by Kate Billingsley
Every year when Election Day comes around, voters race to the polls in attempts for their voices to be heard. This year was no different, with more than three million citizens statewide exercising their civic duties by voting for in governor, state delegate, and local elections.
With political tension rising between democrats and republicans, this election was a test to see what citizens really wanted: would the public revoke the republicans that stand with Trump and elect democrats, or would they vote to continue with Trump’s government. The races in Virginia proved to be ever so crucial in the nation’s capital’s changing political climate.
The elections took place Nov. 7, and proved that the state of Virginia is changing. The VA state elections broke a number of barriers , including the elections of the first transgender delegate in the country, the first publicly lesbian delegate within the state of Virginia, the first Asian-American female delegate in the state, and the first two Latina delegates in the state.
Although much of southern Virginia is republican, the strong democratic populations in places such as Richmond and Northern Virginia proved to be enough to change the political conditions in the state. The diversity and overwhelming quantity of new delegates and lawmakers prove that Virginians have not given up on their government, and are striving for change.
The highest position up for election was for the seat of governor. Democrat Ralph Northam (D) and republican Ed Gillespie went head to head in a long and hard fought battle to become the governor for the state of Virginia. Northam won with 53.9 percent of the votes, solidifying Virginia’s message of change.
Many politicians believe that Northam’s biggest leadership challenge will be managing the battle for control in the legislature, and ensuring that his party’s opinions are heard. Northam has built strong relationships with Republicans and will work well in the bipartisan environment.
According to The Washington Post, two of the “key races” in Virginia were for Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor. These two races were key due to their weight on the political community. Both the Attorney General and the Lieutenant Governor positions are highly sought after and have a vast effect on Virginians.
The Attorney General position was won by Democrat, Mark Herring, who beat Republican, John Adams, by a slim margin of about six percent. “The voters looked at the results of 2016 and said we need to set the ship right,” stated Herring, after Northam’s crucial win as governor was announced. Herring’s mention of “the ship” refers to Virginia, and his goal is to set Virginia in the right direction. Herring believes that by electing Northam as the Governor the public has chosen a better political future.
Justin Fairfax, who is the second African American to be elected in Virginia, earned his seat as Lieutenant Governor, beating Jill Vogel by about five percent.
“This election showed that Virginians believe in our unified vision for the Commonwealth, not one based on fear-mongering and division,” stated Fairfax after his key win as Lieutenant Governor.
Fairfax will be taking the place of Governor-elect , Northam, who has served as Lieutenant Governor since 2014.
The Virginia House of Delegates is facing a changing demographic after these recent elections. It has been fluctuating between a democratic majority and a republican majority for years. In this election democrats gained 14 seats, earning the new majority.
Breaking barriers and inspiring many Virginians was Danica Roem, a transgender woman who won a spot in the Virginia House of Delegates. Roem defeated Robert Marshall, a conservative who fights harshly against transgender rights, calls himself a “chief homophobe,” and even proposed a “bathroom bill” which discriminated against transgender men and women.
Becoming the first openly transgender person to be seated in a United States statehouse, Roem said, “Discrimination is a disqualifier,” after facing backlash based on her gender identity throughout her campaign. “This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”
“Virginia has changed so rapidly over the past 20 years. It’s gone from a state where no politician would dare to condemn the Confederacy to a state where a suburban district would elect a transgender candidate,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science major at the University of Mary Washington. “The Old Dominion gives way to a very different New Dominion.”