Northam romps in VA gubernatorial contest

The following election speed-read comes by way of Dentons 50 partner Shawn Day of Capitol Results in Virginia

Current Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam easily defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor, leading a Democratic sweep of statewide races and capturing more than a dozen new seats in the House of Delegates.

In the campaign’s final weeks, Northam had been criticized for the airing of a provocative ad characterizing Gillespie supporters as Confederates stalking minority children; omitting Justin Fairfax, the African-American Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, from a campaign flyer; and changing his position on sanctuary cities, declaring in a news interview that in fact he opposed them. The RealClearPolitics polling average showed Northam’s lead shrink to 1.9 percentage points, well within the margin of error.

Those figures, however, didn’t hold, as popular dissatisfaction with Republican President Donald Trump and the GOP spurred Virginia voters toward Democrats. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, posted a margin of victory of about 9 percentage points in Tuesday’s Democratic wave.

Democrat Justin Fairfax, a Northern Virginia-based attorney who has never held elected office, defeated Republican state Sen. Jill Vogel in the race for lieutenant governor by a margin of six points.

By the same margin, incumbent Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring sailed to re-election over Republican and political neophyte John Adams, a Richmond-based attorney.

Northam, Fairfax and Herring will be inaugurated on Jan. 13, 2018.

In the House of Delegates, where all 100 seats were up for election, Republicans saw their 66-seat majority collapse. In unofficial returns, Democrats were poised to pick up at least 14 seats, including the seat of the Republican caucus chairman, the Republican caucus whip, and multiple Republican committee chairmen. Two additional seats appeared to tilt to Democrats, and two others appeared to qualify for an automatic recount.

If Democrats manage to pick up 16 seats, they would force a power-sharing agreement with Republicans, marking the first time since the late 1990s that such an arrangement was made in Virginia’s House. A gain of 17 seats would give Democrats an outright majority, their first since 1997.

Republicans maintain a one-seat majority in the state Senate. As the lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax will follow in Northam’s footsteps in casting any tie-breaking votes in the chamber.

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James Richardson

About James Richardson

James Richardson is a strategic communications counselor with 15 years’ experience advising presidential candidates, Global Fortune 500 executives, national nonprofits, and sovereign governments on strategic communications and reputation management. He helps lead Dentons’ 3D Global Affairs practice.

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