Virginia’s governor election has hogged the spotlight during the 2017 election cycle, but it is the Democrats’ sweep of the state’s House of Delegates races that is the strongest testament this year to partisanship in a post-Trump world. All 100 seats were up for election, and with 14 seats picked up so far, the party only needs three more to win a majority in the chamber. Five races remain too close to call.
According to David Wasserman at The Cook Political Report, the results of the governor election might not matter in terms of 2018 predictions, but the House of Delegates seats do. Wasserman said in September that if Democrats picked up at least 5 to 10 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, it could signal a corresponding shift in the U.S. House next year, as the 2009 state legislative races did for the 2010 mid-term elections.
“Democrats have nowhere to go but up in the House of Delegates: They currently hold just 34 seats out of 100, thanks to district lines aggressively gerrymandered by the GOP in 2011. Of the 66 Republicans, 17 are sitting in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Most of those 17 are in very competitive races that could go either way,” said NBC News the day before the election.
“If they win over four-and-a-half seats, they probably had a decent, pretty good night in the House of Delegates race, by net gain, I should say. If it’s just four, chalk it up as a ‘C’ night for them,” political analyst Geoffrey told The Hill just before the election.
While the seat counts are yet to be finalized, it appears that Democrats are not only on track to pick up enough seats to scare Republicans, they have ousted so many GOP incumbents that they may win an outright majority in the chamber.
“This is a tidal wave,” said Wasserman on Twitter after a run of tweets reporting results in districts where Democrats have unseated GOP incumbents.
The most notable win so far is in the 13th District, where transgender woman Danica Roem ousted Republican incumbent Del. Robert Marshall, who had previously refused to acknowledge that Roem is a woman. She is the first transgender woman to win election to a state legislature in the entire nation.
According to Wasserman, Democrats have already picked up 14 seats. Only five races remain and they are too close to call; Democrats need to win in three of those districts to gain control of the chamber. If they win two, the Virginia House will be split.
Midterm elections already disadvantage the party of the sitting president, and the Republicans would be on the defensive next year even if their president had stellar approval ratings. A 14-seat pickup in the Virginia House is already more than enough to set the party on an uncomfortable edge; if Democrats manage to win a majority, it may be an indication that 2018 could be the year of the battleground.
“You can’t really look at tonight’s results and conclude that Democrats are anything other than the current favorites to pick up the U.S. House in 2018,” said Wasserman on Twitter.
University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato chimed in on Twitter with a plea: “Dear Pundit Friends, please stop attributing this D landslide in VA to “changing demographics”. VA hasn’t changed that much since last Nov. 8 (Hillary by 5%). The bigger explanation is a backlash to Trump and Trumpism, pure and simple”
Twitterers are already speculating what next year might bring for the Republican incumbent in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, Barbara Comstock. Rep. Comstock won election in 2015. Formerly a Democrat, she made the leap to the GOP after interning for Senator Ted Kennedy in college.
Dan Helmer, one of the many Democrats who filed to run against her in next year’s midterm elections has accused her of losing “that centrist feeling” in his latest campaign video, where he sings the refrain to the tune of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
Democrats’ strong showing in Comstock’s district suggest that a strong Democratic candidate could pose a serious threat to her incumbency.
All 435 seats in the U.S. House are up for election in 2018, as are 33 seats in the Senate.