Are Virginia Election Results an Ominous Forewarning for North Carolina Republicans Running in 2018?

by johndavis, November 15, 2017

Are Virginia Election Results an Ominous Forewarning for North Carolina Republicans Running in 2018? November 15, 2017        Vol. X, No. 10        2:13 pm Virginia is Reliably Democratic. North Carolina is Not. North Carolina Democrats, with reason to be encouraged by seeing their party’s candidates win races for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General last week
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Are Virginia Election Results an Ominous Forewarning for North Carolina Republicans Running in 2018?

November 15, 2017        Vol. X, No. 10        2:13 pm

Virginia is Reliably Democratic. North Carolina is Not.

North Carolina Democrats, with reason to be encouraged by seeing their party’s candidates win races for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General last week in Virginia, must temper their elation with the following reality: Unlike North Carolina, Virginia has become a reliably Democratic state.

  • No Republican has won a statewide race in Virginia since the GOP sweep in 2009
  • Virginia is the only Southern state to vote for Obama twice and Hillary Clinton in 2016
  • Virginia’s US Senators are Democrats; North Carolina’s US Senators are Republicans
  • During the time when Virginia did not elect a single Republican in a statewide race, North Carolina elected two GOP US Senators, voted for Republicans Mitt Romney and Donald Trump for president, elected Pat McCrory governor in 2012, along with a GOP-majority state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and in 2016, elected Republicans as Lt. Governor, Commissioners of Agriculture, Labor and Insurance, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and State Treasurer, plus an 11-of-15 GOP-majority Court of Appeals

Eight years ago, in 2009, despite the personal appeal of newly-elected President Barack Obama, Democrats lost the governors races in Virginia and New Jersey because African-Americans and young voters stayed home. In 2017, the Obama coalition returned to peak turnout numbers.

As to Republican turnout last week in Virginia, exit polls show a record low since 1996.

So, although I would not put a whole lot of predictive value in the statewide results in Virginia last week, the fact that the Obama coalition of African Americans, women, young voters and urban/suburban voters returned to their historic high turnout numbers does have predictive value.

On the other hand, 2018 is North Carolina’s “Blue Moon Election Year,” a year in which there are no high profile statewide candidates to galvanize the Democratic coalitions and fund turnout operations.

But, that’s conventional wisdom; worthless in today’s politics.

Let me assure you that Democratic women in North Carolina do not need a high-profile, statewide candidate to inspire their determination to win campaigns next year. They have President Trump.

Look for a historic number of women running in state legislative races in North Carolina in 2018.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Women Scorned

 

The forewarning from Virginia for North Carolina’s 2018 candidates, especially Republicans, is that Republicans went from a 32-seat advantage (66-34) in the Virginia House of Delegates to a slim 51-49 majority. Two GOP committee chairs were defeated, along with four GOP members of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

But, the most important forewarning for North Carolina Republicans is that 11 of the 15 Republican incumbents who lost legislative races were defeated by Democratic women.

Democratic women in Virginia, shaken to the core by Hillary Clinton’s defeat, were reinvigorated by the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017, then inspired all year long by anti-Trump fervor stirred by liberal women activists and their allied groups. For emphasis:

  • Republicans went from a 32-seat advantage (66-34) to a slim 51-49 majority
  • 15 seats flipped GOP to Dem, 11 of 15 won by Dem women over GOP male incumbents
  • Women are now 27% of Virginia legislature (women were 19%)
  • Female winners in House of Delegate races include the 1st Asian delegate, 1st Latina delegates (2), the 1st Trans woman delegate and 1st openly lesbian candidate

In a twist of poetic justice, the state’s first transgender woman delegate defeated the Republican incumbent who drafted the “bathroom bill” in Virginia, similar to North Carolina’s HB2.

Obama Coalition is Back; So is Centrist Governance

The greatest regional turnout last week was Northern Virginia, the “swamp” that President Trump threatens to drain. Per Washington Post Exit Polling, 28% of all Virginia voters last week were in the D.C. suburbs. Not surprisingly, they voted for Democrat Ralph Northam for governor by 69% to 30%, five points higher than Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote total.

There was also a big turnout for Democrats wherever large numbers of government employees live, including Hampton Roads (61% to 37% Dem) and Richmond (54% to 44% Dem). About 70% of all voters last week were in urban/suburban areas of Virginia.

In addition to a surge in urban/suburban voters, the Obama coalition of African Americans, young voters, liberals and women came roaring back within range of their historic high turnout numbers. However, it is also instructive to know that Ralph Northam, Virginia’s governor-Elect, ran as a centrist. He infuriated the left by saying he would sign a bill to ban “sanctuary cities.”

Northam, a physician, put forward a well-structured economic plan (job training and re-training), and captured the political advantage with the most important issue to voters in 2017: healthcare.

That is the key for North Carolina Democrats. Recruit sensible centrists in urban/suburban districts.

However, as Gary Pearce, a lifelong Democratic advisor and author of Jim Hunt, A Biography, noted in his blog on November 9, Democrats have their own problems. “The Hillary-Bernie fight goes on,” wrote Pearce, “The centrist-leftist fight goes on. As the Raleigh mayor’s race showed, racial tensions smolder.”

Pearce concludes by saying that he told GOP consultant Carter Wrenn not to worry about a possible Democratic wave in 2018.  “We’ve got a whole year to screw it up. And we’ve got some of our best people working on it.”

He’s right. All North Carolina Democrats have after the Virginia elections is a roadmap to victory, and the inspiration that comes from seeing allied groups do well in other states.

So, are Virginia election results an ominous forewarning for North Carolina Republicans running in 2018? The answer is, the Virginia election results are instructive for both parties.

Now, the hard work of winning begins.

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