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Here’s What Happened in Virginia (Explained)

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

Like many Republican voters in Virginia, I was very disappointed to see our General Assembly flip to Democrat control last night.

Yet, it didn’t surprise me. It was to be expected.

Despite gifts in the forms of scandals that should have implicated our Governor, LG, and AG—blackface/infanticide, sexual assault, and blackface, respectively—the Republicans didn’t seize on them.

Some are talking secession, some are plotting their escape for redder pastures. While I’ve toyed with the idea of escaping to Florida, I’ve set my roots here, my family is here, my business is here, my friends are here, and I’m aware Democrats are keen on flipping more red state legislatures. If they succeed, there will be no place to escape to. So I will continue to stay here and fight. I hope you will join me in doing so, too.

If I survived California’s swing from red to deep blue, I can survive in Virginia. And the Commonwealth isn’t quite like California…yet. The House of Delegates is controlled by Democrats by a 55-45 vote (+6 gain), while the State Senate will be Democrat-controlled by a 21-19 vote (+2 gain). I was expecting worse results. And if last night didn’t serve as a wake-up call for non-Democrat voters, the legislative session come January certainly will.

Stay vigilant, get involved, and don’t become complacent.

Republicans Haven’t Been in Charge of Virginia Throughout Much of the State’s History

Contrary to popular belief, Virginia has never really been a red state. There were many conservative Democrats who were more moderate than the crop of legislators serving or those who won yesterday.

In 1993, the Virginia General Assembly witnessed its first taste of full Republican control. That 20+year streak ended, perhaps temporarily or perhaps permanently, last night.

Here’s the General Assembly’s make-up since 1991.

In the State Senate, it has gone back and forth between Republican and Democrat control.

Credit: Ballotpedia

In the House of Delegates, there are been more consistent Republican control of the chamber in the last 20+ years.

Credit: Ballotpedia

Where the Democrats Succeeded

They Were Focused on Flipping This State for Years

With groups like Flippable claiming victory for flipping the state legislature, it’s no surprise they succeeded in doing so. Since 2016, after witnessing the 1,000 seat loss in state legislatures across the country, Democrats came together and created groups like this honed in on reclaiming lost legislative seats. And it pains me to say it, they were effective in doing so—especially in the case of Virginia.

I documented Flippable’s efforts as early as 2017 and was told by some in the state that I have no business commenting on this or helping out because I wasn’t born here. (Apparently, my crime is having been born in California, despite being a lifelong Republican voter there and here in my adopted state.)

Many Republicans here were largely unaware of these groups or were late to the party. Some—especially Republicans in Virginia Beach—got the word out and fired back on these “flippable” efforts. But if you aren’t seeing what your opponents are doing and fighting back, expect more GOP seats to flip here.

Can we create some Republican equivalent of Flippable, like a Keepable? That would help tremendously…

Recent Redistricting Efforts Heavily Favored Democrats

Recent redistricting efforts are seen to be a boon to Democrat electoral prospects, and that was the case last night.

One notable casualty of this change was Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), who was a powerful Republican on the House Appropriations Committee first elected in 1997. Republicans were favored by redistricting in 2011 until last year, 2018, when the courts ruled Virginia House maps were drawn on racial lines.

With full Democrat control, the first time since 1993, Democrats are expected to redraw maps come 2021 and will likely employ partisanship in doing so. This could reshape the electoral trajectory of the state going forward, unless Republicans and independents get proactive and more engaged in the process.

Millions Poured Into Virginia From Out-of-State to Help Democrats

A lot of Bloomberg, abortion, and environmental money were poured into Democrats races.

Here were recent Top Donations—much of it benefitting Democrats:

Two Virginia donors — Michael Bills and his wife Sonjia Smith—donated heavily to Democrats candidates, especially to offset Dominion Energy’s influence in statewide elections.

Here’s a good list of how funds had been distributed and collected for Democrats in Virginia this cycle.

It could that kind of money to flip six HOD and 2 State Senate seats. Keep that in mind…

Perhaps More Enthusiasm

It can be argued Democrats had more enthusiasm on their side, although more Republicans turned out to vote yesterday. Hmm.

In many areas, they were running uncontested in 23 House of Delegate seats and 10 State Senate seat.

What Went Wrong with Republicans

I argue that while this wasn’t an outright electoral bloodbath, some losses could have been prevented. Easily.

From 1968 to 2004, Virginia pulled the level for Republicans for President. Since 2009, they haven’t won a statewide election since Governor Bob McDonnell’s administration.

