US Democrats nearly wiped out Republicans’ overwhelming majority on Tuesday in the Virginia House of Delegates, with a handful of races that will decide control of the body remaining too close to call.
Democrats picked up at least 13 of the 17 seats they would need to retake the chamber for the first time in two decades.
“It really is an unprecedented result we’re seeing,” Virginia House Democratic caucus leader David Toscano said, adding that the last time Democrats picked up more than five seats was 1975.
This election season, with all 100 seats up for grabs, saw Democrats make their most energetic push in years to gain ground against Republicans. Sixty of the seats were contested by candidates of both major parties, more than in any year for at least two decades.
The House gains were part of a stellar night for Democrats, who swept all three statewide races. Democrat Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie in the governor’s race by nearly nine points.
The shift in power could have far-reaching policy and political implications. It will change the makeup of committees, and Virginia Democrats would also have greater leverage when drawing new congressional and legislative boundaries during the next redistricting.
Among the Democrats’ influx of candidates across the nation this year were a record 43 women, many of whom said they were inspired by former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton’s defeat to jump into politics. At least nine of the new seats will be filled by women.
Among those will be Danica Roem, who is transgender. A former journalist, she unseated Bob Marshall, one of the chamber’s longest-serving and most conservative members. Earlier this year, Marshall sponsored a bill that would have limited the bathrooms transgender people can use.
Roem is to be Virginia’s first openly transgender lawmaker. She will also be first openly transgender person elected and seated in a state legislature, the political action committee Victory Fund said.
Several other Democratic women also made history: Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman will be the chamber’s first Latina members, while Kathy Tran will be its first female Asian-American member.
In the Blacksburg area, Chris Hurst, a former Virginia news anchor whose journalist girlfriend was fatally shot during a live broadcast in 2015, defeated a Republican incumbent. After the shooting, Hurst became the public face of the grieving Roanoke station.
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