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Democrats Take Control of General Assembly: Election Analysis for Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins VPM News Director Craig Carper for a post-election analysis.

Craig Carper:  Good morning, Jeff.

Jeff Schapiro:  Craig, good to see you.

Carper:  Good to see you as well.

Schapiro:  A little bleary-eyed.

Carper:  A little bleary-eyed this morning, but none the worse for wear.  So historic election last night, Democrats taking back control of both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in 26 years and by opposite margins.  We expected a bigger run-up in the Senate than in the House, and it appears that the Dems ended election night with, with more seats in the House than the Senate.

Schapiro:  And this is one party, blue party, control of state government for the first time in nearly 30 years.  It's a 55-45 break in the House.  There's at least one House race going to recount down in Virginia Beach, and if it stands with the Democrats, it would be 55-45.  It’s 21-19 in the Senate, essentially the reverse of what the Republicans had.  One would think it’s something of a disappointment for Democrats.  The expectations had been much higher in the Senate.  One should note that among the more successful candidates last night in the Senate were women, Hashmi, Ghazala defeating a Republican incumbent here in the Richmond area, Glen Sturtevant.  The first Muslim woman elected to the General Assembly.  Siobhan Dunnavant surviving a fairly pesky challenge for a Henrico/Hanover seat, and an open Senate seat in Virginia Beach held by the Republicans with a woman.  Overall, the problem coming out of this election for the Republicans is that their numbers are increasingly scarce in the areas of Virginia where votes are abundant and where those large numbers of votes are increasingly Democratic.  So what does this mean for 2021 with redistricting?  What does it mean for 2021, in terms of assembling a statewide ticket?  Clearly Trump was a factor, but I'd make the argument that Trump only magnified building distaste for Republican governance.  And a lot of the themes that of course Trump had been emphasizing were themes that Republicans at the state level had been emphasizing - resistance to gun control, restrictions on abortion, hostility to immigrants.  This really contributed to sort of a building demand for a change.  And of course that building demand, hastened or accelerated by population growth, albeit slower population growth, but the increasing diversity of Virginia's electorate and the growing dominance of the suburbs and the cities.

Carper:  Perhaps the final nail in the coffin this season for the so-called Virginia Way, with such a strong emphasis, never have I seen more of an emphasis on national issues in a state.

Schapiro:  Well, in a state in which the majority of people who live here are from elsewhere, one really shouldn't be surprised.  And there are implications for the national Democrats and the national Republicans looking to 2020 in the presidential year.  There's now, I think, little doubt that this is a state that will hold for the Democrats in the presidential cycle a year from now.  

Carper:  You talked about some of the newcomer candidates this cycle. We saw Ghazala Hashmi, Clinton Jenkins, Josh Cole, all diverse new fresh faces.

Schapiro:  And of course Clinton Jenkins, an African American, defeating maybe the smaller of the two big enchiladas that were in peril.  He defeated Chris Jones, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.  One should note that that was a district that was redrawn by the courts, a long, long court battle over Republican gerrymandering.  Also Speaker Cox's district was redrawn, though the speaker surviving.  And the speaker likely not to be the speaker much longer with a Democratic majority, Kirk Cox in and out in only two years.  I would make the argument that Kirk Cox has the potential to be a remarkably effective member of the minority.  And one should point out that the Republicans will bring a certain measure of institutional knowledge to their reduced status that I wonder might provide them with something of an upper hand against this House Democratic majority, of whom only two members served in a majority.

Carper:  And you mentioned the big losers, started to talk about the big losers of last night.  Kirk Cox will be trying to make the best of his current situation, but also Tommy Norment's leadership status possibly threatened, and a couple of big Democratic losers as well.

Schapiro:  One would think that that Norment could very well be done for.  As Republican leaders, there are certainly a number of alternatives who have been batted around.  Norment, however, is one of those Republicans with a certain measure of procedural and parliamentary acumen who could be very effective, even on the outs.   One, by the way, should point out as well that, and this seems to be driving some of the internal politics in the House Democratic Caucus, Northern Virginia is a huge winner in all of this.  Dick Saslaw will be the majority leader in the Senate from Fairfax, Eileen Filler-Corn from Fairfax of course, angling for the speakership.  Lashrecse Aird, announcing that she will challenge Filler-Corn when the Democrats convene this weekend to settle some of those organizational and leadership issues.  But one wonders, and I think we've discussed this before we got on air, came on the air, excuse me, what has Lashrecse Aird done to earn the speakership?  If one considers it, Filler-Corn came in under very difficult circumstances, an unanticipated retirement by David Toscano, raised a lot of money, worked the state, and helped candidates.  

Carper:  Of course there's NOVA, and there is ROVA, the rest of Virginia.  Any regional issues you think we might see shake out over the next session?

Schapiro:  Well, you know some of these issues such as the Dillon rule, and kind of the subordinate issues such as, you know, the Confederate statues, big issues in ROVA.  The General Assembly I think is likely to unshackle local government in a number of respects.  And that's going to bring a lot of these issues, for example, the Confederate statutes to even fuller boil at the local level.

Carper:  Thanks to Jeff Schapiro for joining us very early after a late evening.  We will catch up again in a mere 48 hours and talk about everything that's happened in between.

Schapiro:  It'll be great fun.  Thank you, Craig.

Carper:  Thanks, Jeff.