The outcomes of the election on November 5 are not known as I write this column. I will no doubt have much to say about the results in future writings as this election is going to be pivotal for the Commonwealth’s history regardless of who turns out to be the winners. What I was able to observe in the weeks and days leading up to election day was the highest level of people willing to help throughout the state in knocking on doors, making phone calls, writing postcards, and otherwise willing to chip in for their favorite candidates. If the level of activity leading up to election day is any indication, the turnout of voters should have been record-breaking. “When we vote, we win” became the mantra of campaigns hoping to hold onto power or to transfer it to a more progressive legislature. As I traveled around the state, I became aware that while I had focused on state legislative contests there were many local elections that were critical to the future of local boards of supervisors and school boards.
What is known before the first vote was cast is that these elections were the most expensive ever seen in off-year elections in Virginia. When the total expenses of both candidates in many legislative elections are added together, it will not be unusual that the total exceeds a million dollars. For some highly contentious races the totals exceed three million dollars. I have never seen the generosity of individuals to contribute to elections in other parts of the state as great as it was this year. There is a growing recognition that while it is important who your elected official is, there is an equal importance to who holds the majority in the legislative body. You not only work to get your representatives elected, you also need to help the campaigns of those with whom he or she will have to work. Political contributions from out-of-state individuals and organizations poured into the state in record amounts.
Also interesting in this election cycle is the amazing transformation that occurred in some incumbent legislators. It took Virginia more than four years to approve Medicaid expansion in the state. Yet, if you listened to television commercials downstate you would not be able to find anyone who opposed the expansion. To the contrary, there were claims on the part of some incumbents who had voted against the expansion who in the campaign claimed credit for passing it. It is amazing what a refreshment with voters can do to some legislators’ point of view and memories
To analyze state and local election returns I recommend that you go to the website of the State Board of Elections at elections.virginia.gov to see actual voting results. For more information on who the candidates were and how much they spent I suggest a visit to the Virginia Public Access Project, vpap.org. In future columns I will provide my take on what the election results mean for the future of the Commonwealth.
A special shout out of recognition and thank you goes to all who worked so hard this election cycle. You are what makes the system work. Thank you!