Home 2022 Elections Political Winners and Losers: Virginia Elections 2022

Political Winners and Losers: Virginia Elections 2022

910
3

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 if you’d like. 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 the greatest (or 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. Also, the lists aren’t in any particular order, except of course for the biggest loser from this election, which you can see below and is VERY obvious. 😉

Oh, one more thing – I’ve always asked people for their opinions, so some 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. LOL

Winners

1. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07): In addition to being reelected to her third term in the U.S. House, against a very tough challenge from far-right Republican Yesli Vega, people are already talking about Rep. Abigail Spanberger as a possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2025. Of course, Spanberger first has to win reelection to the House in 2024, but that will be a presidential election year, so it’s highly likely Spanberger will do so. Also interesting is how not debating Vega – whether you think that was a good or bad decision, and whoever you blame for it (personally, I think Vega’s conditions in terms of moderator, etc. were not reasonable) – didn’t seem to hurt Spanberger. Nor did the fact that Spanberger was running in areas, particularly Prince William County, which she hadn’t represented and wasn’t well known. All in all, a very impressive reelection for Spanberger, who seems to specialize in nail-biting, heart-stopping, tight election victories.

2. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10): Wexton’s district is a bit “bluer” than Spanberger’s, and in the end Wexton won by six points (over VERY right-wing Republican Hung Cao), while Spanberger won by four points. With this win, Wexton hasn’t lost an election since 2011, when she was narrowly defeated for Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney by Republican Jim Plowman. Wexton was then elected to the State Senate in January 2014 (replacing Mark Herring, who had been elected AG), was reelected in November 2015, then elected to the U.S. House in November 2018, defeating Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) by 12 points. 

3. Women’s Reproductive Health Care/Freedom: The “Dobbs” decision by the far-right Supreme Court last spring, overturning decades of settled precedent (Roe v Wade) and throwing women’s bodily autonomy into serious question was horrendous, but it DID energize women into taking the midterm elections deadly seriously and causing them to turn out in droves. This surge in energy presumably played a major role in beating back the usual “midterm curse,” and propelling Democrats to a far-better-than-the-media-expected election night. Also, as a (female) Virginia political activists put it to me, it’s quite possible that if Youngkin had run post-Dobbs, he would have lost. It’s also quite possible that Yesli Vega could have won in VA07 (although her comments about rape and pregnancy were damaging, regardless) if the Supreme Court hadn’t issued the Dobbs decision. Anyway, the bottom line is that women’s reproductive health care/freedom were VERY much on the ballot this election, front and center in the national conversation – where they always should be!

4. Poll workers, elections officials, democracy: These jobs are crucially important to the functioning of our democracy, yet appallingly, these dedicated public servants have been subject to vitriol, even threats, from the far right in recent years. So it’s worth taking a moment to thank these people for keeping our elections running smoothly – fairly, transparently, etc!

5. U.S. House incumbents in safe districts: Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA01), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA03), Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA04), Rep. Bob Good (R-VA05), Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA06), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA08), Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA09), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA11) – all in safe “blue” or “red” districts – cruised to victory, with none of them even breaking a sweat.  Wait, wasn’t the redistricting amendment supposed to result in a bunch more competitive US House districts in Virginia? Uhhh…apparently not!

6. Hampton City Council member-elect Martha Mugler (D): Mugler was elected to the House of Delegates in 2019, served two years, then lost by fewer than 100 votes in 2021 down-ballot from the governor’s race that year. Now, Mugler has returned victorious, winning a seat on the Hampton City Council – finishing first, with 30.3% of the vote, in a field of five candidates. Good luck on the Council to Martha Mugler, and maybe we’ll see her back in the House of Delegates sometime as well?

7. Ben Tribbett/”Pocket Aces”: Aside from calling Virginia election results faster than anyone else, Ben Tribbett and his political firm, “Pocket Aces” worked with two winning candidates – Phil Jones (who won the Newport News mayor’s race) and Catherine Read (won won the Fairfax City mayor’s race) – this cycle. See below for more on them, and congratulations!

8. Newport News Mayor-elect Phillip Jones: Only 33 years old, and having never held public office before, Jones – who, as former Gov. Terry McAuliffe said, “has dedicated his life to service from the U.S. Naval Academy to the Marine Corps” – “outraised his opponents combined by more than $116,000” and won 40.3% of the vote in a four-way race to become mayor of “the fourth largest city in Virginia with nearly 180,000 people.” Congratulations!