Some Republicans Allowed Democrats to Brand Them

From what I’ve heard from friends across the state, the attack ads this cycle were just brutal.

I largely didn’t hear anything up this way because Republicans in Fairfax County aren’t competitive anymore, so they don’t put in the effort. I maybe heard one ad that was relevant to local races, for Board of Supervisors, and several from nearby districts who bought ads in the greater D.C. Metro Area media market. Otherwise, it was near virtual silence on the marketing or advertising front. In fact, I was receiving mailers from Democrats to remind me to vote for our Tim Kaine-endorsed House of Delegate member, Delegate Paul E. Krizek (D-Mount Vernon) though I’ve never once pulled the level for a Democrat here nor back in California, so this was very odd. Since we have no party registration here, Democrats will even spam Republican households.

It seemed many Democrats were able to successfully paint their Republican challengers, however, as monsters, cretins, evildoers, and scum of the earth. And in some cases—in six House of Delegate seats and two State Senate seats—they succeeded.

Some Republican candidates didn’t frame their candidacy early on, making it easier for their Democrat opponents to define them before they could define themselves. When this happens, it’s hard to recover.

Some GOP Candidates Didn’t Frame Their Campaign or Explain Who Was Funding Their Opponents Well

Different areas of Virginia campaign differently. What may work well in one area may not work well in other areas. This is especially true in Northern Virginia districts.

In areas where Republicans were organized, aware of the threats their opponents posed, they succeeded. In areas or districts where Republicans underestimated their opponents, they handily lost.

Take, for instance, Virginia Beach. Most of the seats there stayed red. Only a few flipped from red to blue.

Senator Bill DeSteph was able to fend off a challenge from a far-left challenger who received upwards of $2M from mostly California and New York donors. He posted a graphic highlighting this and staying on top of this and won by a few thousand votes—borrowing a tactic from newly-elected State Senator Jen Kiggins, in the nearby senate district.

Why didn’t other candidates employ similar tactics? This broke down things very clearly and spread far and wide. This totally could have be replicated elsewhere.

They Didn’t Contest Democrat-Held Seats

The Republican Party of Virginia put up more diverse candidates this year—especially more women and black Republican candidates—but appeared to have neglected 10 House of Delegate races and one State Senate seat, where Democrat incumbents were uncontested.

Consistent Disfunction of RPV Apparatus, Not So Much the Trump Factor

Virginia has been trending blue for the last decade.

Some say recent electoral losses in the state are solely attributable to Trump. Evidence paints a slightly different picture, except in Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun counties—although they were trending blue pre-Trump.

Trump isn’t popular in Northern Virginia, where most of the state’s votes are concentrated.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Virginia 49.8% to Trump’s 44.4%—or 5.4%. In 2016, more Democrat voters turned out for Hillary Clinton (1,981,473), while fewer Republicans turned out for President Trump (1,769,443). In 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 3.9%. 1,789,618 Republicans voted for Romney in 2012, or 20,175 fewer votes for a Republican nominee. Trump won more in the Southwest, South Central, Northern Neck areas in 2016 than Romney did in 2012.

Look at this visual from VPAP.

Republicans, even before Trump, started to take the suburbs for granted. More Democrat voters have been moving to Loudoun and Prince William counties after the got their fill of Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria counties.

I’m not sure how Trump will do here next year. I’m not confident he will win Old Dominion, given recent trends. As I mentioned earlier, he only lost by 5.4% to Hillary Clinton. And depending on who his Democrat challenger is, that percentage could stay the same or lessen if the nominee is super far left and hellbent on killing our agriculture or energy sectors.

Time will tell. But the Republican Party of Virginia has had some major issues to grapple with that far predate Trump.

As recent as this year, several prominent Republican lawmakers suggested the state party is on “life-support.”

Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) said in September, “We’re all kind of on our own…Our party in the Commonwealth is not functioning at 100%. We’re on life support.” 
Senator Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) said the state party is bankrupt and “they don’t have any money. They have very little organization in place.”

More financial woes for the RPV are explained here:

The RPVA had about $60,000 in cash on hand in the reporting period that ended August 31 at their federal account and less than $2,000 left in their state accounts in the period ending June 30. The RPVA took out a $50,000 loan in May.

What Virginia Residents Should Worry About Come January

With Democrats emboldened and serious about enacting extreme policies down in Richmond next session, here’s what you need to prepare yourselves for:

They Will Undermine Gun Rights From the Get-Go

The new General Assembly will outright pursue gun control, despite claiming to support “gun safety” and say they won’t infringe on Second Amendment rights.

