Virginia Democrats secure trifecta majority for the first time since 1993

The crowd cheers at the Virginia joint Democratic watch party at the Hilton in Downtown Richmond. Photo by Jon Mirador

Hannah Eason, News Editor

Katie Hollowell, Contributing Writer

Democrats secured control of the Virginia General Assembly in Tuesday’s elections, marking the first time since 1993 that the party will hold the state Senate, the House of Delegates and the governor’s mansion.

The Virginia House will have a Democratic majority with 55 representatives, compared to 45 Republicans. Democrats won 21 seats in the Senate, compared to 19 for Republicans.

Prior to the election, Republicans had a majority in the Senate 20 to 19 with one vacancy. The House was Republican-led 51 to 48, also with a vacancy.

VCU political science professor Deirdre Condit said 2018’s “blue wave” of Democratic victories may have continued into Virginia’s statehouse elections this year.

“The nation took the cue from Virginia and followed on as well,” Condit said. “I think it’s possible that there’s a serious continuation of what we have now branded the Democratic blue wave. If that wave is not crested — and if it continues to swell — that may tell us a lot about the 2020 election.”

Condit said many of the Democratic votes were rooted in dissatisfaction with the Trump administration.

“Democratic voters were very clearly there to express their anger at the Trump administration,” Condit said. “Several voters who said they were going to vote Democrat talked about this as their way to shout back at the President.”

Democratic majorities

Democrats gained a majority in the state Senate by flipping two seats.

Senate Districts that flipped Democrat:

  • District 10
  • District 13

One of the key races in the Virginia Senate was District 10, which Ghazala Hashmi won against Republican incumbent Glen Sturtevant with 55% of the vote. The district covers parts of Richmond City, Chesterfield County and Powhatan County.

Hashmi attended the Virginia joint Democratic watch party at the Hilton in Downtown Richmond and thanked those who voted for her.

“Is Ghazala Hashmi truly an American name? You’ve helped so many young people, boys and girls, who feel like they don’t have a voice, they don’t have a place, they don’t have a part in this community, and you said yes, you do belong here,” Hashmi said. “Thank you for sharing that message.”

VCU public relations student Joshua Briere came to the watch party as a Hashmi supporter.

“Now we actually have a Democratic governor, and both houses are blue, so who knows what we can do?” Briere said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Senate District 13 — which covers Loudoun County and Prince William County — also flipped Democrat with John Bell beating incumbent Geary Higgins with 54% of the vote.

In the Richmond area, the Democrats lost one of the most competitive races in the Senate: District 12 between Republican incumbent Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant and Del. Debra Rodman. Dunnavant upset Rodman with 50.8% of the vote.

Come January, the House will have a Democratic majority, with six districts having flipped blue.

House Districts that flipped Democrat:

  • District 28
  • District 40
  • District 76
  • District 80
  • District 91
  • District 94

In House District 28 — which covers part of Stafford County and Fredericksburg City — Democrat Joshua Cole unseated Republican Paul Milde with 52%.

In House District 40 — which covers most of Fairfax County and part of Prince William County — Democrat Dan Helmer won 54% of the vote and unseated Republican Tim Hugo.

Clinton Jenkins will represent House District 76 after beating Republican Chris Jones with 54% of the vote. His district covers most of Suffolk City and part of Chesapeake City.

House District 91 is Democrat-led by Martha Mugler, who beat Republican Colleen Holcomb with 55% of the vote. The district covers part of Hampton City, Poquoson City and York County.

Democrat Shelly Simonds unseated Republican David Yancey and received 58% of the vote in District 94, which covers Newport News city.

In House District 80, Democrat Don Scott filled the vacant seat, beating Republican Jim Evans and independent Ryan Collins Benton.

Democrats lost in the redistricted House District 66, which was ranked by the Virginia Public Access Project as highly competitive. Sheila Bynum-Coleman lost the race against House Speaker Kirk Cox.

Looking ahead

Kathryn Gilley, communications director for Virginia House Democrats, said the Democratic majority means the party will have a chance to push its policy priorities.

“We push for a higher minimum wage, we push for gun violence prevention. We’ve pushed for family-friendly policies like paid sick [leave],” Gilley said. “The list goes on and on, civil rights and LGBT-anti discrimination, and it’s been consistently blocked by Republication majorities. … This is not going to exist anymore.”

Republicans had control of the governor’s mansion, House and Senate in 2012 and 2013 until Terry McAuliffe was elected in 2014. In 2018, the results of the Congressional election were coined a “blue wave,” as Democrats won three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, gaining a Democratic majority in the House.

House District 63 incumbent Democrat Lashrecse Aird said the party’s majority will help the General Assembly pass legislation.

“We get so close to passing policies,” Aird said. “This year, we’re going to get close enough.”

In the House, eight Republican-held districts were uncontested by Democratic candidates.

Twenty-nine Democrat-led districts were uncontested by Republicans. In the state Senate, fewer were uncontested. There were four districts uncontested by Democrats, and 14 were uncontested by Republicans.

Capital News Service reporter Christopher Brown contributed to this report.

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