FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va.—In a stunning upset, Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s party lost both legislative chambers on Tuesday night. Although not all races have been called, Democrats have secured narrow majorities in both chambers: 21 out of 40 Senate seats and 51 out of 100 House seats, according to Decision Desk HQ.
Mr. Youngkin had described his party as the ballot of “hope” and “common sense” versus the ballot of “fear” and urged voters to “choose hope over fear” during his stumping speeches for Republican candidates on Election Day eve. His Spirit of Virginia PAC raised nearly $20 million—with a $1.5 million donation from Mr. Youngkin—for this election season and spent over $12 million on campaigns for candidates.
However, the election results show that many voters didn’t see eye to eye with him, even though most Virginians got their tax rebate—$200 per person and $400 per married couple—a day before Election Day.
The best case for Republicans in the state Senate was to win 20 out of the total of 40 seats, which meant taking all four competitive districts. In this case, the Lt. Governor’s tie-breaking vote could still help Mr. Youngkin advance his legislative agenda.
Just like in 2019, the deciding seat for the Senate majority came down to Loudoun County—the new District 31 redistricted from the old District 13, which was the ground zero of the fight for parents to have more say in public education.
And in the Loudoun County-based seat, the battle is a déjà vu of 2022: parental rights vs. abortion access. In the same area, Mr. Youngkin won on education in 2021. But that was before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, reverting the issues of abortion to the states.
Abortion Politics Flexes Muscles, Again
Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), the official party committee for state legislatures, said in a statement on election night: “This new era of leadership in Virginia will ensure that abortion remains legal and that Republican’s MAGA agenda is stopped in its tracks. When state-level Democrats run and have the support they need to win, we put ourselves on the path to progress.”
She previously said that if Virginia Republicans fell short of taking both the House and Senate, it would showcase how much of a winning issue abortion is for Democrats.
On Monday, she told The Epoch Times that Republicans continued underestimating the issue, like in the 2022 midterms, and simply wanted to impose their worldviews on voters. “And I think that that’s really, really crystal clear. It’s not going to change. They are not learning lessons,” she added, calling abortion the “losing issue for the GOP.”
Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, a socially conservative think tank based in Arlington, Virginia, agrees that Republicans haven’t figured out a winning strategy on the abortion issue.
He views the Republican approach for this year’s off-year election as a “redux of 2022.” Prior to the polls closing in Virginia, he said he was not optimistic about the outcome.
“Regarding abortion, this issue is very frustrating for me as a political strategist because of how easy it is to solve, but how unwilling the Republicans are to solve it,” he told NTD, a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times.
“We are getting our tails kicked on this abortion issue, and it’s primarily because Republicans aren’t counter-punching. They’re allowing themselves to get defined by their Democrat opponents. And they’re refusing to attack and define Democrats on how extreme they’re on abortion.”
“Until we figure it out, we will continue to lose,” he added.
Democrats don’t want changes to current Virginia laws, which allow abortions up to 26 weeks in pregnancy—and beyond, if three physicians certify that pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. They have told voters that a ban on abortion access would be the natural outcome of a Republican trifecta, and that Mr. Youngkin might not stop at just 15 weeks.
Mr. Youngkin has trodden carefully. Several months ago, he outlined his official position on abortion access, permitting abortion up to and including 15 weeks gestation while allowing for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother. Most Republican candidates then aligned their positions on the issue accordingly.
With Democratic majorities in the state legislature, Mr. Youngkin will face an uphill battle if he tries to push for the 15-week limitation.
Education Issue Produces Mixed Results
The education issue produced mixed results.
Lorriane Dade, a retired engineer and a lifelong Democrat, told The Epoch Times on Election Day that he felt he must vote and try to effect change by supporting candidates whose values aligned with his.
He said that Republicans would censor books and history. He voted for Russet Perry, the Democratic candidate for Senate District 31 and a former CIA officer and prosecutor, because she would give more money to public schools and teach “all the history.”
Al Strama, a retired home improvement specialist, was among the voters who came to the new town hall in Loudoun County’s Middleburg to cast their Election Day vote. The precinct is slightly Democratic-leaning.
Mr. Strama said he voted for Ms. Perry because she would support funding public schools more fully and ensure school safety from gun violence.
Marcus, a retired contractor at the Department of Defense and self-identified independent, declined to give his last name but shared he is very concerned about high taxes and inflation, as well as the state of the education system. Because of those reasons, he said he is voting Republican this time.
Similarly, the economy, open southern border, and the “abysmal” state of Loudoun County schools drove retired salesperson Joan Flemming to vote Republican.
Ms. Flemming said she goes to a church in neighboring Leesburg and has heard many parents say they are going to vote Republican this election because the problems in Loudoun County schools, under Democratic school board members, are too many.
Loudoun County Public Schools have been in the national spotlight since the spring of 2021 due to the parents’ fight to reject critical race theory—a quasi-Marxist framework that views America as systematically racist—in their children’s education. Last December, the school board fired the former superintendent without cause after a special grand jury documented the school system’s mishandling of two sexual assaults by a gender-fluid boy.
Harriett Cordon, GOP Precinct captain for Middleburg, said an exceptional number of Republicans voted for Mr. Youngkin in 2021. However, she was not sure the turnout this season was as great.
Currently, Republicans have a 52–48 majority in the House of Delegates and a 17–22 minority in the state Senate.
Some state and local race results are still pending as Virginia laws require a noon deadline on the Monday following Election Day, which is Nov. 13 this year, to complete counting mail-in ballots.
For example, on Oct. 26, Walt Latham, York County’s voter registrar, warned candidates and parties about a potential delay in final election results.