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Virginia Democrats appear to have notched a key victory in the state House of Delegates after a recount yesterday, erasing Republicans’ narrow majority after a bruising election for the GOP last month that was widely seen as a referendum on President Trump. And, if you can believe it, yesterday’s result actually came down to a single vote, leaving the House of Delegates split at 50-50—a major gain for Democrats, as Republicans have controlled the House for nearly two decades. As the New York Times notes, the whole episode is a reminder that your vote actually counts.
- “The victory by Shelly Simonds, a school board member in Newport News, was a civics lesson in every-vote-counts as she won 11,608 to 11,607 in a recount conducted by local election officials.”
- “Ms. Simonds’s win means a 50-50 split in the State House, where Republicans had clung to a one-seat majority after losing 15 seats last month in a night of Democratic victories up and down the ballot, which were widely seen as a rebuke to President Trump. Republicans have controlled the House for 17 years.”
- “Ms. Simonds’s single-vote victory will enter election annals along with rare other razor-thin majorities. In Mississippi last year, a State House race that ended in a tie was decided in favor of the Democrat by a drawing of straws, before being reversed by a Republican partisan challenge in the State Legislature.”
- Tucker Martin, a longtime GOP operative Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. The Hill that Virginia’s victory was “was an enormous blue wave that didn’t care about campaign messages or issues,” and should be a wake-up call for Republicans heading into the midterm elections next year: “
These primarily presidential yearDemocrats were there to send a message, via proxy, to the president. And they did. These results should be one heck of a warning to the national Republican Party in advance of 2018.”
- “Republicans hold a 21 seat to 19 seat majority in the Virginia state Senate. Senate seats next come up for election in 2019.”
WHAT IT MEANS: The news matters for reasons that are both practical and symbolic. On a logistical level, it will make things easier for Democratic Governor-elect Ralph Northam, who will not have to deal with Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly, like his predecessor, Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The two parties now have to select the House speaker, which, according to David J. Toscano, the House Democratic leader, is “the question of the night.”
As for the optics, well, Tucker Martin said it himself: This could spell trouble for the GOP come November. And that’s not even taking into account the shocking victory of Doug Jones over Roy Moore for Senate in Alabama last week (somehow that already feels like ages ago), which marked the first time a Democrat was elected to Alabama’s Senate in a quarter century. Although Jones’s upset victory was undoubtedly buoyed by child molestation accusations against Roy Moore, it could also be seen as a sign of changing political tides—and possibly a signal of a Democratic wave in 2018.
Which brings us back to the Tar Heel state. What—if anything—does this all mean for the North Carolina General Assembly?
- Yesterday, CNN reported that Jones’s victory is helping Democrats come up with a new strategy for the South. That could make inroads in North Carolina: “The coalition that Jones mobilized closely resembled the voter alignments that have powered other recent Democratic victories in governors’ races in Virginia, North Carolina
andLouisiana. Above all, Jones demonstrated that Democrats could simultaneously inspire passionate turnout from their base supporters, led by African-Americans, and make inroads with centrist white-collar white voters — each of which, for different reasons, is recoiling from Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency. That combination allowed Jones to overcome Moore’s lopsided margins among blue-collar, evangelical, older and rural whites — the four building blocks of the Trump coalition.”
- The N&O gave us the breakdown after last month’s elections: “North Carolina Democrats say the election results in and out of state show a rebuke of President Donald Trump and the divisive rhetoric that they say local Republicans employed in races across the state. Furthermore, they see reasons to believe they can gain influence in the state legislature by picking up seats in next year’s election.“
- But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “For one, Virginia leans more to the Democrats than North Carolina. While Trump won North Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carried Virginia.”
- “It’s unclear how many seats the Democrats could realistically flip in the legislature. Clouding the political crystal ball is the fact that the courts may implement new N.C. House and Senate maps before next November.”
- All in all, it is impossible to predict how the midterm elections will end up, or if the latest developments in Alabama and Virginia will play out in North Carolina. All we can really say with certainty now is that one vote really can make all the difference.