Democrats rode an anti-Trump wave in Virginia on Tuesday, claiming victory after early returns in several key races put them on the path to control both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time since the 1990s.
A GOP-held Senate seat in Northern Virginia and one in the Richmond suburbs appeared to have flipped to Democrats, according to early unofficial returns, giving Democrats the margin they need to take control with several more pickups still possible.
In the House, where new district maps imposed by a court tilted the playing field toward Democrats, they were eying a handful of pickups and appeared to be defending their own seats, again putting them on a path to a majority.
Among those successful defenses were Prince William seats held by Delegate Danica Roem, who broke ground two years ago winning as an openly transgender politician, and Delegate Lee Carter, who bills himself as a Democratic Socialist.
Voters in both parties said President Trump was on their minds when they cast ballots, though the intensity was far higher among Democrats.
“I just wanted to go against Trump. I find him absolutely repugnant,” said Peggy Chenowetch, 45, who voted for Democrats in a Senate seat in Loudoun and Prince William Counties that flipped from Republican to Democrat.
Sri Amudhanarm, the Democratic candidate for Loudoun County Commissioner of the Revenue, said it was impossible to divorce Mr. Trump from the election.
“They cannot separate them, because the pull of national politics is so hard,” he said.
Should Democrats’ big night play out, the next session of the General Assembly will look dramatically different.
The federal Equal Rights Amendment could earn ratification in the state legislature, after being blocked by the GOP. And the state’s status as a right-to-work state could be challenged.
But the biggest change is likely to be on guns, where the year’s high-profile mass shootings, including one in Virginia Beach, roiled Richmond. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, forced a special session this summer to deal with guns, but the GOP adjourned after 90 minutes, punting the issue to the state’s crime commission for more study.
Democrats ran heavily on the issue, aided by millions of dollars of money from gun-control groups outside the state, and are likely to see Tuesday’s results as a harbinger of the issue’s power on a national level.
Republicans had insisted the election would be fought on those kinds of perennial local issues, including education, spending and health care, and hoped a whiff of scandal for the state’s top three Democrats would also help the GOP.
Mr. Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring were snared in blackface incidents, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax faced rape allegations.
All 40 seats in the state’s Senate and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates were on the ballot, though only a handful of races were expected to decide control.
The GOP went into the night with an effective 51-49 lead in the House and a 21-19 edge in the Senate.
A 20-20 split in the Senate would have still meant Democrat control thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Mr. Fairfax. In the House, a single pickup would produce a 50-50 split, while two or more wins would give Democrats their first outright majority since the mid-1990s.
In 2017, when the House seats were all up for election, the GOP went into the race with a 16-seat majority. They emerged with the 51-49 margin, thanks only to a coin flip that won them a tie race.
Rep. David Yancey, the Republican who won that coin flip, was steamrolled Tuesday, losing by more than 15 percentage points.
The House races this year played out on a very different field after a federal court deemed the previous map an illegal racial gerrymander. The court adopted new district lines that were more favorable to Democrats, and the results were striking in Tuesday’s returns.
Ousted in the shakeup was Delegate Chris Jones, a Republican with 24 years’ experience who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Holding on amid the redistricting was Delegate Kirk Cox, the House speaker — though he likely will lose that post in the new session next year.
Most Republican candidates across the state tried to keep Mr. Trump at arm’s length.
The president didn’t campaign, instead deploying Vice President Mike Pence for some last-minute assistance this weekend.
Voters still saw him behind their decisions.
“We need to get rid of him,” said Maria Evans, 80, voting in Gainesville. Even some GOP voters said they saw Mr. Trump as the issue.
Diane Davis, voting Republican in Loudon County, said she always votes anyway, but she said this year’s vote was “definitely” a statement of support for the president amid the impeachment push on Capitol Hill.
“Why do you want to impeach President Trump? What has he done?” she said.
Virginia, which two decades ago was a massive GOP success story, has been trending blue for the last decade, with Democrats now holding both U.S. Senate seats, a 7-4 lead in the congressional delegation and the top three state offices.
If the unofficial results hold they will also control both houses of the assembly. It would be the first time since the early 1990s that they had the trifecta of the state House, Senate and governorship.
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