Democrats sweep statewide races

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeats Republican Ed Gillespie in first major statewide race since Trump’s election

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Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will be Virginia's next governor. 

Mariana Fraser | Cavalier Daily

Democratic candidates swept Virginia’s statewide races Tuesday in a strong showing for the Democratic Party in some of the first major races held since President Donald Trump (R) won the White House last November. 

Democrat and current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie to become Virginia’s next governor. Northam won about 54 percent of the vote, while Gillespie received about 45 percent of the vote. Democrats Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring were elected lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively. 

Leading up to Nov. 7, the gubernatorial race was closely tracked by the national media and political experts due to the tight polls and its position as one of the first major elections since Trump’s victory. Many have framed this Virginia election as a referendum on the Trump administration. 

Northam’s campaign, along with the Democratic Party, have used this to their advantage through political advertising that compared Gillespie to Trump. Northam’s campaign was recently criticized for associating Gillespie with the white supremacists that organized rallies in Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and 12.

Northam received support from former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and many other Democrats. Obama visited Richmond earlier in October for a campaign event, and both of Virginia’s U.S. senators recently visited Charlottesville for “Get Out The Vote” efforts. 

In addition to rhetoric about the current president, other issues in this election have included health care, jobs, crime, immigration and Confederate monuments.  

On Grounds, University students have been actively campaigning for both candidates. A recent poll by The Cavalier Daily found about 53 percent of respondents supported Northam for governor. Nineteen percent of respondents expressed support for Gillespie and four percent for Libertarian Cliff Hyra.

Democrats also had numerous successes in the House of Delegates elections Tuesday, picking up at least 13 seats in the House of Delegates as of press time early Wednesday morning. This brings the Democratic Party’s total number of seats in the 100-member house to at least 47. 

One race that captured national attention saw Democrat Danica Roem defeat Del. Robert G. "Bob" Marshall (R) in the 13th District to become one of the country’s first openly transgender lawmakers. She won about 54 percent of the vote, while Marshall received about 45 percent of the vote.  

In his concession speech made in Richmond Tuesday night, Gillespie thanked his family, friends and campaign staff for their hard work throughout the election season. He also thanked everyone who voted, both for him and against him. 

“These million voters and their friends and families love our Commonwealth, they love our fellow Virginians and they love even those who disagree with them,” Gillespie said. “I know that they too are rooting for our new governor to succeed, because we all love the Commonwealth of Virginia and will continue to root for the Commonwealth of Virginia to do well and hope that our Governor is successful in that regard.”

In his victory speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Northam praised growing diversity in the United States. 

“It is that diverse society that makes this country great,” Northam said. “And as long as I’m governor, I will make sure that we’re inclusive, that we welcome people to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our lights will be on, our doors will be open … let’s get to work.”

Northam also referenced his occupation as a pediatrician in the speech.

“I’m here to let you know that the doctor is in,” he said. “This doctor will be on call for the next four years.”

Virginia Chambers, a second-year College student and University Democrats communications coordinator, said members of the organization were “clearly really excited about the statewide ticket.”

Chambers also said the organization was pleasantly surprised by the voter turnout, particularly despite the rainy weather Tuesday. 

“Typically, bad weather — cold, rainy — leads to lower turnout rates especially for Democrats, especially poor Democrats, because they normally … are disenfranchised by voting laws already,” she said. “It’s really exciting to think that that may not be necessarily the case.”

Adam Kimelman, a third-year College student and chair of the College Republicans, said while the group was disappointed in and surprised by the results, they congratulated the winners and hope “that they are able to prove [the College Republicans] wrong in a lot of ways.” 

He also said that moving forward, the Republican Party would have to reexamine how it runs campaigns in the Commonwealth. 

“I very much thought momentum was with us and all the polls got it wrong in the other direction this time,” he said. “Running in Virginia is definitely going to be a challenge moving forward.”

According to Kimelman, the College Republicans have received backlash for their campaigning on Grounds. He said their painting of Beta Bridge was vandalized twice — while the University Democrats also had their painted side vandalized — and he was disappointed to see “a tradition like that go awry.”

He said because of how campaigning went, the College Republicans will reevaluate discourse about conservatives on Grounds and how they interact with different groups. 

“It’s very hard to be a conservative and run a campaign on Grounds,” he said. “Obviously this was not a great day for the Republican Party, and we’re going to have to figure out what happened, where we lost messaging with voters.”

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