The Democratic party is now sprinting into 2018. Big wins in New Jersey and Virginia have returned the wind to the party’s sails, even in the middle of an identity crisis. Both of the wins were expected, but the size and scale of the Democratic victory in Virginia was astonishing. Gov. Northam won by a nearly 9 point margin, outperforming Clinton’s 2016 election results. Even more surprising was the Virginia state house race, which may end up at an even split between Republicans and Democrats.
The Virginia House of Delegates wasn’t even considered in play for the Democratic Party, but a plethora of strong candidates and well-run grassroots campaigns unseated multiple long-serving Republican incumbents. The biggest scalp of the night was Bob Marshall, previously the third highest ranking Republican in the chamber. He was the author of the Virginia bathroom bill, and was unseated by Danica Roem, the first transgender candidate to run for a state house seat. She now becomes the first transgender person to serve in a state house in the entire country.
This surprising sweep of seats in the House of Delegates puts Northam in a strong position going into his term, both for his legislative agenda and the 2020 redistricting. The key focus is going to be on healthcare, along with finding ways to increase Virginia’s economic growth. He will have to deal with two contentious issues: confederate statues and immigration. His statement that there wouldn’t be any sanctuary cities in Virginia brought flak from the left, which included protests on his election night. He also believes that confederate statues should be taken down, which will surely generate anger on the right. Northam is set for an interesting term.
In New Jersey, Phil Murphy will take the reigns of a united government. He stands in a unique spot to implement his progressive agenda. Murphy has never held a political office before, and as a result stands independent of the New Jersey ‘machine’. He is thus free from many of the constraints that previous governors have been held to. Adding to this is his popularity within the party and New Jersey, which gives him a significant amount of political capital moving forward. New Jersey looks set to have incredibly productive legislative cycles.