Home 2023 Elections Political Winners and Losers: Virginia 1/10/23 Special Elections Edition

Political Winners and Losers: Virginia 1/10/23 Special Elections Edition

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Here are a few winners and losers that I believe are worth highlighting from the 1/10/23 Virginia special elections yesterday (in HD24, HD35 and SD07). 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 two biggest losers from these elections, which you can see below and are pretty obvious. 😉

Winners

1. 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 HAS energized women big time and helped Democrats win elections, both in the midterms as well as last night. The bottom line is that for the foreseeable future, women’s reproductive health care/freedom will VERY much be on the ballot, front and center in the national conversation – where they always should be! As for the elections last night, Democrat Holly Seibold’s HD35 primary and general election campaigns were very focused on fighting for women’s reproductive freedom, while Democrat Aaron Rouse’s SD07 campaign also made defense of abortion rights a central issue. In both cases, the Democrats won their elections, and in the case of the SD07 special election, it was absolutely crucial for protecting women’s reproductive healthcare access in Virginia, given that going into yesterday’s special election, Democrats held only a slim 21-18 majority in the State Senate, aka “the brick wall” against Youngkin et al restricting abortion in Virginia. So last night was very, very good news if you care about women’s health and personal autonomy!

1a. Women’s reproductive freedom groups like Planned Parenthood: They heavily supported Aaron Rouse, because they knew how tenuous Virginia women’s reproductive rights are in the post-Dobbs era, and because a win by anti-choice Kevin Adams could have been disastrous. And they won, thankfully!

2. Aaron Rouse and his team: Obviously, Aaron Rouse is a huge winner from last night’s special elections, even if his win was relatively narrow. But as the saying goes, “a win’s a win,” and Democrats really needed this one (plus, SD07 is a 50/50, “purple” seat that has gone to both Rs and Ds in the past, so it was always going to be a close election). As for Rouse’s team – Ryan Jackson et al – great work! Also, keep an eye on Rouse for 2024; I’m already hearing rumors of him as a possible challenger to Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA02), who almost certainly will be vulnerable in the presidential election year, particularly given how unproductive and extreme the Republican-led House is going to be.

2a. Everyone who campaigned for Aaron Rouse: Lots of people knocked doors, wrote postcards, made phone calls, donated money, etc. to help elect Aaron Rouse. That includes volunteers from all over Virginia who traveled to Virginia Beach to help out. Great job, everybody!

3. Clean Virginia: Aside from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, Clean Virginia was by far the biggest funder of Aaron Rouse ($313k), as well as of Holly Seibold ($40k). Which makes Clean Virginia a huge winner last night. With regard to the Rouse race, without Clean Virginia’s money, it’s arguable that Rouse wouldn’t have won, given how close that election was. So…GREAT work by Clean Virginia in helping to keep the Senate Democratic “brick wall” intact!

4. VA Senate Democratic Caucus: Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke, Senate President Pro Tem Louise Lucas, possible future Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, etc. have all got to be very happy this morning, as their majority just got an important cushion (to 22-18 as opposed to just 21-19) with the addition of Aaron Rouse to their “brick wall” caucus. Also, perhaps they won’t feel as much of a need to appease Sen. Joe Morrissey after last night? Anyway, good news for Senate Dems no matter how you look at it!

5. Former Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA02): Unlike some politicians who disappear after they lose an election, former Rep. Elaine Luria campaigned for Aaron Rouse in part of her former district, helping boost Rouse to victory. Good stuff; thanks!

6. Virginia Democrats: They had to run a quick nomination process, then help boost Aaron Rouse to victory – which they did – while dealing with this idiocy. Nice job!

Losers

1. Glenn Youngkin: Continues his losing streak from 2022 (when he campaigned for a slew of far-right candidates around the country – nutjob Kari Lake in Arizona, extremist Paul LePage in Maine, the bizarre Tudor Dixon in Michigan, Yesli Vega in VA07, etc. – most of whom thankfully lost) into 2023. In this case, Youngin’s “Spirit of Virginia” PAC poured money into Republican SD07 nominee Kevin Adams’ campaign, and…it didn’t pay off.

2. State Senator Joe Morrissey: The end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023 have not been great politically for Morrissey, as he got *crushed* (84.8%-13.6%) by Jennifer McClellan for the VA04 nomination in late December, then saw his leverage in the Senate Democratic Caucus take a hit with Aaron Rouse’s victory, meaning that Morrissey won’t be the swing vote on much of anything, certainly not on abortion, this session. Next up, Morrissey faces a serious primary from former Del. Lashrecse Aird in June, which  (hopefully) could mark the end of his political career. Go Aird!

3. Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, VA GOP, Republican State Leadership Committee: Spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and boost SD07 Republican nominee Kevin Adams to victory, and…it didn’t work. Oh well! As far as the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus is concerned, they’re now down to 18 members (out of 40) as we head into the 2023 election cycle, when every member of the State Senate will be on the ballot, and when Republicans could actually lose another seat or two if things go badly for them. Which would be a terrible shame, huh? LOL

4. Extreme, anti-choice Republican candidates: Last night, Republicans ran hard-right candidates in all three special elections, and the only one who won was Ellen Campbell in deep-red HD24. Other than that, Democrat Holly Seibold cruised to victory by more than a 2:1 margin in HD35 over a definitely-NOT-moderate opponent, while Aaron Rouse defeated hard-right Kevin Adams in SD07.

5. LG Winsome Sears: If Aaron Rouse had lost to Kevin Adams last night, Sears very well could have been breaking a bunch of ties either during the 2023 General Assembly session or during a special session (or the “veto session”) afterwards. But now that Rouse has won, it’s likely Sears will mostly be presiding over the Senate, without the ability to impact much (if anything). That also gives her less of a platform to highlight her far-right bona fides, heading into her presumed run for governor in 2025. Sad!

6. The Virginian-Pilot’s coverage, or lack thereof, of the SD07 race:  You’d think the local paper would have been all over such a crucially important special election, but instead, they barely touched it, either in their news section or on their editorial page. And when they actually DID write something about the SD07 race, they failed to clearly inform readers what was at stake, how extreme Kevin Adams was, etc. Just a “fail” all the way around, and another sign of the decline of local media.

7. Any connection between Republican candidates’ rhetoric and facts, the truth, reality, science, etc.: I included this one in my 2022 midterms “winners/losers” list, and yet again in these special elections, the rhetoric spewing out of Virginia Republican candidates was bizarre, extreme, detached from reality, and not at all focused on the issues that really matter to Virginians. In short: one party (the Democratic Party) is based in reality, the other (the Trumpist GOP) simply is not.

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