Friday, June 9, 2023

Blue ‘wave’ made 2017 election tighter in red places, even in James City County

Tuesday’s elections were a wave for Democrats across the Commonwealth of Virginia, but the effects were felt even in historically conservative places, political scientists say.

Relatively high turnout, strong margins and support for Democratic candidates have left the balance of the House of Delegates in the General Assembly up to a recount outside of Manassas, Va.

Political scientists across Virginia are saying that Democrats were buoyed by a political wave made possible, in part, by the vote totals earned by Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D).

“Underdog Democrats in some more challenging seats managed to win, even though they were outspent and faced Republican incumbents,” said Geoffrey Skelley, political scientist and spokesman for the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “That sort of thing only happens in a wave.”

Northam’s win came with margins of victory similar to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Skelley said. Those margins “helped carry some Democrats across the finish line,” Skelley said about competitive House of Delegates seats in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and parts of Hampton Roads.

In the state’s second congressional district, a seat currently held by Congressman Scott Taylor (R), Northam earned 51.44 percent of the vote, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Prof. John McGlennon, a political scientist at the College of William and Mary and Democratic James City County supervisor, said the election night wave even came over parts of James City County and Williamsburg as Northam performed better than expected.

“It was remarkably close in the governor’s race,” McGlennon said of James City County. “Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) actually carried the county, which wouldn’t have been their expectation.”

Republican Ed Gillespie’s margin over Northam in James City County was 371 votes, or just over one percent.

McGlennon said he was surprised by the results. He had expected Democrats to pick up eight to 10 seats, but not the 15 currently projected by the Virginia Public Access Project.

The Virginia Public Access Project has indicated the Democrats will pick up 15 House of Delegates seats, bringing the composition of the house to 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats for the session starting in January.

However, the figure could change to an evenly divided house, 50-50,  if a recount in the 94th House of Delegates turns in favor of Democrat Shelly Simonds, according to Skelley.

“HD-94 will have a recount for sure,” Skelley said.

Until the recount is over, there will be no definitive answer on the composition of the House of Delegates for the 2018 session, according to Skelley.

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