Republicans regain footing in Virginia, crushing Democrats' hope for a realignment

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Republicans captured the state’s top offices in this week’s elections and voters appear to have delivered the GOP a majority in the House of Delegates, defying Democrats’ proclamations that the state had turned reliably blue.

Powered by huge rural majorities and renewed strength in Virginia’s suburbs, Glenn Youngkin, a political newcomer, won the governorship, and Winsome Sears, the first Black woman to win statewide, won the lieutenant governor’s post.

Delegate Jason Miyares held a narrow lead in returns in his bid to unseat two-term Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat. Mr. Miyares, who has claimed victory in the race, would be the state’s first Latino to win statewide.

The victories ended a decade of decline for the GOP, which hadn’t won a statewide race since 2009.

Republicans also claimed at least six flipped seats in the House, which would give them the majority just two years after they ceded it to Democrats for the first time since the 1990s.

Combined with strong Republican showings in races elsewhere around the country, Republicans GOP leaders said voters were pumping the brakes on the liberal drift of Democrats.

“Politics is a pendulum affair, and the mad dash by Democrats to the extreme left in recent years lost the confidence of the voting public and swung the pendulum back to the right — and to common-sense governance,” Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson told The Washington Times on Wednesday. “Virginians will see their new Republican governor and House of Delegates majority lead from a place of common sense that makes life better for all Virginians.”

The search for meaning and message quickly spread from Richmond to Washington, where Democrats pondered what went wrong.

Some argued that their voters were disappointed in the lack of delivery on progressive promises at the national level. But Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who served as the state’s governor between 2002 and 2006, told reporters Democratic voters did turn out.

“The remarkable thing is Terry McAuliffe yesterday got 300,000 more votes in 2017 than Ralph Northam got. We lost a lot of suburban voters who voted for us in the past,” Mr. Warner said. “We can’t win with losing our suburban voters and we can’t win in Virginia, if a Democrat can’t crack 20% in certain rural communities.”

Mr. Youngkin, the former head of the Carlyle Group Inc., ran a fairly traditional GOP campaign, promising parents more say in their children’s education.

At his victory party Wednesday morning he vowed to deliver the largest education budget in the state’s history and to promote more school choice.

“We’re going to embrace our parents, not ignore them,” he said.

Ms. Sears, the winner in the lieutenant governor’s race, cast her victory as a unifying event for the state.

“There are some who want to divide us and we must not let that happen,” she said at her victory party.

In the House races, Democrats massively outspent the GOP, running on a message of continuing the progressive policies they pursued after winning the majority just two years ago.

Republicans, though, regained seats in the state’s central and southwestern areas en route to the new majority.

In the governor’s race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe conceded Wednesday morning with a statement listing the areas he said Democrats must fight on, including voting rights, abortion rights and “above all else, we must protect our democracy.”

Mr. McAuliffe, who won the governorship in 2013 by nearly 3 percentage points running on as a pragmatic manager, campaigned this year on a more combative message, trying to portray Mr. Youngkin as an acolyte of former President Donald Trump.

But without Mr. Trump on the ballot, voters who’d backed Democrats just a year ago picked the GOP.

In 2020, Rep. Elaine Luria, won her 2nd Congressional District by 5.8% but Mr. Youngkin won it by 8.3% — a 14-point swing.

In suburban Virginia Beach City, Luria won by 6.1% in 2020 and last night Youngkin won by 8%, another 14-point swing.

In 2020, Rep. Abigail Spanberger won the 7th Congressional district by 1.8% but Mr. Youngkin won it by 15.4% — an almost 17-point swing.

Both Virginia Democrats were elected in 2018 during the Democrats’ “blue wave” election cycle, when House Democratic lawmakers recaptured the majority after eight years.

In the wake of those results, the National Republican Congressional Committee expanded its House target list on Wednesday, arguing Republican ideas can rebound in districts where Democrats gained over the last four years.

“It wasn’t just Virginia and New Jersey last night. It was Texas. It was Minneapolis. It was New York,” said U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.

He pointed to Democrat-backed election overhaul proposals that went down to defeat in deep-blue New York, even as the party pushes those same types of plans on Capitol Hill.

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