When I moved to Virginia from California in June 2012, I was optimistic about my adopted home’s political future.
I thought to myself, I finally have a reason to get excited about politics in a state. My home state was trending far-left and even my home district in Orange County, CA- one of the last vestiges of Reagan conservatism- has been lost, as of last night. Although CA-45, where I cast my first vote in 2009, was barely held on by Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R-CA), Southern Orange County is set to finally undergo a blue transformation. Gah.
Virginia naturally seemed like a great place to plant my political roots at the time. Now, I’m uncertain.
At the time of my relocation to the People’s Republic of Fairfax County, we had a Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, at the helms of the state in Richmond. Until he signed that $3 trillion transportation bill into law, he was doing a decent job at governing and advancing conservative policies. In 2012-2013, Republicans maintained control of the House of Delegates and had major gains in the State Senate.
Fast forward to 2018, and Republicans now only control four of 11 Congressional Districts — having lost Virginia’s 10th, Virginia’s 7th, and Virginia’s 2nd last night. Democrats control the governor’s mansion and top state positions. Republicans only hold control of both state legislative chambers by slim margins— 50-49 (House of Delegates) and 21-19 (State Senate). 2019 is slated to be a bad year for Republicans statewide.
Democrat Shift Was Predicted and Expected
How did Virginia get here? I may be a transplant, but I’ve done my best to engrain myself in state politics and learn the ropes. Obviously, the D.C. suburbs of Fairfax and Loudoun have increasingly trended Democrat given the influx of government employees who vote that way. The same seems to be happening in military-heavy Tidewater-Hampton Roads.
The candidates fielded to challenge Democrats haven’t necessarily terrible, barring few exceptions, but they didn’t campaign effectively. Many of them were poor campaigners with a lack thereof strong message. Some of them weren’t prepared to face the Democrat political machine in 2013, 2014, and 2017.
Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli could have won in 2013 – having only lost to now-former Governor Terry McAuliffe by 2-3% — but didn’t have the backing of the state party much and hired a terrible campaign consultant who muzzled him.
Ed Gillespie nearly beat Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) in 2014, contra to polling. He only lost by a 0.8% margin. However, he got crushed by now Governor Ralph Northam 53.9 to 45%, despite a Northam-affiliated group releasing a sleazy immigration ad against Gillespie. Gillespie also wasn’t campaigning as hard as we thought, and 2017 was a referendum on President Trump is a state that voted for Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, by an overwhelming amount.
Don’t even get me started on the 2018 U.S. Senate race. Had Nick Freitas been the nominee, he may not have beat Senator Kaine, but would have lost by a lower margin and his candidacy would have helped Dave Brat and Scott Taylor keep their seats in VA-07 and VA-02, respectively. I hope to god crazy Corey Stewart never runs here again. I will actively work to prevent that from happening if that’s the case.
Where Do Virginia Republicans Go From Here?
Some Republican activists and strategists in Virginia won’t like me for saying this but here I go: