Republicans turn Virginia House of Delegates into a devastating blow to Democrats

Republicans regained majority control in the Virginia House of Delegates in Tuesday’s election, ending the Democrats’ short streak in a chamber they have used to achieve some of the party’s biggest legislative victories nationwide over the past two years.

Democratic Delegate Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn admitted Friday night that the GOP would have majority control of the chamber next year, The Associated Press reported. The AP and state election officials have not yet made official calls in any legislative competition, but the GOP will have at least a 51-49 advantage in the body.

“While the results of the election were not in our favor, our work for the people of Virginia continues,” Filler-Corn said.

Democrats entered Tuesday with a 55-45 majority in the lower house of the state legislature in Virginia, meaning Republicans had to turn over five seats to lock in the body and six to regain control. By the end of election night, it was clear that the GOP had won enough seats to at least create a draw in the Legislative Assembly, and the party is on track to win at least one more victory. Republicans successfully defended all of their established representatives and gained seats from Democrats across the state.

Republican control of the House of Representatives will be a major asset to the elected governor Glenn Youngkin, who defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday night.

The loss will cost Democrats their majority in one of the most important legislative chambers they overturned during Donald Trump’s presidency. In 2019, democratic progress in the northern suburbs of Virginia, the Richmond area and along the southeast coast of the state allowed the party, for the first time in a generation, to take total control of the state legislature of Virginia. The national party gained a foothold in the south, and the blue future of the Commonwealth seemed to be cemented.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the Virginia State Senate, which will not hold the next election until 2023. But in issues like abortion rights, the thin advantage may not be enough to keep the line and block legislation coming out of the GOP. the House.

Democrats will also have to rely on their narrow state Senate majority to counter potential GOP efforts to restrict voting rights. Three Republican candidates who were in Washington, DC, for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the deadly uprising on Jan. 6 at the US Capitol won the House of Representatives election. Two were established, and the third, Del.-elect Marie March, proclaimed her participation in the demonstration during her campaign.

Other conservative legislators have specified that the result will lead to a renewed push for the kind of conspiracy theory-driven election revisions that have already taken place in Arizona and are underway in other states, raising fears among Democratic lawmakers that the GOP will try to roll back its expansions and weekend- vote and try to implement broader voting restrictions like those passed by 19 other Republican-controlled states this year.

Losing the House of Representatives will halt the ambitious legislative agenda that Democrats have made progress over the past two years, which they hoped to build on in future sessions. It is also likely to exacerbate broader concerns about the party’s ability to retain power in the state legislature, which has driven the GOP’s aggressive movements to the far right over the past decade.

The Virginia Democrats had pushed the state in the opposite direction. Over the past two years, they have enacted new laws that expanded access to abortion, strengthened voting rights, implemented gun control policies, created new LGBTQ protections, raised the minimum wage, abolished the death penalty and sought to divert the state from fossil fuels and address climate change.

Before taking full control, Democrats also successfully expanded Medicaid, a change that allowed nearly 500,000 Virginians access to health care through the federal program, according to official figures.

Back in power, Republicans could try to reverse many of these policies – especially with Youngkin in the governor’s mansion.

Democrats knew it would be hard to keep the majority, given that they had taken control by winning key districts that had long supported Republicans and voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, but they entered the final stages of the race, a little convinced. that they would retain their grip on the Delegate House.

It is the latest disappointment at the state level for a party that has suffered many of them. Although Democrats amassed 200 state legislative seats and turned eight chambers during Trump’s presidency, it only began to compensate for the losses it suffered over the previous eight years, as the GOP amassed nearly 1,000 such seats across the country.

Virginia’s House of Delegates is already the third of those eight bodies to sink back into GOP hands after the New Hampshire Republicans regained control of both chambers in 2020, a year in which Democrats failed to turn a single legislator despite pouring record resources into such races.

Still, the damage could have been worse: Partly. Wendy Gooditis, a vulnerable Democrat in northern Virginia, and Schuyler VanValkenburg, who represents a suburb of Richmond, successfully defended their seats despite major GOP challenges. Share. Elizabeth Guzmán, another Republican-backed Democrat in northern Virginia, also held on to her seat.

Early analyzes of the vote suggest that Democratic lawmakers in key races may have surpassed McAuliffe, the party’s gubernatorial candidate, according to the States Project, a progressive group that said six of the eight candidates it approved in Virginia surpassed McAuliffe.

This is a marked difference from 2017, when democratic legislative candidates ran behind the top of the ticket, even when they won 16 seats in the Delegate House, and 2020, when democratic victories in the presidential election and important nationwide competitions were not translated into big wins in legislative assemblies. . And it can at least create hope among Democrats and progressives that their renewed focus on state lawmakers can pay off in more favorable environments.

Next year’s midterm elections would already pose challenges for the party, especially after a tough redistribution cycle in which Republicans controlled most state legislatures. Democrats have seen Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan as potential opportunities to turn GOP-held lawmakers.

But if the political environment that drove the losses in Virginia remains the same, they may have to focus on protecting existing majorities in states like Maine and Colorado.

It will be even more important in 2022, as GOP states’ legislators continue to serve as a launching pad for the party’s most anti-democratic whims. Republican efforts to restrict voting rights and exercise biased influence over leadership, overseeing and even certifying elections have created fears that the party could try to use its legislative dominance to undermine future elections in ways it failed last year when Trump and the GOP tried to challenge the result of an election he lost.

“Virginia shows once again that the radical right understands what is at stake in the state legislature,” said Simone Leiro, a spokeswoman for the States Project. “2022 is our last chance to finally learn that lesson – otherwise it will be proven when these majorities refuse to approve the 2024 election.”

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