Democrats took control of Virginia's General Assembly in Tuesday's elections, flipping both the Senate and the House of Delegates. This gives the party its first trifecta* since 1993. Democrats erased a two-seat GOP edge in both chambers,
In addition to controlling all levers of state government, the win gives Democrats control over the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. For more on this, see this article on the importance of Tuesday's General Assembly elections in Virginia.
* Control of both branches of the state legislature and the governorship.
There was a split-decision in the two gubernatorial races contested on Tuesday.
Unpopular Republican Gov. Matt Bevin lost his bid for a 2nd term to his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear. Bevin has thus far refused to concede the closely-contested race, which was only decided by about 5,000 votes.
Bevin's loss came despite a last-minute visit by President Trump on Monday. It wasn't enough to save the governor, who had alienated many groups during his term. He recently polled as the most unpopular governor in the country.
Bevin was also up against a moderate Democrat with a well-known family name. Beshear's father Steve was a two-term governor of Kentucky who immediately preceded Bevin.
The GOP had a good night in down-ballot elections, sweeping other state-wide races. This serves to highlight the specific dynamics of the governor's race that led to a Democratic win in this deep red state.
Term-limited Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who defeated Attorney General Jim Hood by about 6 points. It was the hardest-fought Mississippi gubernatorial race since 2003 which was also the year Hood was elected to his current office.
Hood is the only Democrat to currently hold a statewide office in the state. There will be none in January as Republican Lynn Fitch won the race for attorney general over Democrat Jennifer Collins.
Up next is the runoff for governor of Louisiana, to be held on Saturday, November 16. Unlike Tuesday's races, the current incumbent of this deep red state is a Democrat, John Bel Edwards. The race is seen as a toss-up, with recent polling within the margin of error. President Trump will be in the state Wednesday to campaign for GOP challenger Eddie Rispone.
Election Day 2019 has us following two competitive gubernatorial races as well as elections that will decide control of the General Assembly in Virginia.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is seeking a 2nd term in this deep red state. Should be nothing to see here, yet the race is a toss-up as Bevin has managed to become the most unpopular governor in the country over his four years in office. He narrowly won a competitive primary over state representative Robert Goforth. One of the other candidates in that primary has endorsed Bevin's opponent, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear. That said, he does have a big supporter in his corner - President Trump held a rally for Bevin in Lexington Monday night.
Kentucky polls close at 6:00 PM local time. That's 7:00 PM Eastern for the western half of the state that is in the Central Time Zone. We should start seeing results from the Eastern Time precincts by around 6:15 Eastern. Follow the live results here:
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is unable to run again due to term limits. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is looking to succeed him. The Democratic nominee is Attorney General Jim Hood. Here we have another deep red state - Hood is the only elected Democrat currently holding a statewide office - with a competitive race. There are some other parallels with the Kentucky race. Reeves won the nomination in a contentious primary which went to a runoff. The 2nd place finisher, former Chief Justice Bill Waller, has refused to endorse Reeves. However, as in Kentucky, the nominee has the support of President Trump; he held a rally for Reeves last Friday.
Neither Hood nor Reeves has ever lost a statewide race. Going into tonight, forecasters give a slight edge to Hood, with the race rated as Leans Republican.
Oh - one small thing we almost forgot - Reeves might end up winning even if he doesn't end up with the most votes. Dating from the Jim Crow-era, there are two hurdles a candidate must overcome to win the governorship in Mississippi. If both are not met, the Republican-dominated state House will decide the winner. The first is to gain a majority of the vote. In a tight race such as this, with four total candidates, it is quite possible nobody achieves 50%. (Vermont has a similar rule, most recently needed after that state's 2014 gubernatorial election.)
The 2nd hurdle is much more contentious. A candidate must also win what amounts to an electoral vote, where each of the state's 122 House districts is worth one vote. Given the way the districts are drawn, Hood will need to get well over 50% statewide to win the majority of these districts. Last Friday, a federal judge declined to immediately block this multistep process, saying essentially that plaintiffs had not yet suffered harm. However, he did indicate that he has "grave concern" about the electoral vote part of the law.
The polls close at 8:00 PM Eastern. Results will appear below after that time.
Virginia General Assembly
Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly are narrowly-divided. The GOP holds a two-seat edge in both: 51-49 in the House, 21-19 in the Senate. All seats are on the ballot today. At stake is control of state government as well as redistricting after the 2020 Census.
Democrats are favored to win the Senate, needing to only net one seat as the governor - who would break a 50-50 tie - is a Democrat. The House is more of a toss-up, but with a slight tilt toward the blue team. If Democrats capture both the Senate and the House, it will mark the party's first trifecta in Virginia since 1993.
We have a much more detailed article on the importance of Tuesday's General Assembly elections in Virginia.
