Virginia’s Purple Politics

Virginia elections and geography made for an energetic Post-Election Conference on November 5, which was organized by the NOVA Institute of Public Service. This conference discussed the results of Virginia’s November 3 election, and its implications for 2016. Below is my PowerPoint presentation, highlighting some of the geopolitical outcomes of this election with maps and graphics.

PostElectionNov5-2015 (click on this link for slides)

Explaining election results as Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Charniele Herring look on.

Explaining election results as Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Charniele Herring look on.

Both Virginia Republicans and Democrats can claim victories in this election, including:

  • Republicans kept control of the Virginia Senate by 1 seat.
  • Democrats gained 2 seats and lost 1 seat (all in Northern Virginia), giving them 34 seats and ending Republicans “veto-proof” majority in the House of Delegates.
  • Republicans held on to the Richmond area’s Senate District 10–barely–which was the best chance for a Democratic pickup.
  • Democratic State Senator John Edwards (District 21) won re-election by more than 8  percentage points in southwestern Virginia (a conservative stronghold) despite Republicans raising more money.
  • Republican State Senator Dick Black (District 13) won re-election to his Northern Virginia seat in the closest race for any Senate incumbent. Democrats note that he won by only 4.8% (52.2% to 47.5%) compared to 14.2% in 2011.

A record $43 million was spent by both political parties on Virginia Senate elections. However, all this money did not motivate most Virginians to vote. Voter turnout was only 29% of all registered voters, meaning that only 1.5 million out 5.2 million Virginians voted for candidates that will determine Virginia law. Public indifference to elections is often blamed on gerrymandered districts, whose contorted geographic shapes fail to create a sense of community but succeed in protecting incumbents.

A purple Virginia sums up the electoral geography. Republicans are favored in most local elections, but Democrats have won all statewide offices. Urban growth in Northern Virginia favors Democrats, but Republicans are more consistent and passionate voters. The 2016 Presidential election in Virginia should be interesting.

David B. Miller, Geography & Geopolitics Instructor, NVCC-Alexandria & Annandale

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the view of the NOVA Institute for Public Service or Northern Virginia Community College as a whole. All materials may be reprinted with permission, for more information please contact the IPS Coordinator. Comments are welcome.