Election night 2018 reminded me a lot of Election night 2017, only on a larger scale. In Virginia we love elections so much we have them every year, and so in 2017 we were the first place in the country to hold elections during the Trump presidency. Democrats did remarkably well, exceeding all but the loftiest of expectations, picking up an apparent 16 seats in the House of Delegates and being within a literal handful of votes of picking up a 17th. The high didn’t last long though, as we learned that a transposition in recording the votes in the 40th led to an erroneous result there.
For weeks, while we awaited the outcome of the recount, it was hard to be excited about all we had won. Everything was focused on the ones that got away, the places where we were so close.
Eventually, it started to dawn on us how big a day we really had, and how powerful we could be with 49 votes in the Virginia House of Delegates. Even if it wasn’t yet a majority with 51.
In 2018, it’s easy to focus on the fact that Republicans maintained control of the Senate, and view the evening as disappointing, the Blue Wave crashing made its way all the way to shore.
Democrats flipped eight state legislatures, 372 legislative seats, and almost 40 Congressional House seats. We broke Republican supermajorities in three states and made significant gains in seven other states. And just like this time last year, there are ballots still being counted and potential recounts, ongoing.
What does that portend for the year to come?
A lot of what happens in Richmond during our upcoming session will depend on how the state’s political parties read and react to the results of our midterm elections.
When you break down the statewide vote by legislative district, many Virginia Republican legislators find they now represent districts where a sizable majority of their constituents voted for Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate and Jennifer Wexton, or Abigail Spanberger, or Elaine Luria for Congress.
Knowing that, how will they react? Will they try to moderate some of their positions, distancing themselves from the president and the National Republican Brand?
One of the first tests will be how the leadership of the Virginia House and Senate decides to deal with the Equal Rights Amendment. Virginia has the chance to be the 38th state to pass ERA legislation — putting us over the 75 percent threshold required to amend the US Constitution. Will the GOP Speaker of the House allow the bill to emerge from committee for a vote on the floor?
Will members of the majority view the defeat of Barbara Comstock, the NRAs highest funded member of congress, as a cautionary tale? Will they finally work with us to pass meaningful gun violence prevention legislation?
Will watching our former colleague, Scott Taylor, lose in a race where integrity and veracity were major issues, bring legislators to the table to finally have meaningful ethics and campaign finance reform?
Dave Brat, a Tea Party favorite, lost his election as well. Will that embolden those legislators who are more amenable to reaching across the aisle in search of bipartisan solutions?
Or will the endangered GOP majority look at the results as a different kind of warning, that when participation is this high, Democrats tend to win. Will they double down on their efforts to restrict voting and access to the ballot to hold on to their slim majorities?
As your delegate here in Falls Church I can tell you that I found Tuesday’s vote affirming. Corey Stewart received less than 16 percent of the vote in the City of Falls Church.
That tells me you want me to continue to pursue the legislative agenda I’ve been working on for the last five years: making sure full time work pays a living wage for all Virginians, ensuring equal protection under the law for everyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or who they love; making Virginia a leader in solar renewable energy, and most importantly to all those goals, increasing voter participation and access.
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov