Democrats won control of the state House of Delegates and maintained control of the Senate on Tuesday, in an ebb from the Republican insurgency that propelled Gov. Glenn Youngkin to surprise victory two years ago.
Dave Wasserman, editor of the Cook Political Report, called it a done deal shortly after 11pm, with Democrats appearing to win 51 seats in the House of Delegates, with 3 races still up on the air — including that of notorious porn candidate Susanna Gibson.
That Virginians were seriously considering someone who sold sex acts on camera during her campaign rather than voting for a Republican said it all for the fate of Republicans in the commonwealth. Even as four out of the last six governors were Democrats, Republicans had largely held their grip on the lower chamber, controlling it continuously since 2000 with the exception of a two-year period following the 2019 elections.
Now, the state has a Republican governor but a Democrat-controlled House and Senate, likely preventing both camps from significantly advancing their agendas.
Governors in Virginia are limited to a single term, so Youngkin will have difficulty securing the sorts of victories highlighted by fellow high-profile Republican governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, and initiatives like school choice are dead on arrival.
Voters who expect a Democrat-controlled legislature to be similar to that of two years ago could be in for a surprise, however. The time out of power recalibrated the party from one focused on governing to a party of resistance that elevated its most incendiary voices.
Several mainstream Democrats lost their primaries to challengers from the left. Once-a-decade redistricting also contributed to the shake-up. Moderate Democrats like former House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn have been pushed out and replaced with insurgents like Don Scott, who was apprehended by federal agents in a Denny’s restaurant in 1994 after running into the bathroom and attempting to flush thousands of dollars in drug money. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and served seven and a half. Now he is expected to become speaker of the House.
Ecstatic—Virginia’s House of Delegates Dem leader @DonScott757 is really pumped & fired up, and ready to soon be House Speaker.
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) November 8, 2023
Scott after he was first elected introduced a bill that would release inmates at age 60 if they had served at least 10 years of their sentence, or age 65 if they had served at least five. It would apply to nearly all felonies, including most murders. He was thwarted by moderate Democrats–but those voices are now gone. The impacts on public safety are also pronounced because the legislature appoints judges.
In addition to the state legislature, positions ranging from sheriff to school board were also on the ballot, and many Democrats ran on abortion–even in positions like school board that the issue had no bearing on. In races where many voters were unfamiliar with either candidate, they played to national politics, demonizing their Republican opponents as “MAGA.” In some cases, they counted on the strategy to distract voters from the fact that the Democrat candidates were seriously flawed.
Most prominent in that regard was Susanna Gibson, who sold sex acts online to raise money during her campaign. Police are also investigating whether her campaign paperwork was forged. As of 11:30pm, with 16 of 19 precincts reporting, Gibson was ahead of her Republican opponent by 800 votes.
Several Democrat school board members who angered parents just two years ago by closing schools were rewarded with promotions to the state legislature.