First things first: congratulations to the winners. To the losers: thank you for being involved, it matters. To the incumbents (win or lose): thanks for your service. Our democracy doesn't work if people don't come forward to stand for election and challenge incumbents. Keeping politicians honest and holding them accountable is crucial.
No doubt you'll hear alot about how Trump is responsible for the Republicans problems and, to a large degree that is true. If this had happened in Iowa I might simply shrug my shoulders and agree – I don't know a lot about politics in Iowa but I do about Virginia. This is a devastating turn of events for Republicans in Virginia.
For the state-wide races, Governor, Lt. Governor and AG, I believe Trump was the determining factor. Trump drove turnout against Gillespie. In addition, Gillespie ran on a Trump platform but never really embraced Trump himself. That half-measure didn't help nail down his base because they didn't believe his new-found Trump-ism……although I expect that if he had done a full-on Trump campaign the results would have been even worse.
But at the local level I think it's a different story. Trump isn't entirely responsible for the Republicans loss at this level and, indeed, this wipeout was some years in coming. The first time I ran for office, our area was already trending blue. I ran as a moderate republican who was mainly interested in taxes, economic growth and immigration (which was a budget and crime issue at the time). The first time I ran I was the top vote-getter. The second time I was unopposed. The further right candidates had trouble, cycle after cycle, getting higher than third place. The same was becoming true of the House of Delegates and Senate elections. Despite the gerrymandered nature of their districts, it was getting harder and harder for right-wing Republicans to hold on to power – even when they mounted vicious oppo-driven campaigns.
Why? Well, I believe that Republicans failed to modulate their policy and messaging to reflect a changing electorate. Bob Marshall is about as far right as one can get and he was crushed by the first transgender candidate in VA. Bob, and many other republicans, insisted on calling Danica "it" or "he" and that dog whistle crap didn't work. Danica stuck mostly to illustrating a lack of results on Mr. Marshall's part and it was the right tactic. Mr. Lingamfelter, who barely won reelection last time, really didn't try anything different and the result was predictable. Mr. Miller, well, he got thumped by a guy who I didn't think fits the district but the margin was decisive.
Now, no doubt some of these marginal candidates who won election will get rolled in the next cycle – that happens with some regularity. However, I would urge my friends in the Republican party to do some soul-searching and come up with new policy initiatives, messaging and candidates that reflect the reality of the electorate present in their districts. This electoral result will generate more credible candidates on the democrat side and republicans are going to have to work hard to win. A new approach to policy would be good – or even having a policy approach that candidates are able to articulate would be a good start……I'm always here to help.