9. Fairfax City Mayor-elect Catherine Read: Long-time Democratic activist Catherine Read defeated the heavily-funded-by-Republicans (including Glenn Youngkin) Sang Yi, becoming Fairfax City’s first-ever female mayor – very cool! Also note that Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA11) was smart enough to recruit Read into the race, so he joins Catherine Read in this “winners” entry.

10. Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti, “Missing Middle” housing: Prior to the election, there was chatter about how de Ferranti was worried about possibly losing, or only just scraping by with a win, due to some loud – although how numerous, we don’t really know – opposition to the “Missing Middle” housing proposal (which isn’t fleshed out yet, but just the discussion of it has stirred up anger among opponents). There was even some chatter about how the County Board race had become a sort of referendum on “Missing Middle” (which aims to increase the stock of different types of housing – duplexes, triplexes, etc. – besides single-family homes and high-rise apartment buildings in Arlington). Former County Board member John Vihstadt, a Republican who labels himself as an independent, all but endorsed de Ferranti’s main opponent, perennial candidate Audrey Clement. In the end, de Ferranti won overwhelmingly (68%-21%), which could indicate that, perhaps, opposition to “Missing Middle” is vocal but not particularly numerous, or perhaps that de Ferranti has found the elusive “middle” on “Missing Middle?” Either way, both came out of this election as winners politically.  (Also, note that the two candidates who supported “Missing Middle” to one degree or the other – Matt de Ferranti and Adam Theo – got a combined 70%+ of the vote.)

11. School Board and City Council winners:  There were several School Board and City Council races. Congrats to winners such as Erika Ogedegbe for Loudoun County School Board; Luke Priddy, Joe Cobb, Vivian Sanches-Jones and Peter Volosin for Roanoke City Council; Kimberly Melnyk for Virginia Beach School Board; etc.

12. Election Pollsters/”Crystal Ball” (not to be confused with pundits, who I’ll list later in the “loser” category): Just prior to election day, The Economist’s US House model had Jen Kiggans as the slight favorite (54% chance of winning) in VA02; Rep. Abigail Spanberger as the favorite (65% chance of winning) in VA07; and Rep. Jennifer Wexton the strong favorite (92% chance of winning) in VA10, with every other district as non-competitive. So that pretty much nailed it. As for the FiveThirtyEight US House “deluxe” model, it had has Jen Kiggans with a 52% chance in VA02, Rep. Spanberger with a 72% chance in VA07, and Rep. Wexton with a 93% chance in VA10. So that pretty much nailed it as well.  And the UVA Center for Politics “Crystal Ball” correctly had VA10 likely D, VA07 leaning D and VA02 leaning R. Here in Virginia at least, there were very few quality/non-partisan polls, with CNU’s 10/18 poll calling VA02 a tie between Jen Kiggans and Elaine Luria. Other than that, it was mostly Republican polls this fall, with “RRH Elections” finding Spanberger and Vega tied at 47% each, and with “OnMessage” pegging the VA10 race as very tight (a 2-point lead for Wexton over Cao).

13. The State Board of Elections and VPAP websites on election night: They both worked smoothly, which wasn’t always the case in past years, and were VERY helpful. Nice job!

Mixed

1. Virginia Democrats: On a winning streak from 2013 through 2020, Virginia Democrats hit a major speed bump in 2021, with the disastrous losses in elections for governor, LG, AG and House of Delegates. However, Virginia Democrats take a licking and keep on ticking, and this year, got to celebrate a bunch of wins, albeit along with one big loss (Rep. Elaine Luria, who lost largely due to redistricting).

2. Virginia Republicans: Conversely, the VA GOP suffered loss after loss from 2013 through 2020, then celebrated in 2021. This election, they had one big win – Jen Kiggans in VA02 – but other than that, it wasn’t a great day for VA GOP Chair Rich Anderson et al, with big losses in VA07 and VA10 plus the Fairfax City mayor’s race. This, a year after Virginia Republicans won all three statewide offices and took back the House of Delegates. We’ll see if that marked any sort of durable shift in Virginia politics, or was simply a “one-off”/fluke, due to a specific an probably unrepeatable set of circumstances.

3. Democrats who ran in deep-red districts, even though those districts are likely not winnable, barring a “blue tsunami”: I’m thinking specifically of Democrats Herb Jones in VA01, Josh Throneburg in VA05, Jennifer Lewis in VA06 and Taysha DeVaughan in VA09. Given the way those districts are structured, they are – to varying degrees – deep “red” and therefore not, realistically speaking, winnable, barring some sort of “blue tsunami.” Still, it’s important that the right-wing Republicans misrepresenting their districts be challenged, so thanks to everyone who stepped up to do that, even if the end result wasn’t victory on election day.

