The Old Dominion turned solidly blue Tuesday night, with Democrats picking up majority control in the General Assembly.
All 140 seats in the State Senate and House of Delegates were on the ballot Tuesday. Prior to Election Night, Republicans held only a slim majority in both chambers, with 51 seats to the Democrats’ 48 in the House, and 20 seats to Democrats’ 19 in the Senate. By evening’s end, though, that majority solidly changed in the Democrats’ favor.
In the State Senate, Democrats on Tuesday night won 21 races, with only 20 seats needed to gain majority control, thanks to the tiebreaker power held by Democratic Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. After midnight, one race remained undecided in the 12th District.
Likewise, in the House of Delegates, Democrats picked up six additional seats, now controlling 55. The wins put the state back in Democratic control for the first time in decades.
Despite not winning a statewide race in the past decade, the Republican Party in Virginia has held onto control of both chambers of the General Assembly for the past five years. Republicans have held Senate control since 2014, and a majority in the House for 20 years.
Many eyes nationwide have been turned to Virginia as a litmus test for Republican President Donald J. Trump, who faces re-election next Election Day. It will also give Democrats control in the next round of redistricting ahead of the 2020 census.
Northam praised Tuesday night’s gains and said the victories were evidence that Virginians wanted the state government to continue building on the progress that began with his victory two years ago. He pointed specifically to work on the rights of women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants, along with efforts on education, medical care, clean energy and climate change. He also signaled Tuesday’s results as evidence of a desire to pass gun safety legislation.
“Tonight, the ground has shifted in Virginia government,” Northam said.
In Loudoun, one of the key General Assembly seats to change party hands came in the 13th Senate District, where Democrat John Bell defeated Republican Geary Higgins with more than 54 percent of the vote. The seat had historically been in solid Republican control, most recently for the past eight years by Sen. Dick Black, who did not seek re-election.
Bell’s victory, however, represented the only General Assembly seat in Loudoun to change party hands. Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33) decisively won in her first re-election bid since her January special election victory. She bested Republican challenger and Leesburg Town Councilwoman Suzanne Fox with more than 62 percent of the vote. The 33rd District has become solid ground for Democrats in the past two decades, with the last Republican victory coming in 2003 to now state Supreme Court Justice Bill Mims.
“It’s been a long time coming, but finally, finally we were ready to see a message of preventing gun violence be the message that prevails,” Bell told the celebrating Democrats at Lost Rhino Retreat in Brambleton on Tuesday night. “People shouldn’t be shot in their own backyard.”
Bell said some longstanding Democratic priorities will move ahead now that they control both chambers of the General Assembly—starting with the Equal Rights Amendment, seeking an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that outlaws discrimination based on gender, and “common-sense gun legislation that has gone nowhere for many years.” He also said the General Assembly would pass last session’s proposed state constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission.
“We passed a bill last year that was a step forward on that, we need to pass it again and then do another one at the same time to make sure that we have fair elections and that elected officials aren’t picking their voters,” Bell said.
Bell replaces one of the most notorious members of the Virginia Senate. Black was known, among other things, for his opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion—once handing out plastic fetus dolls to legislators—and his vocal support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused by American and international agencies of human rights abuses and war crimes during his time in power. “I promise you I won’t be going to Syria,” Bell said.
“I believe in science, I believe in a pragmatic, common-sense moderate approach, and I will meet with every one of my constituents who wants to meet with me,” Bell added. “And I will take the approach that I’ll work with anybody to do what’s good for this district and good for Virginia.”
On local issues, he said, he will push to re-evaluate Smart Scale—a formula by which federal funds are distributed to local transportation projects, and which he said does not account for the high growth rate in the region—and the composite index, which determines the amount of state funding for local education systems.
Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27) also held onto her seat of the last dozen years, turning back a challenge by Democrat Ronnie Ross with more than 52 percent of the vote. Vogel won in almost all localities within the district, coming in second to Ross only in the City of Winchester. The 27th District includes four precincts in Loudoun County.
Bell’s former 87th District House seat stayed in Democratic control, with a victory by Suhas Subramanyam over Republican William “Bill” Drennan, Jr. Subramanyam won with nearly 64 percent of the vote to Drennan’s 35 percent. Subramanyam is the first Indian-American elected to the General Assembly.
Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10) won in her first re-election bid since her 2017 victory, besting Republican J. Randall Minchew, who represented the district from 2011 until his defeat two years ago. Gooditis won with more than 56 percent of the vote. However, she only found a majority of the vote in Loudoun, with Minchew handily defeating her in the district precincts that fall in Frederick and Clarke counties.
Republican Del. Dave A. LaRock (R-33) won his fourth two-year House term, beating Democratic challenger Mavis Taintor in the 33rd House district with about 55 percent of the vote. The district includes portions of Clarke and Frederick counties.
Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34) hung onto her seat, with a little more than 59 percent of the vote over Republican Gary Pan in a district that predominantly falls within Fairfax County, save for eight Loudoun precincts.
Locally, Democrats also had the perk of several uncontested General Assembly seats. Sen. Barbara Favola (31), Del. David Reid (32), Del. Karrie Delaney (67), and Del. Ibraheem Samirah (86) all ran unopposed.
When asked about Democrats flipping the House and Senate, LaRock referenced the phrase “density equals democrats” and pointed to the growth that has occurred in eastern Loudoun.
“It’s just clearly a more liberal leaning elect of voters,” he said. “There’s no disgrace in giving it a try like that, even if you don’t get the numbers at the end of the day.”
He said he was glad Republicans are still holding some ground in Loudoun.
Deputy Editor Renss Greene contributed to this article.