Virginia Republicans retook the House of Delegates by protecting their incumbents and flipping seven seats, giving them a 52-48 majority, according to unofficial election results. Those flips included some predictable results. Otto Wachsmann defeated Delegate Roslyn Tyler (D-Sussex). Republicans won in four out of five competitive Virginia Beach races. Mike Cherry protected Republican control of outgoing Delegate Kirk Cox’s (R-Colonial Heights) district.

Republicans also pulled off some surprises. A.C. Cordoza has apparently defeated Delegate Martha Mugler (D-Hampton) 49.68 percent to 48.70 percent — a close result since mail-in ballots can still come in.

“I know Republicans did not have that on their radar. Martha Mugler was one of two Democrats to do better than Joe Biden,” CNalysis Director Chaz Nuttycombe said. “That was a big, big, big upset.”

Another surprise for many was Kim Taylor’s defeat of Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) 51.05 percent to 48.81 percent, but not everyone was surprised.

Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) said, “You had a majority-minority district that has been held by a Democratic delegate for 50 years. Lashrecse Aird spends a million bucks, $1.1 million, she’s on TV all the time, and she can’t hold an African-American city in a Democratic poll. Her opponent did not go up on air at all. It’s shameful but here is what it shows, I’ve said it so many times. You want to be an elected official, get out there, knock on doors, go door-to-door and tell people what you do, and that’s what Kim Taylor did, and that’s what Lashrecese did not.”

Morrissey has had Taylor on his radio show, and drew attention on social media by attending a Taylor event. Morrissey said he did not endorse Taylor and had also asked Aird to come on his show.

“I didn’t support her. I commented that she was going door-to-door. I told my party to tell Lashrecse to pick it up,” he said.

Overview

“Virginia voters made a historic statement, delivering a clear rebuke of the failed policies of the last two years and electing Republicans up and down the ballot,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a press release. “In addition to electing Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, and Jason Miyares, voters have given Republicans a majority in the House of Delegates. We have clearly won six seats previously held by Democrats and we are excited to welcome Jason Ballard, Tara Durant, Kim Taylor, Otto Wachsmann, Tim Anderson, and A.C. Cordoza to the oldest continually-elected legislative body in the new world. Congratulations to each of them, as well as Mike Cherry, Marie March, Phil Scott, and Wren Williams on their elections.”

Both parties contested nearly all 100 House seats. Going into the election, Republicans seemed more confident of winning the House majority than winning the statewide races, but the same issues and trends that powered their statewide win were part of their local win. In Virginia, the party that does not hold the presidency tends to lose ground in the years following a presidential election, which was exacerbated by President Joe Biden’s declining popularity. Additionally, with Trump out of the presidency, moderates were no longer motivated to vote against Republicans, and were more likely to hear their messages on education, public safety, and the economy.

“Every single locality had a rightward swing from 2020, with some bigger than others. The swings in Richmond and Hampton Roads were more pronounced than Northern Virginia, but that was expected,” Nuttycombe said.

He said, “Democrats were not able to win a single seat in the House of Delegates that Biden only won by single digits. I think that shows a lot about the environment going into 2022.”

Republican Jason Ballard also flipped HD 12, held by Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Montgomery), 55.21 percent to 44.44 percent. Hurst was likely already behind in the race, but on Monday night before Election Day, he was caught by law enforcement allegedly driving on a suspended license and tampering with campaign signs, according to WDBJ7.

“I would make a note of how Chris Hurst lost by double digits. That was something after the news that broke [Tuesday] I was thinking could happen. I was thinking he was going to lose by the high single digits. But that’s double digits. It wasn’t just because of low Virginia Tech turnout. It was the backlash towards Chris Hurst,” Nuttycombe said.

Democrats did perform better-than-expected in some districts. Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke) beat back Nick Clemente in Loudoun County, 50.70 percent to 49.18 percent. Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico) defeated Christopher Holmes 52.65 percent to 47.19 percent — nearly the same margin as his 2017 and 2019 wins during Democratic waves.

More Politics to Come

Republicans’ win of the majority sets up two near-term political battles.

Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Wise) announced Wednesday that he would run for Speaker, likely challenging Gilbert. Kilgore lost in his 2019 bid against Gilbert to be minority leader.

“Congratulations to all of my Republican colleagues in the House of Delegates that won reelection! I look forward to working with the newly elected members of our caucus, who worked hard to earn the confidence of their future constituents,” Kilgore said in a press release. “Since the Republican Caucus of the House of Delegates picked up enough seats to take back the majority, I am announcing my intention to run for Speaker. It is time for fresh leadership and leadership that will keep and grow our new majority.”

Richmond Democratic operative Paul Goldman is suing Virginia agencies to force another House election in 2022. Because 2020 Census data was late, redistricting was delayed, and candidates ran in old districts that aren’t representative of the dramatic population shifts from 2010 to 2020. Goldman said that means the 2021 elections disenfranchise voters, and has been suing before the 2021 elections took place.

But now-outgoing Attorney General Mark Herring’s office has opposed Goldman’s lawsuit in Herring’s official capacity as defense for state agencies and officials. Politicians from both parties were largely dismissive of Goldman’s suit before the election. But now that Republicans are set to control much of Virginia’s government, more Democrats may support Goldman’s effort. He also suggested that some Republicans might want to capitalize on Virginia’s 2022 election environment and support his lawsuit. Goldman said Herring could agree to a settlement or do other things to ease the success of Goldman’s lawsuit.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the very people who tried to block me, who have basically been bad mouthing me behind the scenes, and who have been disputing my legal acumen will suddenly say ‘Well gee, Paul Goldman, pretty insightful, give the guy credit,'” he said.

– – –

Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to eburk@vastarnews.com.
Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Skip Plitt – C’ville Photography. CC BY-SA 3.0.