Democrats took control of the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia Tuesday, winning control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation.
With Democrats already in control of the offices of the governor and attorney general, the party became part of a national wave that is trying to put the voters back in charge.
Even in Floyd County, where a GOP victory was once a guaranteed in a local race, the voters of Little River said “no” to Republican Tim Sullaway’s attempt to oust independent Linda DeVito Kuchenbuch as a supervisor. It was her second win over a Republican in a district that used to vote for the GOP without question.
Kuchenbuch is one of two independents serving on a county board that once was all Republican. The second, Jerry Boothe, won his seat back on the board after retiring several years earlier as a Democrat, ousted chairman and GOP leader Case Clinger two years ago.
While Republicans still control most of the rural counties in Virginia, particularly in the Southwest part of the state, higher than normal turnout for off-year local elections showed voter anger now directed more at an increasingly unpopular president and those who support him.
In Loudoun County, Juli Briiskman, on her bicycle, flipped the finger at Trump two years ago as he left his golf club in Sterling. A picture of her action became a symbol of social media anger towards Trump and his party. Her government contracting firm fired her for the action but voters in her district voted her in as a new supervisor Tuesday.
Statewide, Democrats now control the governor’s office and the two statewide offices under him. Virginia’s two U.S. Senators are Democrats as will the next term of the General Assembly.
Republicans have not won a statewide race since 2009.
Democratic control of the state stems from the urban areas of Northern Virginia and Tidewater but polls show increased anger towards the party because of Trump’s antics in Washington.
“I think Donald Trump was humiliated tonight,” said former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “Trump wasn’t on the ballot this year. However, his policies, his lunacy was on the ballot, and I think it energized Democrats.”
As for Republicans, McAuliffe added: “They’re not only losing Virginia, they’re losing America.”
The bulk of the local races in Floyd County were uncontested. Kuchenbuch was the only one facing opposition but she captured 63 percent of the vote in Little River.
Sheriff Brian Craig, Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Branscom were among county officers who ran unopposed.
Virginia’s dramatic conversion from red to blue is not an isolated example of a Southern state turning away from Republicans. Kentucky’s new governor is a Democrat targeted by Donald Trump for defeat.
Democrat Andy Beshear may have beaten incumbent Republican Matt Devin in a state that Trump carried by close to 30 percentage points in 2016.
Democrats’ claim of victory Tuesday in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, as well as the Democratic takeover of the Virginia state legislature, left Republicans stumbling and increasingly uncertain about their own political fates next year tied to an embattled and unpopular president.
Many allies of President Trump rushed to explain away the poor performance of incumbent Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) as an anomaly, while other GOP veterans expressed alarm about the party’s failure in a state where Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016 — and where he just campaigned this week.
“It was a rough night,” said Scott Reed, a political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The Republican Party is lacking message discipline, and that needs to be addressed.”
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele says “losing the governorship is a smack at both Mitch McConnell and the president. Just because Trump shows up doesn’t mean an automatic win anymore.”