It would be hard to overstate this win. All across the country, progressives scored major victories in elections Tuesday night.
Control of the Washington State Senate flipped to the Democrats — and, with it, control of the entire state government. The people of Maine voted to expand Medicaid coverage to 700,000 of their fellow Mainers. And a whopping 38 of the young progressive candidates endorsed by PFAW’s Next Up Victory Fund scored impressive victories in their races for state and local office. That stunning number of wins, which includes many first-time candidates for office, might even go up after recounts and run-offs are complete. (Stay tuned for much more on our Next Up candidates over the next couple of days.)
There are important stories to tell about what this means for our strategy of rebuilding progressive power from the ground up, about what it means for the growing diversity of progressive elected officials nationwide, and what all of it could portend for the 2018 elections. But now it’s time to get to the main story: Virginia.
The Democrats running for statewide office had a clean sweep in Virginia. Ralph Northam will be the next governor. Mark Herring will hold his seat as Attorney General. And the Next Up Victory Fund’s very first endorsee, Justin Fairfax, will be Virginia’s next Lieutenant Governor! Justin will become just the second African American to hold statewide office ever in Virginia and the first in more than 20 years.
As amazing as all of this news is — and it is amazing — the even bigger story is what happened in the down ballot races.
Cook Report’s Dave Wasserman wrote of the critical bellwether State House elections in Virginia that “if Democrats pick up five to ten seats, it would suggest Democrats are in contention” to win back the US House next year. That would have been a good night for Democrats and progressives in a chamber that Republicans have controlled since 2000 and went into Election Day holding 66 of the 100 seats.
Well, based on the most up-to-date counts, Democrats have flipped 16 seats! There are several races that are in recounts and still undecided, but that number is more likely to go up than down — and that would give Democrats control of the chamber.
That’s how big yesterday’s victory was. And it marks the biggest Democratic pick up in Virginia since 1899.
There is no doubt that the stellar performance of these progressive House candidates helped drive the success of Democrats at the top of the ticket. This phenomenon of “reverse coattails” is something we’ve discussed for months and was part of our campaign’s strategy in Virginia. The intense activist engagement for exiting state legislative candidates is what drove the victory.
The New York Times called yesterday’s results a “forceful rebuke of President Trump,” but the results are much, much more than that. They are a lesson about how a strategy of leaving no stone unturned can pay off.
Some of the big themes:
A Big Night for PFAW and Our Next Up Victory Fund
Of our 14 young, progressive Next Up candidates in Virginia, 12 of them won (including Justin Fairfax) and another one is in a recount. Our young endorsees included many women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates — including Danica Roem, who will become the first-ever openly transgender state legislator in the country.
We worked especially hard for Danica because she ran to unseat the most bigoted, radically right-wing member of the Virginia legislature, Delegate Bob Marshall. Marshall has led countless attacks on the rights of Virginia’s women — leading the bill to require invasive transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions — and LGBTQ community— including an anti-trans “bathroom ban.”
These are just the results from Virginia. Next Up candidates scored impressive victories across the country.
In Virginia, Democrats competed in State House districts where they had not even fielded a candidate in decades, leading to a historic number of races with a competitive Democratic candidate. In fact, only 10 of the 100 State House seats went uncontested this year by Democrats, which is incredibly low in a state that has been severely gerrymandered to the GOP’s advantage.
The Democratic wave in Virginia was a victory against all odds and was only possible because of this insistence on competing everywhere possible. And, if not for gerrymandering, things probably would have been even worse for Republicans. Democratic House candidates got over 220,000 more votes than their Republican counterparts — that’s more than a 9 percent margin and a greater margin than even Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s blowout victory.
The Washington Post reports that of the Republican seats flipped by Democrats in Virginia, “all were held by men and 11 were won by women. Several of those women made history.”
“One became Virginia’s first openly transgender person to win elective office, unseating an opponent of LGBT rights. Another became the first open lesbian elected to House of Delegates, another the first Asian American woman and two, both from diverse Prince William County, are set to be the first Latinas to the General Assembly.”
There are similar stories of diverse candidates winning their bids for state and local office all around the country. We had Next Up candidates on the ballot identifying as African American, Latino, Asian, Muslim, and LGBTQ. Danica wasn’t even the only trans person to make history last night. Andrea Jenkins won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly transgender African American woman ever elected to public office in the US. And Lisa Middleton became the first transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in California.
What we saw in Tuesday’s election results is such a stark contrast from what we saw one year ago when Donald Trump eeked his way into office by 66,000 votes in three swing states based on a campaign of bigotry and lies. Last night we saw the resounding rejection of the very same bigotry and lies, especially in Virginia where Republicans ran on Trump’s divisive campaign playbook.
Trump and the unprecedentedly extreme right-wing Republican Party are showing Americans the path to our republic’s demise — a thorough undermining of our democracy, our core national values, and our constitutional rights.
The inspiring progressives who we saw get elected yesterday, however, offer leadership for a new American century of affirming our values and actually living them — as a nation — more profoundly than we ever have in our history.
We have big challenges ahead of us but, today, we celebrate. And, for the first time in a long time, we’re optimistic.
Thank you, readers, for your support, your tireless activism, the part you played in these big electoral victories, and for everything you do.