For the first time in 26 years, Democrats won full control of Virginia’s state government in Tuesday’s election.
Gov. Ralph Northam and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, both Democrats, wasted no time Wednesday celebrating while also pledging swift action.
“It’s a new day in Virginia and it’s really exciting,” Northam told WTOP Wednesday morning. “Yesterday, Virginians spoke. They told us what they want. They’re pleased with the progress that we have made as Democrats and certainly want us to continue that.”
Northam credited the state’s economy as one of the reasons for Democrat victories.
“Our economy, despite what President Trump is doing, is doing very well. We have an unemployment rate of 2.7%, the lowest it’s been really in the history of Virginia,” he said.
McAuliffe gave credit to Trump, saying he is “the greatest grassroots motivator we’ve ever seen” and bashed state Republicans for the legislation they passed.
“People have had it. They just want the government to work for them,” McAuliffe said while visiting the WTOP studios.
Northam cited education, access to health care, diversity and equity as reasons that voters went for Democrats.
But the major one was gun violence, according to Northam.
“We lost over 1,000 Virginians last year and as you all probably remember, I called the legislature back on July 9 and introduced eight pieces of common-sense gun legislation and they spent less than 90 minutes and they went home,” he said. “And Virginians were paying attention to that.”
McAuliffe echoed that sentiment.
“I think the issue on guns is something that resonates with every family in Virginia. When I was governor, I put up 26 gun bills — common-sense, background checks, closing the gun show loophole — every single one of those bills was killed in a Republican subcommittee at 6:30 in the morning. And you know what? They didn’t even have the courage to take a recorded vote,” McAuliffe said.
He says he doesn’t want to see any compromise from Democrats on gun control bills.
“The NRA is based here in Virginia. And if they don’t like it, they can move out,” McAuliffe said. “If they don’t like it, they can move out. I focused on job creation every day, brought 1,143 new companies into Virginia, but that is one company, if they don’t like it, they can go elsewhere.”
Northam promises that “good things” are going to happen in Virginia and he outlined a series of efforts he anticipates the state government will address, including redistricting, women’s reproductive rights and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
“All of these are important issues, they were factors in yesterday’s results, and we’re ready to move forward with action,” Northam said.
He also addressed the black face scandal and his efforts to make amends.
“Race and equity have been a priority of mine since I’ve been in politics, I started back in ’08,” Northam said. “And good things have happened since the incidents in February and we’ve learned a lot and we will continue to learn.”
He said a new office designed to examine the state’s diversity, equity and inclusivity will help the commonwealth improve.
House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, a Republican, on Tuesday predicted that Democrats would pursue an “extreme agenda” that would undo Republican efforts to make Virginia a business-friendly state.
“Virginians should expect public policies that look a lot more like the train-wreck that is California than the Virginia of good fiscal management and common-sense conservative governance,” Gilbert said in a statement.
MORE ELECTION DAY COVERAGE
- PHOTOS: Election Day around Virginia
- Election Day 2019: Democrats take control of Va. legislature
- Ballot blunders in Stafford, Prince William counties on Election Day
- Trump tweets support for Republican candidates in Virginia
- Biden rallies Virginia Democrats days before state election
- Virginia Senate election results
- Virginia House election results
- Prince William County election results
- Fairfax County election results
- Loudoun County election results
Tuesday’s victory extended the Democrats’ winning streak under Trump.
Suburban voters turned out in big numbers to back Democratic candidates, continuing a trend of once GOP-friendly suburbs turning blue. This is the third election in a row in which Virginia Democrats made significant gains since Trump was elected.
The Democrats’ big win was a warning sign for the president and Republicans ahead of next year’s election. Higher-educated and more affluent suburban voters — particularly women — have revolted against Trump’s GOP both in Virginia and nationwide. The suburbs leaned Republican in the past but have become a key battleground amid shifting demographics and Trump’s turbulent presidency.
Tuesday was a rough night for many suburban Republicans in Virginia. Del. Tim Hugo lost his spot as the last Republican representing Fairfax County, Northern Virginia’s most populous suburban jurisdiction.
Of the four states with legislative elections this year, Virginia was the only one where control of the statehouse was up for grabs. Republicans lost their slim majorities in both the state House and Senate.
National groups, particularly those aligned with Democrats, pumped huge amounts of money into the contests to test-drive expensive messaging and get-out-the-vote campaigns ahead of the 2020 balloting. Gun control and clean-energy groups affiliated with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent several million dollars helping Democrats.
Virginia also drew several high-profile visits from 2020 presidential hopefuls, including former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as current Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump tried to rally Republicans via Twitter but stayed out of Virginia, a state he lost in 2016.
The only candidate Trump endorsed by name, Republican Geary Higgins, was handily defeated in a Northern Virginia Senate district previously held by the GOP.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.