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Virginia Democrats Win Legislative Elections After Campaigning On Abortion Rights

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Following two years of divided government, Virginia Democrats who ran on a platform of defending abortion rights won handily in Tuesday’s legislative elections, regaining control of the General Assembly.

As a result, Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the other Republicans suffered a severe defeat after devoting a significant amount of time, resources, and political capital to their quest for a GOP trifecta.

“It’s official: there will be absolutely no abortion ban legislation sent to Glenn Youngkin’s desk for the duration of his term in office, period, as we have thwarted MAGA Republicans’ attempt to take total control of our government and our bodies,” Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said in a statement referencing Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Virginia, one of just four states with legislative elections this year, is somewhat representative of other sharply divided states that will be crucial in the presidential contest of the following year. This led to a disproportionate amount of interest in the costly and intensely contested legislative contests, as both parties kept a close eye on the outcome for clues regarding voter sentiment before the 2024 election.

Democrats will be able to thwart Youngkin’s policy agenda even more with a full majority in the statehouse, but they will need to collaborate with him in order to advance their own.

This year, candidates ran for every General Assembly seat, with the most competitive ones being located in Hampton Roads and the suburbs of Richmond and Washington. Democrats maintained their Senate majority—which they had held since 2020—after flipping the House of Delegates.

This election cycle, candidates argued their positions to voters on the economy, the environment, public safety, and education; however, in the final Southern state without new abortion restrictions since the end of Roe v. Wade, abortion was the most hotly debated topic.

The outcomes in Virginia, coupled with the victory of proponents of abortion rights over a ballot initiative in Ohio and the reelection of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear in Kentucky, will reassure the national party. This is because President Joe Biden and other Democrats are anticipated to make abortion rights a top priority in the upcoming campaign to galvanize their supporters.

Republicans’ platform included tax cuts, boosting parental involvement in education, undoing clean energy mandates supported by Democrats, and enhancing public safety. Regarding abortion, a number of Republican contenders in the most competitive swing districts united behind Youngkin’s suggestion of outlawing abortions for up to 15 weeks, with the exception of rape, incest, and motherhood.

Youngkin was questioned about his plans to cooperate with Democrats in the event that his party lost. Just hours before the polls closed, he had predicted that Republicans would win the Senate and take control of the House.

Youngkin did not comment on the election results right away. He is not permitted to run for president a second time in a row and is still being considered. However, Youngkin’s political action committee chairman Dave Rexrode stated on social media that the group would thoroughly evaluate the situation on Wednesday morning.

This year’s new maps drawn during the most recent redistricting process saw all legislative candidates run for office for the first time, leading to a wave of retirements and a more transparent atmosphere. The majority of swing districts in both chambers were traversed by Democrats on their route to victory.

Entrepreneur Juan Pablo Segura lost to former prosecutor and CIA officer Russet Perry in a Senate seat centered in Loudoun County. Public school teacher Schuyler VanValkenburg, a current member of the House, defeated OB-GYN Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, the incumbent Republican, in Henrico County outside of Richmond.

In a statement, the Senate Republican caucus accepted their defeats and congratulated the new members, which included Emily Brewer, a member of the House of Delegates who had defeated Democrat Clint Jenkins.

Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan McDougle released a statement stating that the “returning Senators and Senators-elect stand ready to promote our positive agenda of fighting inflation, lowering taxes, supporting law enforcement, and getting energy prices under control.” “We will also not back down from the extreme progressive agenda of the Democrats.”

In the House, Michael Feggans, a former soldier, defeated Republican Karen Greenhalgh in Virginia Beach, a significant win for the Democrats. Another close House race centered in Stafford County saw Joshua Cole defeat Republican Lee Peters.

The “first day of a new Virginia” will be Wednesday, according to a statement made by House Democratic Leader Don Scott, who looks set to become the first Black speaker of the House.

Another noteworthy contest was taking place in Henrico County, where Democrat Susanna Gibson was vying to defeat Republican David Owen despite some party support having withered away in the wake of the controversy. Gibson had continued her campaign despite learning that she had engaged in sexual acts with her husband in live videos that were uploaded on a pornographic website. Owen was leading in a close race, according to incomplete returns.

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