Losers

1. Glenn Youngkin: Instead of doing the job he was hired by voters to do, Glenn Youngkin spent much of the past few months running around the country – as well as Virginia – in support of far-right-extremist candidates. And the fruits of his labors were mostly losses. Here in Virginia, Youngkin spent a lot of time, energy and money helping out Republicans like: Fairfax City Mayoral candidate Sang Yi (LOST to Democrat Catherine Read); VA08 GOP nominee Karina Lipsman (got CRUSHED as expected, losing by 48 points to Rep. Don Beyer); VA11 GOP nominee Jim Myles (got CRUSHED, losing by 33 points to Rep. Gerry Connolly); VA10 GOP nominee Hung Cao (lost by 6 points to Rep. Jennifer Wexton); VA07 GOP nominee Yesli Vega (lost by 4 points to Rep. Abigail Spanberger); etc. And nationally, Youngkin campaigned for  Paul LePage in Maine (lost by 13 points to Democrat Janet Mills); Kari Lake in Arizona (race not decided yet, but she’s narrowly trailing Democrat Katie Hobbs at the moment), Lee Zeldin in New York (lost by ~5 points to Democrat Kathy Hochul), Tudor Dixon in Michigan (lost by about 10 points to Democrat Gretchen Whitmer), Derek Schmidt in Kansas (lost narrowly to Democrat Laura Kelly), Heidi Ganahl in Colorado (losing by 17 points or so to Democrat Jared Polis), Bob Stefanowski in Connecticut (lost by 12 points or so to Democrat Ned Lamont), Mark Ronchetti in New Mexico (lost by 6 points or so to Democrat Michele Lujan Grisham); Tim Michels in Wisconsin (lost by 3 points or so to Democrat Tony Evers); Christine Drazan in Oregon (race not decided yet, but she’s trailing Democrat Tina Kotek by a point with 67% reporting), etc. Great job, huh? So again, even as Youngkin’s not doing the job he’s supposed to be doing – governing Virginia competently – he’s been campaigning for extreme candidates, most of whom didn’t even win! In doing so, Youngkin trashed his (false) image as some sort of moderate, as well as his image as a winner. If that doesn’t qualify for the #1 ranking in the “political losers” category, I’m not sure what would.

1a. Red Vests: On a related note, a Democratic Virginia politico suggested that a “loser” was “red vests.” In traveling around the country, Youngkin gave out those red vests to the candidates he stumped for. But…why? What do those vests even mean? And is the whole “shtick” even helpful to Republican candidates, or to Youngkin himself (who seems mired in the 0%-1% range in polls of possible 2024 Republican presidential candidates).

1b. Youngkin’s campaign team: On another related note, it’s worth pointing out that Vega’s campaign was run by the Youngkin campaign team (“Axiom Strategies”), which described Vega as “a ‘perfect fit’ talent who can win in the Commonwealth’s most competitive areas.” Apparently not! LOL

2.Donald Trump: The orange fascist gets on this list for endorsing Yesli Vega in VA07, who…lost. Not that it bothers Trump to be on the LOSING side or to be called a LOSER, so we won’t call Trump a LOSER now will we? LOL

3. Ted Cruz: Glenn Youngkin’s BFF also stumped around the country, including here in Virginia for Yesli Vega, and…most of them lost (including Vega). Does this guy have political “juice” or what? Hahaha. It’s probably also worth mentioning Tulsi Gabbard (who campaigned for Vega as well) at this point, but on the other hand…why even waste a second talking about that cynical, grifting, amoral nutjob?

4. 2020 Virginia Redistricting Amendment: The ostensible points of this amendment were to increase competitiveness, make districts fairer and more reflective of their communities, etc. Except that’s not at all what happened. Instead, we still ended up with a bunch of noncompetitive (bright “red” or “blue”) districts – VA01, VA03, VA04, VA05, VA06, VA08, VA09 and VA11 – with just three competitive districts – VA02, VA07 and VA10 – none of which were particularly any “fairer,” more compact, more reflective of their communities, etc. than the previous districts. Oh, and thanks to the failure of Democrats to kill the redistricting amendment when they had a chance (several chances, actually), they instead decided to unilaterally disarm, ended up having two “special masters” – one of whom is a  HIGHLY partisan Republican who runs “RealClear Politics” (Sean Trende) – who drew district lines that basically screwed Rep. Elaine Luria, who ended up narrowly losing thanks almost 100% to the new district lines. Great stuff, huh?!? Aren’t you glad you listened to 1VA2021 et al and not to those of us (raises hand!) who warned, over and over again, that the redistricting amendment was fatally flawed?

