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Virginia Is For Lovers Who Vote Against Anti-LGBTQ, Forced-Birth Republicans
Our ongoing coverage of a key statewide election.
Virginia has a major election next week, and it’s best for everyone if Democrats don’t sleep through it like they did in Louisiana. All 140 seats in the Virginia General Assembly are on the ballot for the first time since 2019, and Republicans are eager to win the trifecta and set loose a reign of terror.
The looming question going into the election is whether it’s a specific referendum on President Joe Biden or a continuation of the post-Dobbs backlash that turned the predicted “red wave” into a mild drizzle.
According to recent polls, Virginia voters are somewhat unpredictable, a polite way of saying goofy in the head. A disturbing 55 percent of those surveyed approve of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s appalling performance, and only 41 percent approve of Biden, who carried the state in 2020 with 54 percent of the vote. How soon they forget.
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Usually, a president with approval ratings lower than the average high during Portland spring would spell doom for his party, but these are different times. Democrats have won big in recent special elections. Last month, Democrat Hal Rafter flipped a formerly Republican-held seat in the New Hampshire state House, defeating James Guzofski 56 percent to 44 percent. Election analyst Nathaniel Rakich details a consistent pattern of significant over performance among Democrats in 2023 elections.
So maybe it’s just Uncle Joe no one likes, which is an ulcer for another time. Right now, though, it seems as if people are voting on specific issues that favor Democrats. For instance, 54 percent of Virginians either oppose or strongly oppose Youngkin’s much-desired 15-week abortion ban, but only 39 percent either support or strongly support the forced-birth law.
Unfortunately, a clear majority supports Youngkin’s bigoted policies toward trans people: Sixty-five percent think it’s just dandy to prevent kids from participating in sports teams that match their current gender identity, and 53 percent are on board with denying students access to bathrooms that don’t correspond with their “birth sex.”
But hey, at least book bans are unpopular! That almost sounds like freedom.
When it comes to banning books in public school libraries, 84% of Virginians polled said they disagreed with removing books that any parent objects to, even if other parents like the book.
The poll also found that 73% agree that it is important for public school libraries to have books representing different perspectives about controversial issues, even if it makes some uncomfortable.
Alas, voters will often trade freedom for financial security. The main issue on the minds of 27 percent of Virginians polled is the economy and inflation, with just 17 percent of Virginians prioritizing abortion and 12 percent putting education first. According to the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research, Virginians are still annoyed with high prices despite “slowing inflation, rising wages and strong labor markets.” Housing costs have also risen since last year, and mortgage rates have hit a two decade high.
Virginia voters prefer Democratic candidates to Republicans 42 percent to 41 percent, which is well within the margin of error. Democrats will need to work hard on the remaining undecideds.
Far too many Virginia districts, unfortunately, are either solidly Democratic or reliably Republican, so control of the General Assembly will likely come down to a small number of true tossup seats across the state.
In Northern Virginia, analysts and observers are closely watching districts in outlying Loudoun and Prince Williams counties, as well as Stafford County. (Elsewhere in Virginia, it’s the suburbs of Richmond and Hampton Roads)
“When you talk about where Virginia elections are won and lost, you’re really talking about those ‘outer ring’ suburban communities,” said [Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, and a longtime Virginia state politics watcher.]
Loudoun and Prince William counties were areas that Democrat Terry McAuliffe carried 2021. So that’s good news, but we can’t take anything for granted. If Republicans gain control of the General Assembly, Virginia will become more like West Virginia for at least the next few years.
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