Democracy Was the Real Winner of Tuesday’s Virginia Election

Democracy Was the Real Winner of Tuesday's Virginia Election

Virginians trudged through a cold rain to turn out in record numbers; minority and women candidates scored big gains.

It seems the whole country is talking this morning about Virginia’s statewide election and whether the larger-than-expected victory of Democratic Gov.-elect Ralph Northam is a repudiation of President Trump and his brand of bare-knuckled politics.

Northam’s victory certainly cheered Democrats and chilled Republicans, but the biggest winner of the Virginia contest was democracy itself. As a cold rain swept across the state, a record number of people set aside their cynicism about politics and re-affirmed their faith in the system. Consider:

  • Virginia voter turnout topped 2.6 million, highest-ever for a non-presidential year and up 256,000 from 2013.
  • Northam’s 1.4 million-plus votes are the most ever cast for a gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, but the 1.17 million ballots for losing candidate Ed Gillespie make him the second-highest vote-getter ever in those contests.
  • In losing, Gillespie got 103,000 MORE votes than departing Gov. Terry McAuliffe garnered in winning the state’s top office in 2013.
  • Lt. Gov.-elect Justin Fairfax is only the second African-American elected to statewide office in Virginia.
  • The 100-member Virginia House of Delegates will have at least 25 women, a record, when it convenes in January. They include Del.-elect Danica Roem, who will be the first openly transgender member of the legislature, as well as Del.-elect Kathy Tran, who will be the first Asian-American woman in the House, and Dels.-elect Haya Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, who will be the first Latinas in the House.

The end result for Virginia will be a statehouse that looks more like the people it serves. That’s no guarantee it will produce better government of course, but it’s an encouraging sign.