Politics of Virginia

Former Governor Tim Kaine with former U.S. Senator John Warner and former Senator and Governor George Allen, and former Representative Thelma Drake.

The politics of Virginia have followed major historical events and demographic changes in the state. In the 21st century, the northern region near the national capital has attracted educated people, including immigrants, from many areas and has become more liberal in attitudes and voting. The southern region has been more rural and conservative.[1]

History [ edit ]

Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. ran the important Byrd Organization until the 1960s.

After the American Civil War (1861–1865), Virginia was in political turmoil. Forty-eight counties, which created the state of West Virginia in 1863, were about to be joined by two more. The Commonwealth of Virginia unsuccessfully appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After U.S. Senator William Mahone and the Readjuster Party lost control of Virginia politics around 1883, white Democrats regained the state legislature. They proceeded to use statute and a new constitution in 1901, with provisions such as a poll tax, residency requirements, and literacy test to disfranchise most African Americans and many poor whites. Their disfranchisement lasted until after passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s.

White Democrats created a one-party state, with a nearly unchallenged majority of state and most federal offices through the middle of the 20th century. The Byrd Organization headed by Harry F. Byrd Sr. largely controlled statewide politics. Through their leadership and activism in the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans gained national support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided Federal oversight and enforcement to maintain all citizens' ability to vote. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, decisions affecting elections are subject to preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice before they can take effect.

Recent events [ edit ]

Treemap of the popular vote by county, 2016 presidential election.

In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly proposed Civil Remedial Fees or "abusive driver fees" were fines that could exceed $1,000 for certain moving violations. The proposal had gained bi-partisan support as a way to generate revenue while not increasing taxes. An online petition to oppose the bill quickly gathered nearly 100,000 signatures.[2] These were repealed one year later in 2008 and fees were refunded.[3]

Criticism [ edit ]

Dozens of delegates run unopposed each election cycle, which led 2001 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate and former national LP chair Bill Redpath to conclude that "Virginia has a democracy that is uncompetitive and boring."[4] Redpath proposed eliminating the 40 single-member districts and have all state senators run state-wide, with the top 40 candidates with the highest vote count getting elected. However, this proposal would give more power to the highly populated urban areas of the state, and thus has little chance of statewide support.[5]

Federal elections [ edit ]

Presidential elections results [6]
Year Republicans Democrats
2016 44.33% 1,769,443 49.75% 1,981,473
2012 47.28% 1,822,522 51.16% 1,971,820
2008 46.33% 1,725,005 52.63% 1,959,532
2004 53.68% 1,716,959 45.48% 1,454,742
2000 52.47% 1,437,490 44.44% 1,217,290
1996 47.10% 1,138,350 45.15% 1,091,060
1992 44.97% 1,150,517 40.59% 1,038,650
1988 59.74% 1,309,162 39.23% 859,799
1984 62.29% 1,337,078 37.09% 796,250
1980 53.03% 989,609 40.31% 752,174

Over the 20th century, Virginia shifted from a largely rural, politically Southern and conservative state to a more urbanized, pluralistic, and politically moderate environment. Up until the 1970s, Virginia was a racially divided one-party state dominated by the Byrd Organization.[7] The legacy of slavery in the state effectively disfranchised African Americans until after passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s.[8] Enfranchisement and immigration of other groups, especially Hispanics, have placed growing importance on minority voting,[9] while voters that identify as "white working-class" declined by three percent between 2008 and 2012.[10] Regional differences play a large part in Virginia politics.[11] Rural southern and western areas moved to support the Republican Party in response to its "southern strategy", while urban and growing suburban areas, including much of Northern Virginia and recently, Richmond form the Democratic Party base.[12][13] Democratic support also persists in union-influenced Roanoke in Southwest Virginia, college towns such as Charlottesville and Blacksburg, and the southeastern Black Belt Region.[14]

Political party strength in Virginia has likewise been in flux. In the 2007 state elections, Democrats regained control of the State Senate, and narrowed the Republican majority in the House of Delegates to eight seats.[15] Yet elections in 2009 resulted in the election of Republican Bob McDonnell as Governor by a seventeen-point margin, the election of a Republican Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, as well as Republican gains of six seats in the House of Delegates.[16] In 2011, the Republican caucus took over two-thirds (68–32) of the seats in the House of Delegates, and a majority of the Senate based on the Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling as the tie-breaker.[17] Following the 2013 elections, Democrat Terry McAuliffe was elected Governor by two percentage points,[18][19] and Democrat Ralph Northam was elected Lieutenant Governor by double digits.[20][21] Republicans, however, maintained their super-majority (68–32) in the House of Delegates.[20][22] State election seasons traditionally start with the annual Shad Planking event in Wakefield.[23]

