by Gary Thompson
Democrats hit the jackpot on election night (Tuesday of last week). In a gubernatorial race that was supposed to be neck and neck, Democrat Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie by nine points. The other statewide offices, lieutenant governor and attorney general went to the Democrats also.
All of this wasn’t too surprising. Though, Virginia is, and has been, a purple state, and the statewide offices have been held by Democrats.
The news lies with what happened in the Virginia General Assembly. Of the 100 delegates seated before the election, 66 were Republican and 34 were Democrat. Democrats have taken at least 15 delegate seats that were held by Republicans. This makes 48, seated Democrats. After the results of recounts and runoffs of elections too close to call, the split is expected to be 50/50 or better for Democrats. This is enormous.
Of the minimum 15 seats picked up by Democrats, women took a full 11 of them. Before the election, there were 17 women in the assembly; in January, there will be 28.
What does this mean practically? Well, one major outcome may well be that Virginia will expand Medicaid. This has long been championed by the Democratic governor, but fiercely opposed by the Republican dominated state Legislature. This means that as many as 4000,000 Virginia citizens could gain health care. Those of us in West Virginia who have enjoyed this right (basic health care for all citizens is a right, not a privilege) for some years now realize what good new this actually is.
But, even this isn’t the really big and good news. That is reserved for the fact that Virginia voters unquestionably rejected hate, bigotry and divisiveness. How do I know that? The self-described ‘Chief Homophobe’ of Virginia was defeated, no, trounced by nearly eight points by Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person ever elected! How’s that for telling someone that their bad behavior will no longer be tolerated?
And, here’s the part that is most important. What was Ms. Roem’s campaign message? Was it, “vote for me because I’m transgender?” Absolutely not! While her opponent, Robert Marshall, sponsor of a failed ‘bathroom bill,’ ran attack ads against her, Roem’s response was civil and courteous: “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.” That is grace under fire.
This news is so good that some Democrats are predicting a ‘wave’ in 2018 that could return control of the U.S. Congress as well as some State Houses to the Democrats. Again, speaking as a Progressive, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan: “That is the best news I’ve ever heard.”