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‘We Will Not Move Back’: Democrats Sweep Virginia in Rejection of Trump Politics

Ally Boguhn

“This is what happens when you come and try to attack women, try to attack minorities, when you try to spread racism and xenophobia and sexism and misogyny."

Virginia Democrats scored a historic victory in Tuesday’s election as progressives hailed an outright rejection of President Donald Trump’s agenda.

This follows a series of state-level Democratic victories over the past year in states and districts usually dominated by Republicans.

At the top of the ticket in the race for governor, Democratic Lt Gov. Ralph Northam scored a decisive win against Republican Ed Gillespie after receiving 53.87 percent of the votes to the Republican’s 44.96 percent. “Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness—that we will not condone hatred and bigotry—and to end the politics that have torn this country apart,” Northam told a room of supporters during his victory speech.  “I want to let you know that in Virginia, it’s going to take a doctor to heal our differences …. And I’m here to tell you, the doctor is in.”

Both Justin Fairfax, who was running for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring, won their races. Reproductive rights advocates cheered the Democrats’ wins, suggesting it was a backlash against Trump and an embrace of pro-choice values. “This is a firm rejection of the Trump-Gillespie agenda of fear and division,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Votes, said in a statement. “Tonight, Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring won by boldly campaigning as outspoken champions of women’s health and rights.”

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In the lieutenant governor’s race, Fairfax and Republican state Sen. Jill Vogel had sparred on what Fairfax called the “invasive ultrasound bill” introduced by the Republican in 2012. Vogel touted her anti-choice voting record on the campaign trail despite claiming to be an advocate for women’s rights. Fairfax, who has served as a board member for Planned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund, was backed by both NARAL and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

Republican candidate for attorney general John Adams’ pro-bono legal work advocating against the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit was highlighted by both of the candidates running over the course of the election. Incumbent Mark Herring voiced his pro-choice views in an October interview with Rewire, noting that access to contraception and abortion care “fundamental rights.” During his time in office, Herring has fought against targeted regulation of abortion provider restrictions in Virginia and was among a coalition of 18 attorneys general who threatened the Trump administration with legal action when it moved to undermine the birth control benefit in October.

Democrats in the state picked up 16 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates as of early Wednesday morning. What was a dominant majority for the GOP may be an even split, or close to it, after Tuesday’s Democratic sweep. 

Among the victors was Danica Roem, who will be “the first out trans person to win and serve in a state legislature,” according to a release from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which seeks to increase the number of openly LGBTQ elected officials at all levels of government. Her win will put an end to the decades-long tenure of the ardently anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ rights Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), who has sponsored failed anti-trans “bathroom” measures in Virginia.

Elsewhere, public defender Jennifer Carroll Foy (D) won her House of Delegates race against Republican Michael David Makee to represent District 2.

Among the policy priorities listed on Foy’s campaign website are expanding Medicaid in Virginia, protecting clean water, and safeguarding access to reproductive health care. She had the backing of numerous grassroots and progressive groups, including Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and EMILY’s List.

“This is what happens when you come and you try to attack women, try to attack minorities, when you try to spread racism and xenophobia and sexism and misogyny,” Carroll Foy told supporters during an election-night victory speech. “We sent a huge message. Trump has heard us, and heard us clear,” she said. “Virginia will move forward, we will not move back. And we’re going to take the country with us.”

Democrat Chris Hurst, a former journalist who left his job to run for office after his girlfriend was killed on live television, beat out Republican state Rep. Joseph Yost to represent Virginia’s District 12. His platform included a call to reduce gun violence in the Commonwealth. Yost had an “A” rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA) this election cycle.

Virginia voters also elected their first Latinas to the state legislature when Democrats Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala won their contests.

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