There still remain a handful of races in Virginia that have been contested and therefore yet to be decided. However, the fact remains that for Democrats, the outcome of last week’s statewide elections have given both new life and energy to the party — one still reeling from Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton for the White House.
And given President Trump’s unorthodox, if not outlandish, attitude, behavior and unsettling agenda, the Nov. 7 wave of Democratic victories has many members of the GOP anxious about their own chances of success in the upcoming 2018 races including those currently holding seats in Congress, state legislatures and governors’ offices.
As for “Old Dominion,” the resounding victory of Democrat Ralph Northam, the former state lieutenant governor, over Republican Ed Gillespie by a 54 to 45 percentage of voters, respectively, along with the Dems completing the trifecta by winning races for Virginia’s lieutenant governor and attorney general by former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax and Mark R. Herring [seeking reelection] respectively, both by wide margins, has reenergized Democrats in the state and throughout the U.S.
Women voted for Northam by a 61 to 39 percent margin over his opponent. Even more impressive, Black women gave the nod to the governor-elect by a 91 to 8 percent margin.
Fairfax, who follows Doug Wilder as the second Black lieutenant governor in the state’s history since Reconstruction, and who lost in his previous attempt to secure the attorney general’s seat, said shortly after his victory, “Virginia will be the match that sparks the wildfire across the nation.”
“People rejected Trump-style politics in Virginia and other states,” Fairfax said. “Those who follow his divisiveness are going to lose. We’ve got to focus on issues folks care about like HBCUs and making sure all citizens have access to quality education.”
“Former Governor Wilder is a great friend of mine and a bright light in my life,” Fairfax said. “And while it’s not easy to win as an African-American in a statewide election, it is possible. God showed up and showed out in our victory. This a new era in America. Donald Trump is no longer dictating what’s happening in America.”
“It’s a powerful wave that’s happening and I think we have a great chance to redefine our politics and reclaim our American values and say you’re not going to discriminate based on where they live, the color of their skin, the God who they pray to or who they love,” Fairfax said who saw an increase of seven to nine percent in Black voters — voters who traditionally turn out for Democrats.
Fairfax garnered 1.36 million votes in his quest for lieutenant governor and added, “voters chose hope over fear.”
But women also scored significantly in the recent elections in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to the election, just 17 of the 100 members of the Virginia House were women. Now the number has increased to nearly 30. And 40 women across the country have already indicated that they will be running for governor in their home states in 2018.
Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’S List, said, “We’ve never seen anything like this.”
“It’s not just Trump’s victory motivating women to run, it’s also Clinton’s loss,” said Schriock whose organization has gained a reputation for training and preparing women interested in politics. “When that victory [Clinton] didn’t materialize, their initial shock and fear of a Trump presidency turned to action.”
In fact, of 55 women EMILY’s List endorsed in the 2017 elections, at least 32 won with three heading for run-off elections and a few more races still too close to call. Winners included: Danica Roem, the first trans woman ever elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and Vi Lyles, the first Black female mayor of Charlotte, N.C.
“This is huge. This is how we build momentum for 2018,” Schriock said in an interview with a Washington Post reporter.
Another woman endorsed by Schriock’s organization, Ashley Bennett, decided to square off against John Carman, a representative for Atlantic County’s Board of Freeholders in New Jersey after Carman made a sexist joke in repudiating the Women’s March. Bennett defeated Carman.
But there were other firsts in the recent elections across the U.S. including: Balvir Singh, 32, a Democratic challenger who will become the first Sikh to hold a countywide seat in New Jersey after upsetting Republican incumbents; Helena, Montana elected its first Black mayor, a refugee from Liberia; Seattle gave its nod to its first female mayor in close to 100 years; Melvin Carter, II, became St. Paul, Minnesota’s first Black mayor; Washington which ousted Republicans to became a Democratic-dominated state; and Danica Roem (D-Prince William), who unseated incumbent Robert Marshall and will become the first openly-transgender person to serve in the Virginia legislature where she’ll represent the state’s 13th District.
“This win reaffirms that when you focus on the person issues, similar to what mayoral candidates must do, your identifiers (race, religion, political party, sexual orientation) don’t matter — you can win,” said Roem, a lifelong resident of Annapolis and a former reporter.
“We had hundreds of volunteers and knocked on over 75,000 doors. “I kept my focus on hyper-local issues: improving our highway system, raising pay for teachers and healthcare. I knew the issues and knew what mattered to the voters in the district,” said Roem, who defeated Marshall who recently raised no objection to being described as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”