What a night it was. Virginia, after avoiding electing a Republican statewide for 12 years, elected 3 Tuesday night. Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares won the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General positions Tuesday night, all getting narrow wins over their Democratic opponents.
While it certainly wasn’t the margin Republicans had in 2009, the brooms were still out at victory parties across the Commonwealth. The sweep of the night was completed when Republicans flipped the House of Delegates early Wednesday morning. Here, I’ll try and get through all the points I can make on how this result came to be.
In the statewide races, we were kind of correct. We did make the correct final in the Governor’s race, when we said Glenn Youngkin had a slight advantage. We did not think that margin was going to be as large as it was however. Currently, with basically all votes in, Youngkin leads Terry McAuliffe by around two points. That was done by good swings in Loudoun County and Prince William County, which swung right 14 and 13 points, respectively, from their 2020 numbers.
The second key aspect came from the southern part of the state. Southwest Virginia voted for Youngkin at the rate they used to vote for Democrats back in the day. Double-digit swings from Trump’s 2020 margins in these already deep red counties helped to bolster Youngkin’s margin. Couple that with swings back in favor of the GOP in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Stafford and Chesterfield, it lined up for Youngkin’s success.
We did, however, get our calls in the LG and AG races wrong. We said both of those races were Leans Democratic. There was, at least in our purview, strong reasoning behind this. Neither Winsome Sears nor Jason Miyares had seen the same boost in polling from the final three weeks Even in most publicly released internals, Sears and Miyares were a couple points behind Youngkin.
This track of think held slightly true for Miyares. Facing off against incumbent Mark Herring, Miyares did end up doing about a point worse than his fellow statewide candidates. Most of that can be attributed to an incumbency boost for Herring, not any issues from Miyares. And that does line up with our reasoning that under our original belief of a Youngkin one point victory that Miyares could have lost. In that timeline, it’s quite plausible that Mark Herring does narrowly survive.
That thinking does not survive for the LG race, where Winsome Sears is running about even with Youngkin. This shows that the effects on the race from the outside had similar effects on both the Governor and LG races that were “open” seats with no incumbent. Which is normally what occurs in those races. We missed that in the LG race, like most others did, and Winsome Sears is now Lieutenant Governor elect of Virginia.
The House Races
We got 96 of our 100 House of Delegates predictions correct. For a state where we have never done those before, I consider that a pretty good job. Especially with all the uncertainty in the final weeks, we are happy with only missing four – especially considering two of those misses could be considered major upsets.
But the real point is that Republicans have been able to flip the House of Delegates. They flipped seven seats on the night, wiping out the gains made by Democrats in 2019 plus one. Those seats were the 12th, 28th, 63rd, 75th, 83rd, 85th, 91st districts, with Republicans all beating Democratic incumbents.
The real surprise ended up being that the Republicans got a majority without flipping a seat that was based in NOVA or the Henrico suburbs. Conventional wisdom believed that a GOP majority would have to see either district 10 or 73 flip for the GOP. While Nick Clemente nearly pulled it out in 10 and Mary Margaret Kastelberg failed to improve in 73, Republicans got two key flips in races we had rated as Likely Democratic.
First, in what ended up being the majority maker, Republican Kim Taylor flipped district 63 for the GOP. The district, which holds all of Dinwiddie and Petersburg city and parts of Southern Chesterfield, seemed to be on the outside edge of competitiveness going into the night. While Democrats did funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into incumbent Lasharesce Aird’s campaign in the final two months, general wisdom saw that Aird’s margins in the heavily African American independent city of Petersburg would carry her through.
However, Taylor got huge margins out of Dinwiddie County, winning it by just under 3,300 votes. She also romped in the districts part of Chesterfield, winning by 3,647 votes there. That did enough to beat Aird’s 6,200 margin of victory from Petersburg, and once the early vote came in for Taylor around 1 AM, it was clear she had flipped the seat.
The other surprise was the 91st. This was another seat we had rated as Likely Democratic, but was far more surprising than 63. The main reason for keeping it at likely was only because this was a Biden+8 seat in 2020, meaning that even with the structural advantages incumbent Martha Mugler had built against GOP challenger AC Cordoza, if there was a big enough swing across the state, it may drag Cordoza over the line.
Well that’s exactly what happened. Mugler won by 18% in Hampton City, getting a 3,312 raw vote margin there. Cordoza though, countered with a similarly huge raw vote margin of 3,276 from deep red Poquoson City. That meant it was up to the three precincts in York County to decide this race. Cordoza ended up winning this part of York narrowly, by just over 300 votes, spurned on by a small victory in the in person early vote for Cordoza. That pushed him over the top and gave him arguably the most shocking upset of the night.
Other Key House Races
Of the other five GOP flips, we got four of them correct, and barely missed on one. We said 12, 28, 75 and 85 would all flip, which they did. The only seat we missed out of the five was 83, where we thought the overall trend in that seat would barely save Nancy Guy. We were wrong there as GOP candidate Tim Anderson actually ended up winning by a far wider margin than Karen Greenhalgh in 85.
There were a few bright spots for democrats, mainly in districts 72, 73 and 40. All three Democratic incumbents performed similarly to their 2019 wins, even with the much worse environment.
That was about all the good news there was though for Democrats. Many of their other house candidates underperformed against poor and generally underfunded candidates. There was Mike Mullen only winning by three, Elizabeth Guzman only winning by four, and both Michelle Maldonado and Briana Sewell winning by under double-digits against weak and underfunded candidates.
One could argue that this night could have been even worse for Democrats if Republicans had improved on candidate recruitment in some key seats. In the end though, we seem to have ended up with a 52-48 GOP majority in the House of Delegates. A now key factor to Governor-elect Youngkin’s ability to govern.
What comes next
This was a crazy election cycle in Virginia, one that saw more people vote in a gubernatorial year than ever before and saw more money get lit on fire than ever before. It was great taking part in it with all our loyal readers though, and I thank you for the experience. Now, I’m taking off, bar one final article, until the post Thanksgiving period in what I think is a well deserved, non forced vacation from analysis. There’s George Mason basketball to watch. I again want to thank everyone for their support as we continue in this new age as part of DDHQ.