Virginia Election 2019: Republicans play to defend, but lose big

By Michael Alachnowicz | 13 November 2019

In the wake of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Republicans in Virginia were looking to make a statement for the 2019 Virginia elections. After going back and forth with Democratic state senators for years, the Republican-controlled legislature was looking to continue their fight.

However, it was the Democrats that came to play ball.

With an approximate turnout of 2.4 million votes for Democrats, the Republicans’ 1.8 million votes weren’t enough to save their majority in the senate or house.

However, this election wasn’t about voter turnout. Rather, this election centered around the lack of competition put on by Republicans. With the nation watching on, Virginia was poised to be one of the key indicators of how the next presidential election could turn out.

In a state senate with 40 seats, Republicans did not contest Democrats in a total of 15 seats. The Democrats only refrained from two.

In the House of Delegates, it’s a similar story. There are 100 seats in the house. Republicans did not run anyone for 29 different seats. Democrats, on the other hand, only strayed from eight seats.

With all of this taken into account, it may seem that Democrats blew this election cycle out of the water for this battleground state. 

Not quite.

Before November 5, 2019, Democrats held 19 seats to Republicans’ 20 in the state (there was one vacancy). After the election, the Democrats hold a narrow 21-19 lead – only a two-seat advantage.

However, a drastic flip did occur in the House of Delegates. Republicans controlled 51 seats to the Democrats’ 48 before the election (yet again, one vacancy). The switch was flipped post-election as Democrats swarmed to a 55-45 lead.

Although this isn’t the biggest flip ever – the Democrats flipped 15 seats in the 2017 election – it is a significant change from before 2017 when Republicans held 66 seats in the house.

The question that lingers is if the election would have been different had Republicans made an effort to counter Democrats throughout the state. After all, not contesting nearly 30% of seats in the house doesn’t seem like a great game plan.

Could Virginia be getting progressively bluer? If the house is any indication, it very well could be. Blue country in northern Virginia is reaching into GOP territory, and certainly areas outside Richmond aren’t a sure Republican firewall.

However, Republican strongholds in Virginia Beach and across rural central and southwestern Virginia don’t seem to be changing any time soon. For now, the fight will remain around northern Virginia and the bordering counties near Richmond. These places are where the future of Virginia could be decided.