction the past few years.
  • 2020: Presidential Democratic primary plus general election (Joe Biden defeating Donald Trump by 10 points); US Senate election (Mark Warner defeating Daniel Gade by 12 points); several primaries and nominating contests plus general elections for US House (including some highly competitive races in VA02, VA05 and VA07). The final election (hopefully EVER!) with Trump in the White House, and also the first election held during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as with much more convenient early voting rules.
  • 2019: Primaries and general elections for Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate; numerous elections for local offices. Democrats take back the State Senate and House of Delegates.
  • 2018: Republican primary for US Senate (Corey Stewart vs. Nick Freitas and EW Jackson); general election for US Senate (Tim Kaine defeating Corey Stewart by 16 points); primaries and general elections for US House (including several highly competitive ones, such as in VA02, VA05, VA07, VA10…). Another “blue wave”/anti-Trump election year in Virginia, and  also nationwide.
  • 2017: Statewide primaries and general elections for governor (Ralph Northam defeating Ed Gillespie by 8.9 points), Lt. Governor (Justin Fairfax defeating Jill Vogel by 5.5 points), Attorney General (Mark Herring defeating John Adams by 6.7 points); primaries and general elections for Virginia House of Delegates. This was, of course, the first statewide election following Trump becoming president, and the beginning of the four-year “resistance” and “blue wave” elections, with Democrats sweeping the three statewide offices in Virginia and also nearly taking back the House of Delegates.
  • 2016: Presidential primaries and general election (Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump by 5.3 points); primaries and general elections for US House (including a highly competitive one in VA02)
  • 2015: Primaries and general elections for State Senate and House of Delegates, plus important local offices.
  • 2014: General election for US Senate (Mark Warner defeating Ed Gillespie by 0.8 points); primaries and general elections for US House (an interesting one was in VA08, with 10 Democratic candidates facing off to succeed Jim Moran). A very bad year/low turnout for Democrats, with Mark Warner almost losing to Ed Gillespie, in another “Tea Party” election year. This was also the year that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor shockingly lost the Republican primary to far-right upstart Dave Brat; a clear sign of where the Republican Party was heading…in an extremist direction.
  • 2013: Statewide primaries and general elections for governor (Terry McAuliffe defeating Ken Cuccinelli by 2.5 points), Lt. Governor (Ralph Northam defeating EW Jackson by 10.6 points) and AG (Mark Herring defeating Mark Obenshain by 165 votes); primary and general elections for Virginia House of Delegates. Virginia Democrats break the curse of losing statewide when a Democrat is in the White House, but not by a lot…against what was called the “extreme team” of Republicans
  • 2012: Presidential election (Barack Obama defeating Mitt Romney by 3.9 points), US Senate GOP primary (George Allen vs. Jamie Radtke, Bob Marshall, EW Jackson) and general election (Tim Kaine defeating George Allen by 5.9 points); primaries and general elections for US House.
  • 2011: Primaries and general elections for Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, plus important local offices. (Note: see To What Extent Might Virginia’s Off/Odd-Year 2023 Elections Look Like the Off/Odd-Year 2011 Elections?)
  • 2010: No statewide elections this “Tea Party” election year, but some interesting races for US House (e.g., Republican Scott Rigell vs. Democrat Glenn Nye in VA02, Republican Robert Hurt vs. Democrat Tom Perriello in VA05, Republican Morgan Griffith vs. Democrat Rick Boucher in VA09, Republican Keith Fimian vs. Democrat Gerry Connolly in VA11). Horrible year for Democrats, with Nye, Perriello and Boucher all losing, and Connolly almost losing.
  • 2009: Statewide primary and general elections for governor (Bob McDonnell defeating Creigh Deeds by 17.3 points), Lt. Governor (Bill Bolling defeating Jody Wagner by 13.1 points) and AG (Ken Cuccinelli defeating Steve Shannon by 15.1 points); primaries and general elections for House of Delegates. Horrible year for Democrats.
  • 2008: Presidential election (Barack Obama defeating John McCain by 6.3 points); US Senate election (Mark Warner defeating Jim Gilmore by 31.3 points)
  • 2007: Primaries and general elections for House of Delegates and State Senate, plus important local offices.
  • 2006: US Senate Democratic primary (Jim Webb vs. Harris Miller); US Senate general election (Democrat Jim Webb defeating Republican George Allen by 0.4 points); US House primaries and general elections. This election was held at a time when President Bush’s approval ratings were really sagging, due to the Iraq War and to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe in August 2005. Also, of course, there was the infamous “macaca” incident with George Allen, the “ragtag army” of Webb volunteers, etc. Read more about this election in my book coauthored with Nate Wilcox, Netroots Rising, if you’re interested!