7. Virginia newspapers’ and political pundits’ coverage of the Congressional races:  The political media in this country is generally abysmal, and the leadup to the 2022 midterm elections was sadly no exception. Unless, that is, you like relentless “horserace” coverage as opposed to substance, whitewashing of extremist Trump Republicans, constant false equivalence and “both sides” bulls***, relentless promotion of mindless narratives such as the supposed “red wave” coming or the inevitability of the party in the White House getting annihilated in midterm elections, cynical/jaded takes on everything, etc. As if that’s not bad enough, there was simply very little coverage of important races by local Virginia papers, with VPAP even calling out the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star (“the [once]-mighty daily has mustered only 1 article about the VA07 race”). Of course, there’s no reason to single out the Free Lance-Star, as there was minimal non-wire-service content at the Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press, Roanoke Times, Daily Progress, etc. about Congressional races in their areas. Now, the point of this isn’t to bash local newspapers, but simply to point out that they’ve been decimated by the destruction of their economic model starting (arguably) with the rise of CraigsList, Facebook, etc. However, there’s really no excuse for the Washington Post, which is owned by one of the richest guys in the world, to not be producing world-class (insightful, probing, etc.) journalism on the politics of their readership area. Yet the WaPo consistently fails to do that, for instance in 2021 acting as de facto stenographers instead of real journalists; whitewashing Glenn Youngkin as a “moderate” or “mystery date” or whatever. Anyway, it’s really frustrating that the media either can’t or won’t rise to the occasion at a time when our country BADLY needs them to do so. Sigh…

7a. Right-wing media: On a related note, right-wing media (Fox “News,” talk radio, Sinclair, etc.) in this election were blatantly on the side of Republican candidates, with WJLA TV7 de facto promoting Republican candidates like Yesli Vega and Hung Cao. At this point, they don’t even make a pretense of being “fair and balanced,” they’re just 100% in the tank for Republicans and against Democrats.

7b. WJLA’s interview with Del. Elizabeth Guzman: Related to item 7a, WJLA TV7 – a (right-wing) Sinclair station, which is pretty much all you need to know about it – relentlessly pushed a story, based on an interview they did with Del. Guzman, that supposedly Democrats basked legislation calling for arresting parents who don’t adequately support their LGBTQ kids. In fact, VA House Democratic Leader Don Scott immediately said that such a bill would be “Dead on Arrival,” while not a single Democrat said they supported such legislation (which never even made it out of committee when Democrats were in charge!), yet…on and on it went, fueled by WJLA’s slanted reporting, with the false argument that Democrats actually did support such legislation. Great “journalism,” huh? Anyway, we’ll see what political damage – if any – this does to Del. Guzman, who is rumored to be gearing up to run for State Senate next year.

8. State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City): Was pulling heavily for Republican mayoral candidate Sang Yi in Petersen’s home turf/power base of Fairfax City, and…lost, with Democrat Catherine Read – backed by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA11) – prevailing. It will be very interesting to see if Petersen draws a Democratic primary challenge in 2023, based on his numerous instances of not being progressive or even a Democratic loyalist.

9. Any connection between Republican candidates’ rhetoric and facts, the truth, reality, science, etc.: The rhetoric spewing out of Virginia Republican candidates this cycle was appalling – bizarre climate science denial and bashing of clean energy; unhinged/false comments about rape supposedly making it less likely a woman will get pregnant; outlandish and wildly false/irresponsible characterization of Democrats as “groomers”/”socialists”/evil/etc., 100% false claims about whose responsibility it is for inflation, gas prices, etc.; demagoguery on issues, such as the economy, without offering any plans of their owns; “Big Lie” promotion/election denial/refusal to state the simple fact that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election; expressing sympathy with and/or refusing to denounce the 1/6/21 violent insurrectionists; etc. We could go on all day with this, but you get the idea: one party (the Democratic Party) is based in reality, the other  (the Trumpist GOP) simply is not.

********************************************************


Sign up for the Blue Virginia weekly newsletter

Previous articleFairfax County School Board Member Laura Jane Cohen Announces Her Candidacy for New 15th VA House of Delegates District in Fairfax
Next articleThursday News: “America Dodged an Arrow”; Midterms’ Biggest Losers – Trump and “The Media”; “5 big GOP narratives just went down in flames”; “Biden cheers better-than-expected midterms results; Youngkin’s “Red Vest” Tour Goes 4 for 15 (0.267 Batting Average)?