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The Big Electoral Story of 2019

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Yes, yes, everyone wants to obsess about the Democratic presidential nomination. Right now, it’s fun to poke at clown car candidates such as Julian Castro and Tulsi Gabbard; the first an empty suit whose literal only claim to a shot is his ethnicity, the latter an offensive horrible person. But the left and liberals both like to claim that power comes from the people, but their political actions don’t actually suggest that, as there is a constant move to look for the savior, whether it is Obama or Bernie or now whoever is supposed to lead us out of the Trumpist nightmare. Meanwhile, we don’t pay nearly enough attention to how power is actually built–through local and state races and organizing. So at the very least, we need to spend a ton of attention this year supporting Democrats in Virginia to take over the state legislature this fall. It’s going to be a referendum on Trump anyway and this is how we build a bigger bench in this critical state.

“We were the beginning of the blue wave that has swept the nation. It was the first sign to people post-2016 that things could be different,” said Justin Fairfax (D), who won election as Virginia’s lieutenant governor in 2017. “We gave the nation both a glimpse of what’s to come, and hope.”

Voters this year will elect all 40 Virginia state senators and all 100 members of the House of Delegates.

Both chambers are under Republican control, but by the slimmest of margins. Republicans hold 51 of 100 delegate seats and 21 of 40 seats in the state Senate.

The momentum, observers on both sides agree, is firmly on the Democratic side.

Democrats have won Virginia’s electoral votes in the past three presidential elections. They have won the past two gubernatorial contests, and Republicans have not won a U.S. Senate seat there since John Warner’s reelection in 2002. And in 2018, Democrats reclaimed three Republican-held House seats in suburban districts across the state.

“Democrats are still on offense,” said Chris Jankowski, a Republican strategist who has led some of the party’s most prominent campaigns in recent years. “Republicans have nothing but defense to play.”

Since its founding as a colony, Virginia has been defined by its competing regions. The coastal Tidewater was the home of some of the nation’s aristocratic Founding Fathers. Those traditionally Republican voters have shifted left in more recent years.

The Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Plateau were settled by the hardscrabble Scots-Irish, who have mined their homeland for centuries. Those voters, long Yellow Dog Democrats, are moving to the right.

In recent years, the fast-growing Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia have become dominant, accounting for an increasing share of the state’s overall vote totals — votes that have trended starkly Democratic.

Republicans now control almost every state legislative seat to the west, along the borders with West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee, while Democrats control almost every seat in the Washington suburbs south to Richmond.

Reflecting the state’s new political divide, Republicans hold just seven legislative seats — four in the Senate, three in the House — in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats hold only one district in the House of Delegates that chose Trump over Clinton.

Those seats are virtually all in territory where Democrats have made gains in recent years.

Two are in the Virginia Beach area, which has shifted about 10 points toward Democrats in recent years. In the 2013 race for governor, Republican Ken Cuccinelli narrowly carried Virginia Beach over Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Four years later, Democrat Ralph Northam carried the city over Republican Ed Gillespie by a 5-point margin.

Two more Republican-held delegate seats are in Newport News and Norfolk, coastal cities where Democrats have won statewide and presidential contests by increasingly large margins in the past two decades.

Two critical state Senate seats are in the Richmond suburbs; Trump and Northam both won Chesterfield County by slim margins in their respective elections, a sea change from the turn of the century, when George W. Bush carried the county by nearly 2-to-1 margins.

Most troubling for Republicans, they are defending two seats this year in the Northern Virginia suburbs. A state Senate district in Loudoun and Prince William counties, held by retiring Sen. Dick Black (R), went for Clinton by an 8-point margin. An Assembly district in Fairfax and Prince William counties gave Clinton an 11-point edge.

Further complicating the picture, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Republican appeal of a District Court ruling that 11 House of Delegate seats must be redrawn. The District Court ruled those seats had been drawn with an improper consideration of race. A special master appointed by the court is in the process of sketching out new maps.

“The House map is clouded by litigation,” Jankowski said. “We don’t know what the maps are for sure. That’ll have a huge impact.”

The Republican Party needs to be destroyed. One way that happens is to not only win states like Virginia but build quality legislators who deliver a solid agenda and help protect the inevitable Republican comeback at some point. These things are always to some extent a reflection of the president and national politics, but when you have a party as sick and psychopathic as the modern Republican Party, you have to take advantage and then keep reminding everyone of what will happen if they don’t reeleect you in the future.

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