The results are in after Virginia’s 2021 Statewide and House of Delegates elections. In a stunning sweep, Virginia Republicans reclaimed control of all three statewide offices for the first time since 2009. As early voting and absentee ballot numbers trickled in, Republicans appeared to have also reclaimed a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates, flipping control of the body. These changes will have a significant impact in cooperative territories and the VMD Government Affairs team is already hard at work engaging with newly elected officials across the commonwealth.
Glenn Youngkin was successful in his victory over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a hard-fought election that had Virginia political operatives on the edge of their seat until the early hours of Election Day. McAuliffe and Youngkin had been locked in a dead heat since early October with polls showing them virtually tied up until the weekend before the election. Youngkin’s polling continued to show momentum through the last moments leading into Election Day, with many pundits pointing to an enthusiasm gap for Democrats that contributed to Youngkin’s victory. Turnout in elections across Virginia was at a record high, leading many to think McAuliffe would eke out a narrow win. Ultimately, Youngkin’s messaging on education, the economy and jobs led to a stunning victory for the Virginia GOP.
Winsome Sears made history as the first woman of color to be elected lieutenant governor in Virginia. Sears was widely considered the most conservative on the ticket, and her victory is expected to be significant for breaking ties in the state Senate, which is narrowly controlled by a 21-19 Democratic majority. With such a small majority for Democrats, Sears is expected to wield significant influence in the chamber on several hot-button social issues where conservative Democrats may vote with the Republican caucus.
The race for attorney general was called for GOP challenger Jason Miyares, who defeated two-term incumbent Mark Herring. Miyares will be the first Cuban-American to serve as attorney general of Virginia.
KEY HOUSE RACES
GOP challenger Jason Ballard won a comfortable victory over two-term incumbent Chris Hurst in House District 12. The final days of Hurst’s campaign were plagued with local scandal after he was accused of involvement in tampering with Ballard’s campaign signs. HD 12 was a top target for Virginia Republicans, who comfortably reclaimed the seat by a margin of more than 2,700 votes. HD 12 includes portions of Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative territory.
Democratic incumbent Joshua Cole was defeated by Tara Durant by a significant margin in House District 28. HD 28 has been a top target for both parties in the last three elections and has swung both left and right by narrow margins in the last two cycles. House District 28 includes parts of Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative territories.
GOP challenger Kim Taylor was successful in her bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Lashrecse Aird in a race that very few Virginia Democrats expected to lose. Aird has been a member of the House since 2015. Until recently, Aird had been considered one of the more moderate members of the House Democratic Caucus, often brokering deals across the aisle with her GOP colleagues when they had control of the chamber. After power shifted to Democratic control in 2019, Aird swung further left on policy issues. In the aftermath of her loss, Democrats will be left wondering if Aird’s political shift may have left her vulnerable in what was previously considered a safe Democratic seat. House District 63 represents parts of Southside Electric Cooperative and Prince George Electric Cooperative territory.
Republican challenger Otto Wachsmann claimed victory in House District 75, where he defeated incumbent Democrat Roslyn Tyler. Based on demographic shifts in Southside Virginia, HD 75 was considered a top target for the GOP and was expected to be the hardest seat for Democrats to hold. HD 75 covers parts of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, Southside Electric Cooperative, Community Electric Cooperative and Prince George Electric Cooperative. Tyler had been a longtime cooperative champion and wielded significant power in her caucus, serving as chair of the House Education Committee, the Tobacco Commission, and the Broadband Advisory Council.
Incumbent Democrat Nancy Guy was defeated by GOP challenger Tim Anderson in one of the most-watched House of Delegates elections of 2021. Guy won her 2019 election by only a few votes. House District 83 was a top target for Republicans — Virginia Beach at large was seen as a battleground region where the GOP needed to perform well and did.
Two additional House races are in recount territory but appear to favor GOP challengers. Late on election night, a reporting error was corrected that pushed GOP challenger Karen Greenhalgh ahead of incumbent Democrat Alex Askew by 202 votes in House District 85.
The closest election of the night was in House District 91 where GOP Challenger A.C. Cordoza has a very narrow victory over one-term incumbent Martha Mugler by a mere 272 votes. Third-party candidate Charles West was able to win 416 votes, playing spoiler to Mugler in the more Democratic precincts of the district. HD 91 will go to an automatic recount as the vote totals are within 0.5% of each other. HD 85 may also end up in a recount. The outcome of both races would enable Republicans to clinch a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates.
LEGISLATIVE DAY UPCOMING
With much of the political shift taking place in House races in co-op territory, we know there will be significant work ahead to build relationships with new members of the General Assembly. That effort is already well underway at the statewide level, and your Government Affairs team is prepared to assist as you begin outreach to new members of your General Assembly delegations.
With such a significant shift, your participation in Legislative Day 2022 is more important than ever. There is no one better to teach new legislators about the cooperative story than the board members leading Virginia’s electric cooperatives. With your help, we can advance our common policy agenda and build lasting relationships with new members of the co-op legislative delegation. We hope to see you in Richmond on January 24-25 for Legislative Day 2022.
—Report by Sadie Gary, Director of Legislative Affairs, VMD Association
Above photo: Virginia General Assembly (By: Amadeust)