Republicans Score Significant Victories in VA Statewide Elections

Jack Tueting, Assistant Editor

On November 2, 2021, Virginia held elections for statewide, legislative and local offices. The results have wide-sweeping implications for the future of the commonwealth, and will have a measurable impact on the lives of students at Western Albemarle High School.
In the statewide races, Republicans roared back to life in the state, and won a statewide election for the first time since 2009. In the Governor’s race, Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin defeated Democratic former Governor Terry McAuliffe by a narrow 2% margin, 50.6% to 48.6%.
A variety of factors can be cited for Youngkins’ win in a state that President Biden won by a historic 10.1% just a year earlier. President Biden and congressional Democrats were sporting low approval ratings, likely due to gridlock over infrastructure legislation, and a widely criticized US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Historical trends also pointed towards a Republican victory in the state as well. In the past forty years, the Governorship was won by the opposite party of the president who had been elected the year before. The one exception to this rule was McAuliffe’s first win in 2013 while Barack Obama sat in the Oval Office. McAuliffe was also criticized for comments he made about parental control of school material, and many voters felt dissatisfied by McAuliffe’s messaging, which sought to tie Youngkin to former President Donald Trump.
Almost all voters who filled in the bubble for Youngkin also voted Republican for the other races on the ballot. In two upsets, Republicans won the Lieutenant Governorship and the Attorney General race as well. The Lieutenant Governor race was historic, as no matter who won, the office would be held by a Black woman for the first time in history. Republican former Delegate Winsome Sears defeated Democratic Delegate Hala Ayala of Prince William County to win the office, 50.7% to 49.2%.
In the Attorney General’s race, two-term incumbent Democratic AG Mark Herring was narrowly defeated in his bid for a third term by Republican Delegate Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Herring’s defeat, as almost all independent election predictors had Herring as a significant favorite. Herring was expected to win many crossover votes from Republicans, and to win the race even if the other Democrats lost. This vast crossover support did not materialize, as he lost by an incredibly close margin of less than 1% of the vote, garnering 49.6% of the vote to Miyares’ 50.4%.
The Virginia Democrats also suffered a massive defeat in the legislature. The General Assembly, Virginia’s law making body, has both a State Senate and a House of Delegates. Both chambers were held by Republicans until 2019, when Democrats flipped both, winning a 21D-19R majority in the Senate and a 55D-45R majority in the statehouse. Only the House of Delegates was up for election in 2021, and Republicans won back their majority, gaining 7 seats to create a 52R-48D partisan breakdown.
Western Albemarle draws students from four House of Delegates districts: the 25th, 57th, 58th, and 59th. Despite Albemarle County’s deep-blue lean, a gerrymander drawn by Virginia Republicans dilutes Democratic votes in order for only one Democrat to win, in Charlottesville city and Albemarle’s urban ring. Democrat Sally Hudson easily won re-election to a second term.
In the the 58th House of Delegates district, Republican Delegate Rob Bell won reelection in a landslide, 63% to 37% garnered by his Democratic opponent, Sara Ratcliffe. In the 59th district, Republican Delegate Matt Fariss defeated Democrat Ben Moses by a similar margin, 65% to 32%. In the 25th district, Democrat Jenni Kitchen performed slightly better than the other losing Democrats in the area, but still fell short 38% to 62% to incumbent Republican Delegate Chris Runion.
Locally, Albemarle Democrats triumphed in Board of Supervisors and School Board elections.