by Sam Shirazi
“This is the most important election of our lifetimes.” Given that Virginia has elections every year, Virginians are used to – maybe even sick of – hearing this expression.
This year, it might seem hard to make that argument for an “off-off” year election, when there are no statewide or federal offices up for election. But this November, all 40 seats in the State Senate and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election – and the outcome really matters.
Crucially, this is the first Virginia state election since the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the first since 1971 without the protections Roe provided. For that reason alone, this is a uniquely important election – and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Risk of a Republican Trifecta in the Short Term
If Republicans make a clean sweep and win both the State Senate and House of Delegates, there would be nothing stop them from passing a host of right-wing legislation, which Governor Glenn Youngkin would then sign into law.
Top among these right-wing laws would be restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom, with at least a 15-week ban all but certain – and there would be the real risk of even harsher restrictions down the road.
But that is the just the beginning. There also could be a rollback of voting rights, with restrictions on early voting, mail ballots, and voter registration.
Then there could be a flood of other regressive legislation, on everything from worker’s rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental protections, criminal justice, and so much more.
The only way to stop this is for Democrats to win majorities in at least one of either the State Senate or House of Delegates to block these types of right-wing bills.
The Possibility of a Better Future in the Long Term
Alternatively, Democrats could win both the State Senate and House of Delegates. While any legislation passed could be vetoed by Governor Youngkin in the short term, the long-term possibilities could be much brighter.
For instance, Democrats could begin the process of putting a state constitutional amendment referendum on the ballot to protect the right to choose and marriage equality. This would still require Democrats winning the House of Delegates again in 2025, but wouldn’t be possible without a Democratic victory in 2023. Once in the Virginia constitution, it would take another referendum to repeal these, and could not be changed by a law passed by the General Assembly.
In addition, State Senators have four-year terms and won’t be up for election again until 2027. So if Democrats are able to elect a governor in 2025, that person will still have to work with the State Senate elected in 2023. That means if Democrats want to have the chance to pass progressive bills in 2026 and 2027, they need to win the State Senate in 2023.
The Looming Shadow of 2024 and Youngkin’s Ambitions
Looming over this year’s elections is the 2024 presidential election and Youngkin’s future ambitions. It is clear his strategy is to have a big win in November to possibly propel him into a late entry into the 2024 presidential race.
Even if he doesn’t end up running for president in 2024, Youngkin clearly has political ambitions, possibly with the vice presidency in 2024, U.S. Senate in 2026, or president in 2028.
Much of Youngkin’s future political ambitions will come down to 2023, which is why he is raising and spending so much to help Republicans win in this year’s elections. Youngkin knows if Democrats win, there will be very little for him to pass, meaning thatd he won’t have much of a substantive legacy to run on.
With all that is at stake, now is the perfect time to get involved and start letting your family, friends, and neighbors know all that is on the line. The June 20 primaries will soon be here, and
for many safe districts, both red and blue, the primary will effectively determine the winner in November. After the primaries, there will only be a handful of competitive districts in the House of Delegates and State Senate which will determine which party is in overall control. It is up to us to make sure Democrats win those districts and that Virginia goes blue in 2023.