This article is the first written for us by Seth Moskowitz, who will be contributing to 270toWin during the 2020 election.
On Tuesday, Virginia voters will elect the state legislature responsible for drawing state and congressional district lines following the 2020 Census, a task that will define the state’s political landscape for a decade. If Democrats can flip both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly, the party will have unilateral power over this crucial process. The election has attracted unusual attention for a state legislative contest, bringing in over $52 million in campaign donations and attracting national political figures including Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Bernie Sanders to headline campaign events.
The Virginia election kicks off Democrats' 2019 and 2020 plan to claw back from the 958 state legislative seat deficit the party incurred during the Obama presidency. These down-ballot net losses gave Republicans the power to draw 193 congressional districts following the 2010 Census; Democrats had control over just 44. This cemented a Republican bias in the House of Representatives as well as in many state legislatures. Democrats are determined to take this power back from the GOP. Virginia presents their first chance at flipping a closely-divided state legislative body that will be in power following the 2020 Census. Given that Democrats already hold the Governorship, which is not up for election until 2021, if the party can win majorities in both legislative chambers, it will have control over redistricting.
Virginia is now considered a blue-leaning state, largely due to population growth in urban areas and Washington D.C. However, as recently as 2001 Republicans held the Governorship, both U.S. Senate seats, and both chambers of the state legislature. While the current governor and both U.S. Senators are Democrats, Republicans have managed to hold a continuous majority in the House of Delegates since 1999. The last round of House elections, in 2017, nearly ended this reign, but the 15 seats that Democrats picked up fell just short of what was needed to gain control. That year, Republicans won the tiebreaking seat after their candidate’s name was literally drawn out of a bowl at random after both nominees tied at exactly 11,608 votes. The Senate has been friendlier for Democrats, where the party held the majority from 2008 to 2012 and briefly again in 2014. In the last Senate elections, in 2015, Republicans won their current 21-19 majority.
All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and the 40 in the Senate are up for grabs this Tuesday. The GOP currently holds* a 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates and a 21-19 majority in the Senate, meaning Democrats need to flip two seats in each chamber to gain outright majorities. Because Democrats hold the Lieutenant Governorship, who breaks a tie in the State Senate, the party only needs to flip one Senate seat to take control there.
Tuesday’s contests are part of an off-year election — they don’t take place in a presidential year, a midterm year, or alongside any statewide races. Only the most committed and enthusiastic voters turn out in these standalone elections, meaning that the results will largely come down to whether Democrats or Republicans are more energized. And while Republicans traditionally have better turnout in off year elections, the nationalization of local elections and President Trump’s unpopularity portend trouble for the GOP.
According to Morning Consult, Trump has a net -6% approval rating in Virginia, a 15% drop from when he first took office. Additional polling from Reuters/Ipsos in Virginia corroborated Trump’s unpopularity, finding that 58% of suburban women, a crucial swing voting bloc, disapprove of Trump.
Similarly, Democratic turnout could be depressed due to three separate scandals involving three of the state’s top Democratic elected officials. First, a photo allegedly featuring Governor Ralph Northam in either blackface or a KKK robe surfaced. Following this, his would-be successor, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, was accused of sexual assault. And finally, the next official in the line of succession, Attorney General Mark Herring, faced his own blackface photo scandal. Recent polling from Morning Consult and The Washington Post finds Northam, Fairfax, and Herring all above water and has Democrats leading the House of Delegates generic ballot by 8 points. So, while the political environment may be volatile, polling looks promising for Democrats.
Adding to the list of Republican concerns is that the geographic battleground clearly favors Democrats in both the House and Senate races. Republicans currently hold seven House districts and four Senate districts that Clinton carried in 2016 while there are no Democrats in either chamber holding districts that Trump won. This favorable map is largely due to a 2019 federal court decision that determined the state’s House of Delegates was racially gerrymandered and mandated changes to 25 districts that benefited Democrats. Election handicappers believe that the Senate is nearly certain to flip and that the House favors Democrats as well, though not as strongly as the Senate. Given the volatile environment and Democrats’ need to flip both chambers in order to win complete control, 270toWin rates control of Virginia’s General Assembly as a Tossup.
The Constitution delineates that every ten years the government should enumerate “the whole number of persons in each state” and that House representatives should be apportioned to the states according to their populations. The states, then, are responsible for drawing their own congressional and state district boundaries.
While Democrats picked up seven governorships and six legislative chambers in 2018, if redistricting happened with the current party splits, Democrats would be responsible for drawing about 11% of congressional districts while Republicans would draw nearly 40%. Virginia represents Democrats first shot at expanding their district-drawing power following the 2018 election cycle.
Virginia’s Current Congressional Map
Virginia’s current congressional map was drawn in 2011 by Republicans (who controlled the General Assembly and the governorship) and adjusted in 2016 after the courts ruled it unconstitutional. The unconstitutional version of this map is shown below.
