Democrats Gain Control of Virginia State Legislature in Blow to Republican Plans

Democrats Gain Control of Virginia State Legislature in Blow to Republican Plans – The Democratic Party has achieved complete control over the Virginia state legislature by securing a majority in the House of Delegates. This win prevents the Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, from implementing a 15-week abortion ban. The Democrats not only maintained their majority in the state senate but also took control of the house of delegates, which had previously been held by Republicans with a slight advantage. 

These victories have dashed Youngkin’s aspirations of having a Republican-controlled legislature to push forward his policy agenda and have raised questions about his potential as a future presidential candidate. “Governor Youngkin and Virginia Republicans did everything they could to take total control of state government, but the people of the Commonwealth rejected them,” Susan Swecker, chair of the Democratic party of Virginia, said in a statement. 

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“Virginians won’t go backwards. Instead of extremism and culture wars, people voted for common sense leadership and problem solvers.” Being one of the few states with off-year elections, Virginia’s outcomes could act as an indicator for the upcoming presidential race. Additionally, on Tuesday, Democrats secured significant victories in Kentucky, with incumbent governor Andy Beshear winning re-election, and in Ohio, where voters approved a measure to protect abortion rights in the state constitution.

The success of Virginia Democrats poses a significant obstacle to Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion “limit,” which sought to ban the procedure after 15 weeks with exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies. Previously, Democratic legislators in Virginia, holding a senate majority, have consistently blocked bills aimed at restricting abortion access, and they had pledged to continue doing so if they retained control of the chamber.

The potential to restrict abortion access had emerged as a rallying point in Virginia, the only state left in the southern United States without stringent limitations on the procedure. Virginia Democrats accurately anticipated that voters’ ongoing dissatisfaction with the overturning of Roe v. Wade would aid them in regaining control of the House of Delegates. “[Republicans] called their plan to ban abortion in Virginia a plan to keep abortion legal in the state and claimed it was just a ‘limit’,” Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All, said in a statement. 

“Well, tonight, Virginians showed the GOP and Glenn Youngkin exactly what voters have to say about it: We don’t want abortion bans, and we don’t want leaders who do.” The outcomes in Virginia could provide insight into the stance of swing voters in key battleground states leading up to the 2024 presidential election. Although Virginia has shown a recent trend favoring Democrats, exemplified by Joe Biden’s 10-point victory in 2020, Youngkin’s win in 2021 demonstrated that Virginia remains a fiercely contested state. 

Republicans had aspired to achieve a legislative trifecta in Richmond through the  governor’s success, but that objective did not come to fruition. The Biden campaign celebrated the victories for Democrats onTuesday, using them as a sign that the president is likely to achieve similar success when he runs for re-election next year. “Voters across the political spectrum once again showed up and voted for our agenda and rejected the dangerous Maga extremism that has come to define today’s Republican Party at every level,” said Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden’s campaign manager. 

“That same choice will be before voters again next November and we are confident the American people will send President Biden and Vice President Harris back to the White House to keep working for them.” The Republicans’ inability to secure complete control of the legislature might dampen the excitement surrounding Youngkin’s potential national aspirations. Youngkin had been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate for 2024. On Tuesday, as the polls closed, Youngkin avoided questions about his future intentions.

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“I’ve been asked this so much, so many times over the course of the last year,” Youngkin told CNN. “I’m humbled by it. I’m focused on Virginia; we’ve got a lot of work to do.” As the Democrats maintain control of the state senate and have the ability to obstruct a significant portion of Youngkin’s agenda, it becomes considerably more challenging for the governor to position himself as a White House contender. 

Adding to this, since Virginia governors are restricted to a single term, the victories for Democrats on Tuesday ensure that Youngkin will never have the chance to govern with a Republican-controlled legislature. Youngkin’s detractors welcomed his party’s losses, speculating that the underwhelming performance might put an end to any hopes of a presidential run.

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