CNN predicted Thursday that Republicans in the state would win at least half of the seats in the chamber, ensuring Democrats would no longer hold full control there. CNN did not predict that Republicans will take control of the House.
Democrats are expected to win 46 seats so far.
The best the party can do at this point is to match the number of Republican seats, but Democrats are expected to win the remaining unscheduled races to do so. A tie would mean a power-sharing agreement between the two parties. If the Republicans win even one of these four unplanned seats, they will control the chamber.
Five of the predicted Republican victories are takeovers and the change of power – associated with Republicans Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares, serving as governor, lieutenant governor and state attorney general, respectively – highlights a broad record politics after years of democratic control.
In recent years, Republicans in Virginia have had little recourse as Democrats embraced a progressive agenda, passing legislation that tightened gun control, expanded reproductive rights, and provided protections for LGBTQ people. Virginia lawmakers also ratified the equal rights amendment after years of trying and overturned a number of laws Democrats called “archaic.”
But Republicans have managed to portray some of these policies as Democratic excess, while describing the party as mild on crime. The strategy ensured participation in rural and conservative areas without alienating voters in the suburbs.
The GOP pickups have the potential to give the party momentum towards 2022 and serve as a worrying warning to Democrats as state elections take place outside of the year – where voters go to the polls a year after the presidential election – – are often seen as a referendum on a new White House.
Although Youngkin entered the race like a blank slate with unlimited money, his success validates his strategy of focusing largely on local issues and sometimes praising former President Donald Trump while keeping him at bay.
“It is incumbent on Democrats to be loud and clear about what we are for and not just fight Donald Trump,” an adviser to President Joe Biden told CNN on Wednesday. “It is also clear that voters are unhappy with the inaction and that makes it clear that Democrats in Congress should move quickly on our agenda.”
Democratic oversight of the Virginia State Senate, where members aren’t elected until 2023, may still remain a hindrance to the GOP, but Democrats’ slim margin in the chamber means it might struggle to block some conservative revisions.
And the new power base in Richmond will likely lead to new political discussions on a host of issues.
Republican House Leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement Wednesday that the party plans to work with Younkin to “restore fiscal order, give parents the voice they deserve in education, and keep children safe. our Commonwealth. Our work begins now. “
“Voters in Virginia have made a historic statement, clearly berating the failed policies of the past two years and electing Republicans from top to bottom,” Gilbert said.