The map was drawn as an “incumbent protection map”, packing Democrats into the 11th and 3rd Districts in order to cement Republican advantages in the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th. This backfired on Republicans when the courts determined that Republicans had unconstitutionally gerrymandered black voters into the 3rd District, making the surrounding districts easier Republican wins.
The new map unpacked these black voters mostly into the 4th District, making it an easy pickup for Democrats in 2016. And while the 3rd District shifted rightward, it was previously so blue, that Democrats had, and will have, no trouble holding onto it. The 2nd and 7th Districts also shifted, although to a much lesser degree than the 3rd and 4th. The 7th District shifted from 77% white and 15% black to 72% white and 19% black, becoming about 3% more Democratic in the process. The 2nd District moved about 3% in Republicans’ favor as it traded out density around Newport News and Norfolk for more rural territory. Democrats picked up the adjusted 2nd and 7th Districts in 2018 as well as the unchanged 10th District, shifting the Congressional delegation from 6 Republicans and 5 Democrats to 7 Democrats and 4 Republicans. 270toWin’s map of the current congressional lines and partisan breakdown is below. For more details on each district, see the Virginia Public Access Project’s website.
Virginia Redistricting Following the 2020 Census
The elections on Tuesday will determine if Democrats have unilateral power to redraw the congressional lines or if Republicans will have a seat at the table. Following the Census, Virginia is expected to again be apportioned 11 congressional representatives. If Democrats do win a trifecta the party could carve up the state to their benefit, solidifying its gains in crucial suburban House swing seats and maybe even picking up one more seat.
The current map has three safely Republican districts (the 1st, 6th, and 9th), four safely Democratic districts (the 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 11th), one competitive district held by a Republican (the 5th) and three competitive districts held by Democrats (the 2nd, 7th, and 10th).
Democrats first order of business would likely be to shore up the competitive districts picked up in 2018 — the 2nd, 7th, and 10th Districts. The 2nd District could incorporate more density from the urban Hampton Roads metro area that currently lies in the 3rd District. Democrats could also include more density of Richmond and its surrounding suburbs into the 7th District in exchange for more rural and Republican northern parts of the district. Lastly, if Democrats were to trade out the eastern rural portions of the 10th District for denser areas surrounding Washington D.C. in the northwest part of the state, the party could probably craft a district easy for a Democrat to hold.
Democrats would have to be careful, however, to avoid the same mistake that Republicans made by gerrymandering by race for partisan gain. The party would also need to be careful to avoid jeopardizing the “minority-opportunity” status of the 3rd and 4th Districts, which “give racial or ethnic minorities the sway to elect the candidate of their choice”.
Lastly, Democrats could try and gerrymander the 5th District to make it more competitive. A map proposed by Democrats in the State Senate in 2015 gives some clue as to how Democrats could do this. In this map, Democrats carved out Roanoke and Lynchburg, two cities in the eastern part of the state that are now in the 6th District, in exchange for rural territory above Charlottesville. Barack Obama would have carried this iteration of the 5th District 52.3% to 47.7%. There is also room for Democrats to play around with Albemarle County, host to very liberal Charlottesville. Depending on the rest of the map and their goals, Democrats could split it in between the 5th and 7th Districts or give it wholesale to one of them.
The upcoming elections in Virginia are just a starting point for Democrats eager to break down the Republican advantage in state legislatures and get a hold on the redistricting process. Next year, Democrats will aim to break a Republican lock on the redistricting process by winning (or wearing down Republican margins) in competitive legislative or gubernatorial elections, including in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. The party also aims to take unilateral control of the process in others including Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.
Tuesday’s elections are just one battle in the larger war for redistricting power. The results are, of course, important for Virginia’s future. But in a broader sense, the outcome will indicate how the two parties are faring in the national fight to redraw legislative districts, and with them, the map upon which the next decade of politics will be fought.
About the Author
Seth Moskowitz is a 270toWin elections and politics contributor. He is also a Guest Contributor to the UVA Center for Politics Sabato’s Crystal Ball and founder of the elections blog, EverySecondYear. You can reach Seth at email@example.com or on Twitter @skmoskowitz.
* The Senate’s 7th District, last held by a Republican, and the House’s 80th District, last held by a Democrat, are both currently vacant, but are included in the tally by their previous party affiliation for clarity.
Sunday marks one year until the 59th presidential election on November 3, 2020. That's 366 days, including an extra day due to the leap year.
If you'd like to make your first 2020 forecast, the map below might be a good starting point. It shows all states decided by 10 points or less in 2016. Those states decided by less than 5 points are shown as toss up, while those over 5 but less than 10 are shown as leaning toward the winning party.
If you haven't yet tried our redesigned format, and would like to view the map there, use this link.
