Republicans regain footing in Virginia, crushing Democrats’ hope for a realignment

Republicans captured Virginia’s top offices in this week’s elections, and voters appear to have delivered the party a majority in the House of Delegates, defying Democrats’ proclamations that the state had turned reliably blue.

Powered by huge rural majorities and renewed strength in Virginia’s suburbs, Glenn Youngkin, a political newcomer, won the governorship, and Winsome Sears, the first Black woman to win statewide, won the lieutenant governor’s post.

Delegate Jason Miyares held a narrow lead in his bid to unseat two-term Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat. Mr. Miyares, who has claimed victory in the race, would be the state’s first Hispanic to win statewide.

The victories ended a decade of decline for the Republican Party, which hadn’t won a statewide race since 2009.

Republicans also claimed at least six flipped seats in the House, which would give them the majority just two years after they ceded it to Democrats for the first time since the 1990s.

Combined with strong Republican showings in races elsewhere across the country, party leaders said voters were pumping the brakes on the liberal drift of Democrats.

“Politics is a pendulum affair, and the mad dash by Democrats to the extreme left in recent years lost the confidence of the voting public and swung the pendulum back to the right — and to common-sense governance,” Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson told The Washington Times on Wednesday. “Virginians will see their new Republican governor and House of Delegates majority lead from a place of common sense that makes life better for all Virginians.”

The search for meaning and message quickly spread from Richmond to Washington, where Democrats pondered what went wrong.

Some argued that their voters were disappointed by the lack of delivery on liberal promises at the national level, but Sen. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat who served as the state’s governor from 2002 to 2006, told reporters that Democratic voters did turn out.

“The remarkable thing is Terry McAuliffe yesterday got 300,000 more votes in 2017 than Ralph Northam got. We lost a lot of suburban voters who voted for us in the past,” Mr. Warner said. “We can’t win with losing our suburban voters, and we can’t win in Virginia if a Democrat can’t crack 20% in certain rural communities.”

Mr. Youngkin, a former executive of the Carlyle Group Inc., ran a traditional Republican campaign. He promised parents more say in their children’s education.

At his victory party Wednesday morning, he vowed to deliver the largest education budget in the state’s history and to promote more school choice.

“We’re going to embrace our parents, not ignore them,” he said.

Ms. Sears, the winner in the lieutenant governor’s race, cast her victory as a unifying event for the state.

“There are some who want to divide us, and we must not let that happen,” she said at her victory party.

In the House races, Democrats massively outspent Republicans and ran on a message of continuing the liberal policies they pursued after winning the majority two years ago.

Republicans, though, regained seats in the state’s central and southwestern areas en route to the new majority.

In the governor’s race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe conceded Wednesday morning with a statement listing the areas he said Democrats must continue the fight, including voting rights, abortion rights and, “above all else, we must protect our democracy.”

Mr. McAuliffe, who won the governorship in 2013 by nearly 3 percentage points after campaigning as a pragmatic manager, was more combative this year. He tried to portray Mr. Youngkin as an acolyte of former President Donald Trump.

Without Mr. Trump on the ballot, voters who backed Democrats a year ago chose Republican candidates.

In 2020, Rep. Elaine Luria won her 2nd Congressional District by 5.8 percentage points, but Mr. Youngkin won it by 8.3 percentage points — a 14-point swing.

In suburban Virginia Beach, Ms. Luria won by 6.1 percentage points in 2020. On Tuesday, Mr. Youngkin won it by 8 percentage points, another 14-point swing.

In 2020, Rep. Abigail Spanberger won the 7th Congressional District by 1.8 percentage points. Mr. Youngkin won it by 15.4 percentage points — a more than 17-point swing.

Both lawmakers were elected during the “blue wave” of 2018, when Democrats recaptured the House majority after eight years.

The National Republican Congressional Committee expanded its House target list Wednesday. It said Republican ideas can rebound in districts that Democrats gained in the past four years.

“It wasn’t just Virginia and New Jersey last night. It was Texas. It was Minneapolis. It was New York,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.

He pointed to the defeats of election overhaul proposals in deep-blue New York, even as Democrats push the same types of plans on Capitol Hill.

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