The 2017 Election night for state and local races set the stage for 2018 midterm elections in a big way. Certain races around the country, like the Virginia gubernatorial election, were picked up by mass media as predictors for how each party will do next year in the House of Representatives and Senate elections.
Midterm Congressional elections are historically good for the party that does not control the White House, and the 2017 elections follow the pattern — that the electorate is leaning towards the Democrats already. A generic ballot poll put out by FiveThirtyEight measures favorability between the two major parties and is usually a better predictor for midterm elections than presidential favorability polls. The results of recent ballot polls are historically unprecedented: 46.8 percent of Americans would support a Democrat candidate, as opposed to 38.2 percent who would support a Republican candidate for Congress. This puts the Democrats in a very favorable position for 2018.
With this in mind, there were some big wins last Tuesday, Nov. 7. Here are some notable victories:
Name: Ralph Northam
Position: Virginia Governor-Elect (D)
Why this matters: The Virginia governor’s race is believed to set the pace for the 2018 elections, as part of the Democrats’ efforts to shift control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It can be argued that this is less of an accomplishment, considering that Virginia has gone blue for the past three presidential elections and four out of the past five governors were Democrats. Electing officials that are the opposite party of the current President is always a strong trend nationwide, but 10 out of the last 11 gubernatorial races in Virginia have gone to the party opposite of the White House, called “The Virginia Rule.” Don’t count out Terry McAuliffe, the outgoing Republican governor, just yet, though. Northam largely ran on the platform of ousting the incumbent, and the high-profile nature of the race thrust McAuliffe into the national spotlight as a pre-Trump era GOP member. He’s now expected to run for president in 2020.
Virginia may have just been following its electoral patterns, but the nine point margin of victory (54-45) is too significant to ignore. Voters between the ages of 18-29, who now make up the largest potential voting block in American history, and held a 40-point margin in Northam’s favor (69-30). Young voters are traditionally the hardest sector of the electorate to turn out. This big of a lead suggests that, should young people vote, they will vote with the left. Similarly, Northam had a 20-point lead with college educated voters (60-39). These two key demographics can be expected to play a large role going forward with the 2018 midterm elections.
Related: Virginia Lt. Governor Fairfax (D, 52.7-47.3), and Virginia Attorney General Herring.Virginia (D, 53.3-46.7) were both elected, by less strong margins than Northam, but the wins in conjunction with one another indicate a strong, down-the-ballot trend toward Democrats.
Name: Danica Roem
Position: Virginia House of Delegates (D)
Why it matters: She’s the first openly transgender woman in the Virginia House of Delegates, and she defeated the anti-LGBTQIA+ incumbent, Republican Rob Marshall.
The Virginia House of Delegates also saw an unprecedented shift towards the Democrats, changing 15 seats from red to blue last Tuesday evening. This suggests that Virginians have seen what President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are doing, and have decided the buck stops in their own state.
Danica Roem’s victory is perhaps the most historic of the 2017 local elections: a transgender woman beats the sitting candidate who authored the infamous “Bathroom Bill,” which bans trans people from using the restroom that reflects their gender identity. Marshall, Roem’s opponent, held the seat in the House of Delgates for 13 terms and referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Roem’s win sends a strong message to Marshall and other elected officials that if they do not represent the interests of their constituents, they will be replaced.
Related and worth noting: Andrea Jenkins (D) is the first openly transgender woman of color elected into office, on Minneapolis’s City Council. “I’m really proud to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society,” said Jenkins.
Name: Wilmot Collins
Position: Mayor of Helena, Montana (D)
Why this matters: Wilmot Collins unseated incumbent mayor of Helena and gained national attention because he is the first black mayor in the entire state of Montana. Furthermore, he’s a Liberian refugee who fled political persecution. This historic win bodes well against the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric of 2016.
There is still a long road to go before the midterm elections. Anything can happen in a year to change the game for either party. It is worth remembering that state and local elections are good predictors of the political climate, but they are not definite. The important issues to voters may shift at the national level. Democrats have a lot of work to do if they are going to flip the House of Representatives or the Senate, but the people who vote in state elections are more than likely going to vote in federal elections. This bodes well for the Democrats, and if they continue to push down the ballot platforms, 2017 may serve as a strong platform to build from. The Quaker Campus will continue its elections coverage as stories develop.