RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Republicans sweep Virginia in the statewide elections, the partisan shift coming after the Commonwealth trended blue for years.
Political scientists say the election battle was mostly about education. The issues on the frontlines were mask mandates, transgender policies and critical race theory. Ultimately, the experts say Republicans motivated their base and made some gains in soft Democratic areas.
“The Republicans ran a really strong campaign, Democrats, less so,” said Rich Meagher, 8News political analyst.
Meagher, who is also a professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College, said the national mood turned against democrats and Virginia Republicans ran with it turning the state from blue to red.
“I think that the Republicans were able to do two really important things,” he said. “One was that they did a better job of turning out voters in their stronghold areas.”
Election results and maps from Virginia Public Access Project show there was a surge in voter turnout in rural and southwest Virginia.
“The other thing that Republicans did is they won that mushy middle suburbanites, and not even a bunch of them, but enough of them to offset the huge demographic advantages that the Democrats have had in urban areas,” Meagher explained.
For example, Loudoun County, while still ultimately voting blue in this election, was a big red dot of gains for the GOP. In addition, Chesterfield County, once part of the blue wave in Virginia, went red this year. Voters in the suburban area chose Republican Glenn Youngkin for governor over Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
“The Chesterfield County example shows just how successful the Republicans were in making a case to suburban voters this year — ‘Vote for us, we have your back,’” Meagher said.
Republicans won these statewide races by barely a percentage point in some cases and Meagher says it’s too early to tell if those red gains are cemented just yet. However, he does say the upset sets the groundwork for Republicans going forward. Only time will tell if the GOP delivers on the issues.