Many of Blue Louisa’s readers will recall how after redrawing of legislative boundaries in 2011 that Republicans gained enough seats for a supermajority in the House, and a tie in the Senate, and how only one out of 140 seats changed hands after the 2015 election.
What they may not know is just how badly such partisan gerrymandering distorts the outcome of state elections. By any standard, the outcome of Virginia’s 2015 election was a statistical outlier, one that far exceeds historical averages of 97% of incumbents being re-elected.
For example, during this year’s election, Democrats in Wisconsin out voted Republicans statewide by 8%, yet won 28% fewer seats.
Even with this years “blue wave,” which saw Democrats retake the House in Congress there remains a persistent pattern of “underperformance” in Republican controlled states.
What makes this practice so insidious is that legislators in “safe’ seats are effectively insulated from any pressure from, or need to respond to their constituents. Moreover, for most of this decade, Virginia’s Republican controlled General Assembly has done what ever their donors, particularly Dominion Power wants.
Even after losing the Governors mansion in 2013, they continued to browbeat successive Democratic administrations into submission. Now that they face losing both chambers, they will do whatever is necessary to maintain that power, supported by Speaker Cox’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC, a host of national PAC’s, and unknown quantities of mystery money.
Next year, Virginia will be the purplest of the states holding “off year” elections, what happens in the Commonwealth will be a strong indication of how the 2020 elections will go. Considering that the state Democratic Party spent a lion’s share of their resources retaking 15 seats in the House last year, if they are to retake the General Assembly, it is critical that the national Party support their candidates.
The best chances of retaking the Senate are in three districts adjacent to and within the 7th Congressional District, where Democrat Abigail Spanberger’s victory over Dave Brat was their first in 48 years. The same electoral calculus, which propelled Spanberger to success in Henrico and Chesterfield County’s will continue to be a significant factor in 10th, 11th, and 12th Senate District races, where three extreme incumbents; Sturtevant, Dunnavant, and Chase hold those seats.
While with the exception of outlying parts of Fredericksburg, Bryce Reeves 17th Senate district is mostly rural, as is 56th District Delegate, John McGuire. Fortunately, neither McGuire nor Reeves will be able to conduct business as usual next year.
Especially after what happened to soon to be former Congressman, Dave Brat it should be clear that limiting their public interactions to “members only” meetings, and group clown halls is a loosing strategy.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether in the face of this challenge to their authority, if the Republican controlled General Assembly is capable of maintaining their genteel “Virginia Way” facade, or if they will attempt to retain power regardless of the elections results as we’ve seen recently in Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina.
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