Republicans win down-ticket statewide races, possible House majority
GOP claims victory in control of House, but AP says too early to call Wed. A.M.
Like the top of the ticket, Virginia’s attorney general and lieutenant governor races were close, but Republicans were ultimately victorious. The party appeared headed to regain control of the Virginia House of Delegates, but The Associated Press said Wednesday morning that several races were too close to call.
However, the state GOP, which swept back into power in Virginia after more than a decade of statewide electoral losses, claimed it had won six seats in the 100-seat house, which would give the party a two-seat margin over Democrats, which held a 55-45 majority for the past two years. The AP had not yet called four of those races as of early Wednesday, though.
Down-ticket statewide races pitted Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring against Republican Del. Jason Miyares, and Republican Winsome Sears vs. Democratic Del. Hala Ayala for the lieutenant governor post, in which either candidate would be the first woman of color to serve in the position.
With 99.7% of Election Day votes and 91% of all early votes counted, Sears held a 51.1% majority over Ayala’s 48.9%. Miyares had 50.87% of the vote, over Herring’s 49.13%, echoing the governor’s race, in which Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin held a 51.07% lead to former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s 48.23%. Third-party progressive candidate Princess Blanding had 0.69% of the vote after polling at about 1%.
Sears, who was born in Jamaica and became a naturalized U.S. citizen after serving in the Marine Corps, will have significant power as tiebreaker in the Virginia State Senate, where Democrats hold a 21-19 majority. The legislative body, which is elected every four years and faces its next election in 2023, may represent Democrats’ only hope to defeat some GOP initiatives.
Sears declared victory early Wednesday, but Miyares did not take the stage at state Republicans’ celebration, where Youngkin declared he would deliver tax breaks, economic development and jobs, as well as charter schools and more parental involvement in children’s education.
Many incumbent Democratic delegates faced opponents in primaries and in the general election. Some were defeated, including Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, who lost by 10 points to Republican Jason Ballard in the 12th District.
Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 2020 for the first time in nearly 30 years, an outcome that resulted in part from McAuliffe’s campaigning and fundraising for Democratic delegate candidates after he left office in 2018, as well as demographic shifts in Virginia. With a larger, younger and more liberal Northern Virginia population and shrinking numbers in the more conservative western and Southern regions of the state, the state turned largely blue.
Since 2020, led by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, the state has been widely acknowledged as the South’s most progressive state governing body, having enacted sweeping measures, including abolishment of the death penalty to legalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage. Now, measures that must come up for additional votes — such as commercialization of marijuana — could be in jeopardy.
House leadership would also change if Republicans take control, with House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah likely to become speaker, replacing Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax County, the first woman and first Jew to hold the post.
Virginia Democrats’ progressive agenda of the past two years is guaranteed to come to a screeching halt, as control in Richmond will now be dominated by Republicans.