Otherwise, click or tap the image below.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke ended his presidential campaign Friday. He posted a statement with the announcement. O'Rourke said, in part:
"Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully. My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee. Acknowledging this now is in the best interests of those in the campaign; it is in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee; and it is in the best interests of the country."
O'Rourke also sent out a series of tweets about his decision:
Thank you for making this campaign possible, and for continuing to believe that we can turn this moment of great peril into a moment of great promise for America and the world.— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) November 1, 2019
O'Rourke became well-known nationally in the 2018 Texas U.S. Senate election; where he was narrowly defeated by incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. He was unable to transfer that energy to his presidential bid, with his recent national polls averaging 2%, and support in Iowa slipping to less than 1%.
Rep. Katie Hill resigned her seat as of Friday. The House now has 233 Democrats, 197 Republican, one independent and four vacancies.
The four vacancies will be filled by special election in 2020. Ratings are subject to change.
CA-25 (Date TBA): As noted above, Democrat Katie Hill resigned November 1. A possible date for the special primary election is March 3, the same date as the state's scheduled 2020 primary. Assuming that is the case, that date will also see 25th District voters nominating candidates for the November 3 general election on a separate ballot. In both cases, all candidates from all parties will appear together. For the regular primary election, the top-two finishers, regardless of party, will advance to the November election. In the special election, the top-two will advance to a May runoff, unless one candidate gets a majority of the vote on March 3. Leans Democratic.
MD-7 (April 28, 2020): Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings died October 17. The April special election date is the same as the state's scheduled 2020 primary election. Safe Democratic.
NY-27 (Date TBA): Republican Rep. Chris Collins resigned October 1, the same day he plead guilty to insider trading charges. Under indictment during the 2018 midterms, Collins was re-elected by less than 1% despite the conservative lean of his district; Donald Trump won here by about 25% in 2016; that margin is a better reflection of how the special election is likely to go. Safe Republican.
WI-7 (May 12, 2020): Republican Rep. Sean Duffy resigned September 23 to address a family health issue. The special election was originally scheduled for January 27, 2020, but had to be moved to a later date due to a conflict between federal and state election laws. Likely to Safe Republican.
Longtime Oregon Rep. Greg Walden said Monday that he will not seek a 12th term in 2020. Walden, the only Republican among his state's congressional delegation, represents a conservative constituency covering the eastern 2/3 of the state. Oregon's 2nd district is the 6th largest congressional district by land area in the United States, trailing only New Mexico's 2nd in size among states with more than one at-large district.
Walden's 17 point margin of victory in 2018 was the smallest of his career. After winning his first term by about 27 points in 1998, he never had a re-election margin lower than 35 points. Donald Trump won here by about 20 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the district will continue to be rated 'Safe Republican' for 2020.
There are now 26 announced retirements in the U.S. House.
Politico reports that California Democratic Rep. Katie Hill is expected to resign this week. She has been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over an improper relationship with a member of her staff. News emerged over the weekend that she gave the staffer the highest "2018 election bonus" of those in her office. This follows earlier news of an affair that predated her time in Congress, although this was not part of the ethics probe.
Hill is in her first term representing California's 25th district, north of Los Angeles. She defeated GOP incumbent Steve Knight by about 9% in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to win an election in the 25th district this decade*. This was one of 7 districts in the Golden State to flip to the Democrats in that year's midterm elections.
The district had been rated 'Likely Democrat' for 2020. With this expected resignation, Cook Political is changing that to 'Leans Democrat'. Other forecasters may do that in the days ahead.
* No Democrat has won in the 25th district since 1990. However, the boundaries were different prior to redistricting after the 2010 Census.
Amy Klobuchar has qualified for the November Democratic debate. Separately, details have been announced for the Party's December debate, the final one of 2019.
5th Debate - November 20 - Atlanta, GA
Sen. Klobuchar of Minnesota received 3% in a national Quinnipiac survey this past Thursday, giving her enough qualifying polls to make the November debate stage. She is the 9th candidate to meet both the polling and fundraising requirements.
Three additional candidates - all of whom participated in the most recent debate - have met the fundraising requirement, but not the polling one. The deadline is November 13.
6th Debate - December 19 - Los Angeles, CA
Details have been announced for the final debate of 2019. It will take place on the campus of UCLA and be hosted by Politico and PBS.
The DNC has again tightened the qualifying criteria. Candidates must receive 4% support in four approved national or early voting state polls. Alternately, they can receive 6% in two approved early state polls. This is up from 3% and 5%, respectively. On the fundraising side, candidates must have contributions from 200,000 unique donors, up from 165,000. There's also a minimum of 800 donors from 20 states or more, up from 600.
At this point, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have qualified, with Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris likely to cross the threshold shortly. Candidates will have until December 12 to qualify.
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