Don’t believe them.

This will come in the form of a legislative package containing red flag laws, assault weapons bans of AR-15’s, undoing state pre-emption laws, universal background checks, and even an ammunition ban. Maybe even undoing open or concealed carry laws. This should worry you.

Despite two successful efforts in stopping these gun control packages, this month it’ll be considered again and could likely gain momentum before the new session.

But do not despair. If you get involved, you can help stem the tide. First, go to Lobby Day on MLK Day this January. Then go from there. And get involved in local elections and consider running for office. Organize and fundraise to counter all the Bloomberg money coming into the state.

And get grandfathered into concealed carry options if you haven’t already. Now. I’m glad I renewed my permit a few weeks ago…

Bye-Bye Right-to-Work? Very Plausible

As former Virginian Pilot reporter and blogger Kerry Dougherty noted on her website, this new crop of legislators got a lot of union / labor boost this past cycle. This could give them a mandate to usher in drastic changes to employment law here. And that would be VERY bad for our business climate.

Kerry writes, “While I’m making predictions, here are a few more: It won’t be long before Virginia’s business-friendly Right-to-Work laws are struck down and compulsory union membership – and the dues that come with that – are in place.”

Earlier this year, socialist and Delegate Lee Carter proposed unraveling our right-to-work law in the form of House Bill 1806, drawing the ire of many in the business community. And rightfully so. Had this bill passed, it would have done the following:

A collective bargaining agreement may include a provision establishing an agency shop or a union shop. If such a provision is agreed to, the employer shall enforce it by deducting from the salary payments to members of the bargaining unit the dues required of membership in the labor union, or, for nonmembers thereof, a fee equivalent to such dues.

Here’s why this bill, which can resurrected next session, would be bad news for Virginia per the Virginia Chamber of Commerce:

According to our recently released Chambers of Commerce Election Center survey, a growing number of candidates for the Virginia General Assembly are publicly supporting a repeal of Virginia’s right-to-work law. In fact, 42% of the candidates surveyed would vote to repeal Virginia’s right-to-work law if elected. The actual number could likely be higher depending on how the few candidates who did not participate in the survey feel on the topic.


This is of strong concern to Virginia businesses because the commonwealth has long operated on the bipartisan understanding that its right-to-work law helps the state’s economy thrive and protects workers’ choice. Since 1947, Virginia has held its status as one of the first right-to-work states in the country. There are now 27 right-to-work states including West Virginia, Wisconsin and Kentucky, which became right-to-work states in the past four years.

More Extreme Abortion Policies

If Kathy Tran’s testimony and bill, which failed earlier this year, didn’t irk you or your friends here, expect more legislation like it. Come January, we can expect more like it to pass in both General Assembly chambers.

Higher Taxes

Democrats promised, if elected to the majorities, they would usher in new taxes.

Green New Deal-Lite

With a lot of environment money pouring into the state, we could see a Green New Deal-lite or equivalent in the state.

Virginia’s top private sector industry is agriculture by a mile—with annual economic impact of $70 billion and 334,000 jobs. More explained here:

According to a 2017 economic impact study, production agriculture employs nearly 54,000 farmers and workers in Virginia and generates approximately $3.8 billion in total output. In addition, value-added industries, those that depend on farm commodities, employ more than 69,000 workers. When the employment and value-added impact of agriculture and forestry are considered together, they make up 9.5 percent of the state’s total gross domestic product.

Virginia is third in the nation for coalbed methane proved reserves. As of 2018, natural gas fueled 53% of electricity, nuclear powered 31% , and coal about 10%.

If they succeed on this front, our economy will take a massive hit—and that would be devastating for Virginians.

Going Forward for Republicans

Here’s what needs to be done in this state if Republicans want to be viable again.

  1. Clean house in the Republican Party of Virginia.
  2. Organize better and more effectively.
  3. Don’t neglect suburbs.
  4. Brand yourself before Democrats brand you negatively.
  5. Create more 527 or outreach groups to train, recruit, and prop up more candidates who are younger, more telegenic, principled, and electable.
  6. GOTV, no matter the circumstances
  7. Keep a close eye on the General Assembly and respond in kind if anything bizarre is passed.
  8. Hold Democrats’ feet to the fire for extreme positions they take. And get everything on record.

Sic semper tyrannis!

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