  • 2005: Statewide races for governor (Tim Kaine defeating Jerry Kilgore by 5.7 points), Lt. Governor (Republican Bill Bolling defeating Democrat Leslie Byrne by 1.2 points), Attorney General (Republican Bob McDonnell defeating Democrat Creigh Deeds by 0.1 points); House of Delegates elections. This election was held at a time when President Bush’s approval ratings were really sagging, due to the Iraq War and to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe that August.
  • 2004: Presidential primaries and general election (George W. Bush defeating John Kerry by 8.2 points); US House primaries and general elections. It’s amazing how, as recently as 2004, Virginia seemed to be a solid “red” state in presidential elections!
  • 2003: Primaries and general elections for House of Delegates and State Senate, plus important local offices.
  • 2002: U.S. Senate election…John Warner not contested by the Democrats, but by two independent candidates; US House races. Warner, not surprisingly, won by a massive margin.
  • 2001: Statewide primaries and general elections for governor (Mark Warner defeating Republican Mark Earley by 5.2 points), Lt. Governor (Tim Kaine defeating Republican Jay Katzen by 2.2 points, after narrowly winning the Democratic nomination over Alan Diamonstein and Jerrauld Jones), Attorney General (Democrat Donald McEachin vs. Republican Jerry Kilgore, the latter winning 60%-39.9%); House of Delegates elections.
  • 2000: Presidential primary and general election (George W. Bush defeating Al Gore by 8.1 points); US Senate election (Republican George Allen defeating Democrat Chuck Robb 52.3%-47.7%); US House races. Virginia a solid-“red” state for president just 22 years ago, yet a year later, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine would both be elected statewide.
  • 1999: Primaries and general elections for House of Delegates and State Senate, plus important local offices.
  • 1998: No statewide elections; US House races.
  • 1997: Statewide races for governor (Republican Jim Gilmore defeating Democrat Don Beyer 55.8%-42.6%), Lt. Governor (Republican John Hager defeating Democrat LF Payne 50.2%-45.1%), Attorney General (Republican Mark Earley defeating Democrat William Dolan 57.5%-42.4%); House of Delegates elections. Interesting how voters split their tickets in this election…something that really doesn’t happen much anymore.
  • 1996: Presidential election (Bob Dole defeating Bill Clinton by 2 points); US Senate primary and general elections (Republican John Warner defeating Democrat Mark Warner by 5.1 points); US House races. A fairly close race for president, with the southerner – Bill Clinton – almost beating Bob Dole…a vestige of “old Virginny” and “southern Democrats.”
  • 1995: Primaries and general elections for House of Delegates and State Senate, plus important local offices.
  • 1994: US Senate Democratic primary (Chuck Robb defeats Virgil Goode 57.9%-33.9%) and general election (Democrat Chuck Robb defeats Republican Ollie North and Independent J. Marshall Coleman 45.6%-42.9%-11.4%); US House elections. Thank goodness for Marshall Coleman, or it’s quite possible we could have had – gasp! – Senator Ollie North.
  • 1993: Statewide races for governor (Republican George Allen defeating Democrat Mary Sue Terry 58.3%-40.9%), Lt. Governor (Democrat Don Beyer defeating Republican Michael Farris 54.5%-45.5%), Attorney General (Republican Jim Gilmore defeating Democrat William Dolan 56.1%-43.9%); House of Delegates elections. It’s amazing to think that Terry held an 18-point polling lead over Allen in June of this year…then collapsed. Also interesting is that voters split their tickets, going for Democrat Don Beyer for LG by 9 points but strongly Republican for the other two statewide offices. That definitely doesn’t happen anymore in Virginia.
  • 1992: Presidential election (George HW Bush defeating Bill Clinton and Ross Perot 45.0%-40.6%-13.6%); US House elections. Interesting that, despite a relatively conservative, “Southern Democrat” for president (who ended up winning the national election), Virginia still went for the Republican, George HW Bush.
  • 1991: Primaries and general elections for House of Delegates and State Senate, plus important local offices.
  • 1990: US Senate election (Republican John Warner defeats Independent Nancy Spannaus 80.9%-18.2%); US House races.

In sum, the last year this “quiet” politically in Virginia was 2010, although that was an active year with the “Tea Party” raging, and also with three Democratic incumbents (Glenn Nye, Tom Perriello, Morgan Griffith) lost their reelections. Prior to that, the “quietest” year politically was 1998, with no statewide elections and some mostly non-memorable and non-competitive US House elections.

As for 2022, again, there are no statewide elections being held, as well as no elections for the Virginia General Assembly (unless courts intervene and order elections for House of Delegates – very unlikely to happen), and with very few interesting US House races (according to FiveThirtyEight.com, the two most competitive seats are VA02 and VA07, with VA10 also being potentially competitive in a “red wave” election year). Of course, if Democrats want to NOT repeat the disasters of 2014 and 2010, we’d better make sure we are NOT asleep at the wheel, but instead turn out in large numbers this November to reelect Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA02), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10)…

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