Democrats won big Tuesday night, including Virginia, New Jersey, and a slew of smaller races around the country. Some analysts are calling it the “wave” of enthusiasm among Democrats as they look for ways to vote against President Trump and vent their electoral frustrations. The most closely watched race was for Governor in Virginia, but the results weren’t even close. Democrat Ralph Northam handily took down Republican Ed Gillespie to keep the Richmond state house in Democratic hands.
In New Jersey, with outgoing Governor Chris Christie hitting a term limit, Democrats once against regained control in the Garden State and sent Republicans packing.
There are many story lines from around the country, but most of the big news is coming from Virginia. Here is a rundown of the major stories from Tuesday night.
The first openly transgender candidate won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, defeating longtime incumbent Republican Bob Marshall. The story from NBC Washington:
Danica Roem, a 33-year-old journalist turned public works advocate, has won Virginia’s 13th District House of Delegates seat, becoming the first openly transgender person elected and seated to a state legislature in the United States.
Roem beat out the district’s 26-year incumbent, conservative values and government transparency champion Bob Marshall.
The race attracted national attention as Marshall, 73, a conservative who proposed a bill restricting which bathrooms transgender people could use, faced off against the transgender stepmother who plays in a metal band.
If it weren’t for the circumstances, a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates wouldn’t make national news, but Danica Roem will become a nationally-recognize name after this victory.
Furthermore, The Week reports that with Roem’s victory over Bob Marshall, Democrats may be on their way to regaining control of the lower chamber in Richmond:
Republicans have controlled the House since 2000, and they went into the night with 66 of the 100 seats. Four seats are close enough they might qualify for a recount, and a 50-50 tie is a significant possibility. Republicans hold a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.
Of the 14 House seats the Democrats have flipped so far, 10 of them were won by women, including one transgender candidate and the state’s first two Latina lawmakers in the General Assembly. Democrats were as surprised as Republicans. “This is an unbelievable night,” House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D) told The Washington Post. “There were districts we didn’t think we had much of a shot in.” Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) called the election a referendum on President Trump, telling The New York Times, “I know folks that lost tonight who were going against candidates I’d never even heard of.”
The simple and most likely answer here is that the enthusiasm among voters is now favoring Democrats. If you rewind Virginia politics back to 2009, the year after Barack Obama’s victory, it is almost a mirror-image of what happened last night. A new party swept into the White House, and voters of the opposite party in Virginia (and New Jersey) couldn’t wait to go vote against them. Back in 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell won the Governor’s race by 17 points over Democrat Creigh Deeds.
Last night, momentum was with the Democratic Party, and after several losses in special elections, they found reason to hope that 2018 could provide the opportunity to regain control of the US House of Representatives. That may be a long stretch, but if you look back to 2010, this is exactly how rebuilding began for Republicans. It started with victories in Virginia and New Jersey, then continued from there.
The question in 2018 will be whether Donald Trump will be an asset for the GOP in the House, or an anchor that pulls down candidates running in swing districts. We’ll come back to this question in January after the dust settles from 2017.
Back to some of the other stories from last night, voters in Maine approved expanding Medicaid by ballot referendum, and voters in New York State rejected the possibility of holding a new state constitutional convention. Meanwhile, voters in New York City gave Bill De Blasio a second term.
This story from The Hill has a good roundup of Democratic victories from Washington state all the way to Georgia.
It’s safe to to say that if Election 2016 was the year of Trump, Election 2017 has become the year of anti-Trump. Will that continue to 2018? Stay tuned.