In federal elections since 2006, both parties have seen successes. Republican Senator George Allen lost close races in 2006, to Democratic newcomer Jim Webb, and again in 2012, to Webb's replacement, former Governor Tim Kaine.[24] In 2008, Democrats won both United States Senate seats; former Governor Mark Warner was elected to replace retiring Republican John Warner.[25] The state went Republican in 11 out of 12 presidential elections from 1948 to 2004, including 10 in a row from 1968 to 2004. However, Democrat Barack Obama carried Virginia's 13 electoral votes in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.[10] In the 2010 elections, Republicans won three United States House of Representatives seats from the Democrats. Of the state's eleven seats in the House of Representatives, Democrats hold seven and Republicans hold four. Despite being won by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Virginia is considered a moderately red state in presidential elections.[26]

Although Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the presidential election statewide in 2016, the Congressional Districts continue to return a majority of Republican Representatives. A Federal District Court redrew the malapportioned 3rd District as violating the Voting Rights Act for the 2016 election. That allowed Virginians to choose in an additional black Representative from the 4th District, and added one to the Democratic total.[27]

In 2019 Democrats in Virginia are attempting to flip seats in local, state, and federal elections.[28]

Statewide referenda [ edit ]

In 2006, a statewide referendum on the Marshall-Newman Amendment added a provision to the Bill of Rights of the Virginia Constitution banning gay marriage; it passed with 57% of the vote.

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ "Inoljt" (2010-08-10). "Analyzing Virginia's 2009 Gubernatorial Election, Part 1". My Firedoglake. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  2. ^ Va. Driver Fees Now Election Weapon, Tim Craig, The Washington Post, July 17, 2007.
  3. ^ Abusive Driver Fees Refunds (Report). Virginia Department of Accounts. Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  4. ^ Bill Redpath, Libertarian Candidate for Virginia Governor, The Washington Post, Oct. 12, 2001.
  5. ^ Laris, Michael (10 October 2001). "Libertarian Targets Political System". Washington Post. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  6. ^ Leip, David. "Presidential General Election Results Comparison – New York". US Election Atlas. Retrieved January 10, 2010.
  7. ^ Sweeney, James R. (1999). ""Sheep without a Shepherd": The New Deal Faction in the Virginia Democratic Party". Presidential Studies Quarterly. 29 (2): 438. doi:10.1111/1741-5705.00043. Retrieved March 31, 2008.
  8. ^ Burchett, Michael H. (Summer 1997). "Promise and prejudice: Wise County, Virginia and the Great Migration, 1910–1920". The Journal of Negro History. 82 (3): 312–327. doi:10.2307/2717675. JSTOR 2717675.
  9. ^ Eisman, Dale (October 25, 2006). "Webb, Allen court Hispanic, white-collar voters in N. Va". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved March 29, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Przybyla, Heidi (November 7, 2012). "Obama Repeats Win in Former Republican Stronghold Virginia". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  11. ^ Turque, Bill; Wiggins, Ovetta; Stewart, Nikita (February 13, 2008). "In Virginia, Results Signal A State in Play for November". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 29, 2008.
  12. ^ Miller, Gary; Schofield, Norman (May 2003). "Activists and Partisan Realignment in the United States". The American Political Science Review. 97 (2): 245–260. doi:10.1017/s0003055403000650. JSTOR 3118207.
  13. ^ Craig, Tim (December 11, 2007). "Tensions Could Hurt Majority in Va. Senate". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 23, 2007.
  14. ^ Clemons, Michael L.; Jones, Charles E. (July 2000). "African American Legislative Politics in Virginia". Journal of Black Studies. 30 (6, Special Issue: African American State Legislative Politics): 744–767. doi:10.1177/002193470003000603. JSTOR 2645922.
  15. ^ Craig, Tim; Kumar, Anita (November 8, 2007). "Kaine Hails 'Balance' in New Political Landscape". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
  16. ^ Helderman, Rosalind S.; Kumar, Anita (November 4, 2009). "GOP reclaims Virginia". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  17. ^ Lewis, Bob (November 10, 2011). "GOP claims Va. Senate majority after Dem concedes". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  18. ^ "Decision 2013: Virginia general election results". The Washington Post. November 6, 2013. Archived from the original on November 8, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  19. ^ "McAuliffe wins nailbiter Virginia governor's race". CBS News. November 6, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  20. ^ a b Bycoffe, Aaron (November 6, 2013). "2013 Elections: Governor, Mayor, Congress". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  21. ^ Lavender, Paige (November 6, 2013). "Virginia Election Results: Terry McAuliffe Beats Ken Cuccinelli In Governor's Race". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  22. ^ "2013: Virginia House of Delegates election results". Virginia Board of Elections. November 12, 2013. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  23. ^ Murray, Mark (April 16, 2009). "Shad Planking kicks Virginia race into gear". MSNBC. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
  24. ^ Lewis, Bob (November 11, 2012). "In the aftermath of the 2012 election, battleground Virginia's political winners and losers". Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  25. ^ Kumar, Anita (November 5, 2008). "Warner Rolls Past His Fellow Former Governor". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  26. ^ Balz, Dan (October 12, 2007). "Painting America Purple". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  27. ^ Virginia’s 4th Congressional District election, 2016 Ballotpedia: the Encyclopedia of American Politics. viewed November 13, 2016.
  28. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (13 October 2019). "In rural Virginia, Democrats climb a steep hill trying to flip GOP seats". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 October 2019.

External links [ edit ]

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