Tuesday’s Virginia Elections Being Watched More Closely Than Ever

Left: Ed Gillespie at the 2014 Virginia general election senate debate. Unmodified Creative Commons photo by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce. http://bit.ly/1ryPA8o) Right: Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam speaking in January 2017. (Public domain photo by Michaele White, Office of the Governor of Virginia.)

On Tuesday, November 7, voters in Virginia will head to the polls to elect their new governor and state legislators.

In Virginia’s first general election since last year, Democrats are hoping to demonstrate an energized resistance to President Donald Trump.

On the other hand, Republicans want to show that they can still win important races, even with Trump’s approval ratings now ranking the lowest of any first-term president in office.

The Democratic nominee, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, is running as a moderate and hopes to turn out immigrant voters living in northern Virginia.

These voters have arguably been a major reason for the state’s slow move to the left over the past decade.

The Republican nominee, Ed Gillespie, is considered to be an establishment candidate who worked as the chairman of the RNC as well as being a registered lobbyist.  

In 2014, Gillespie lost Virginia’s U.S. Senate race to Incumbent Democrat Mark Warner by less than 20,000 votes.

Trump has tweeted his support of Gillespie.

In a state where Democrats have won the popular vote in the last three Presidential elections and a have a Democratic governor, Northam’s supporters believe that he has a real chance at winning.

Polls generally tighten as an election day draws near and it is no different  in this race with Real Clear Politics average giving Northam a only  lead of 2 points.

However, polls have varied widely, with a recent Quinnipiac poll placing Northam 17 points ahead and a Hampton poll giving Gillespie an 8-point lead.

Also at stake in this election are seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, the state’s lower legislative chamber.

Republicans currently hold the majority, but Democrats are hoping to increase their share of representation on Tuesday.

As in many other legislative races nationwide, record numbers of Democrats have filed to run for office, presumably fueled by extreme resentment towards Donald Trump.

In a sign of the grassroots energy on the part of concerned Virginians, Democratic candidates are campaigning in 54 of the 66 seats currently held by Republicans in the House of Delegates. This is an increase from the 21 Republican-held districts that were challenged in the 2015 elections.

Democrats hope winning this election will be the first step to challenging what they argue is excessive gerrymandering in the state.

Gerrymandering refers to the process by which parties draw electoral districts in a way that favors themselves, a power that Democrats claim Republicans have abused since they were able to draw the most recent voting districts.

An Associated Press analysis found that Republicans won an average 56 percent of the vote for each district in the 2015 House of Delegates election, yet won about 66 percent of total seats.

Many prominent Democrats believe this race has the power to motivate those who are still reeling from last November’s loss.

In order to motivate the base, figures such as former President Barack Obama, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., have all joined Northam on the Campaign trail.

Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are among the most high-profile politicians who have campaigned for Gillespie.

With many Democrats fatigued from heavy electoral losses, Tuesday represents a beacon of hope while Republicans hope a potential win will serve as another nail in the coffin for Democrats in the Age of Trump.

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