Will VAs democratic scandals cost the party control of the state?

Mar 2012
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Virginia Democrats had a banner year in 2017. They won the governorship by 9 points and picked up a surprising 15 seats in the state Assembly. Control of the Assembly came down to a Republican candidate being declared the winner of a tied race after his name was randomly picked out of a bowl.

Of course, that was before a series of scandals engulfed the top three Democrats in the state—with Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring posing in blackface and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax facing serious sexual assault allegations. Virginia Democrats worry that the scandals could cost them their best chance in a decade at unified control of the state and could even, in the most extreme scenario, give Republicans control of the redistricting process. That could happen if the top three Democrats resign, making Assembly Speaker Kirk Cox—who is fourth in the line of succession—governor, and if Republicans retain their legislative majorities this fall.

“A lot of progressive groups and candidates and activists have been working really hard for the last decade to help put Democrats in a position for success in Virginia before the next redistricting cycle,” says Carolyn Fiddler, political editor of the Daily Kos and an expert on Virginia politics. “To see it all blow up in our faces is bitter.”

Even if Democrats retain the governorship, a decline in Democratic turnout this fall could cost the party their best shot in two decades at taking back the Legislature despite the new assembly maps in place. “You have to at least account for the fact that these scandals will reduce Democrats’ chances of taking the state Legislature,” says Kondik.

Virginia’s Democratic scandals could cost the party control of state politics for the next decade