“Coffee tastes better today. In fact, a lot of things are better today.” That’s how Virginia State Del. Marcus Simon, who represents the City of Falls Church, began a constituent letter following Tuesday’s stunning string of Democratic Party victories in Virginia and elsewhere.
Simon wasn’t referring to his own easy re-election victory (he faced an independent challenger), but a far wider outcome that included three statewide officers — Ralph Northam winning by nine points for governor, Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor and Mark Herring for a second term as attorney general — and an astonishing pick up of at least 15 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, which would, if they stand, even the count at 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans in that body.
Four close races are facing recounts now. If Democrats come out ahead on them, they could win control of the House of Delegates for the first time since 1999.
The nature of electoral results nationwide have put an entirely different face on America’s potential going into the 2018 midterm elections compared to how things looked one year ago after the Trump presidential victory. Numerous groups aimed at recruiting and supporting new candidates remain intact, including Virginia’s Run Everywhere Fund of Jennifer Boysko and Thomas Bowman’s Competitive Commonwealth Fund.
The “Anti-Trump factor” was unmistakable in this week’s elections, set in motion the day after his inauguration in January with a record turnout for a women’s march on the nation’s capital, and with little loss in momentum during the 2017 election year. The first major indicator was the record number of candidates, including the many women and minorities, filing to run against Republicans around the commonwealth and elsewhere across the U.S. as well.
The national bellwether case was in the 13th State Delegate district covering Manassas and Manassas Park at the western edge of Prince William County. There, a veteran conservative Republican delegate, Bob Marshall, had been untouchable for over two dozen years.
Because of what many considered his egregious views on matters of women’s health and LGBT issues, he’d always faced impassioned opposition, but he’d always knocked them aside with ease. Until this time, that is.
Instead of trying to out-Marshall Marshall, Democrats chose in a hard-fought primary a candidate about as opposite of him as possible, a young openly transgender former newspaper reporter. It turns out that Danica Roem, who wound up not only winning, but winning handily, became Marshall’s match because of her relentless effort and her outgoing and self-affirming approach that predictably triggered reactionary responses from her foe, who refused to debate her or even identify her with proper pronouns.
Who would have predicted this outcome given Marshall’s long history in that job? Only someone who observed Roem’s campaign style and energy could have.
Demonstrating an articulate and powerful rhetoric in public speaking engagements, Roem dedicated her victory Tuesday “to every person who’s ever been singled out, who’s ever been stigmatized, who’s ever been the misfit, who’s ever been the kid in the corner, who’s ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn’t have a voice of their own.”
In fact, nationwide it was an election that featured such persons, with victories for racial and ethnic minorities, and transgender and LGBT Americans all across the land. Dawn Adams won as an openly LGBT candidate in the 68th District of Virginia, Vi Lyles became the first black woman to be elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, Jenny Durkan was elected the first lesbian mayor of Seattle (and the first woman in almost 90 years), Michelle Kaufusi became the first woman mayor of Provo, Utah, Ravi Bhalla was elected the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey, Liliana Bakhtiari became the first LGBT Muslim councilman in Atlanta, Kathy Tran became the first Asian-American woman in the Virginia House of Delegates, Melvin Carter III was the first person of color elected mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala were the first two Latinas elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. There were a lot more.
In Virginia, the new State Delegate winners included six younger millennials — including Chris Hurst, Schuyler Van Vulkenburg, Jerrauld Jones, Vin Gopal, Jennifer Foy and Roem. In what used to be pro-Republican or swing counties in the “exurbs” of Northern Virginia, the trends have shifted to markedly pro-Democratic. In Loudoun County, where Republicans won the U.S. Senate vote three years ago, they lost this time by 59.5 percent to 39 percent. In Prince William County where Republicans won 50 to 48 percent two years ago, Democrats won this time 60.8 percent to 38 percent.
In addition to Falls Church, school bond referenda also passed in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.