Virginia Democrats who campaigned on protecting abortion rights swept Tuesday’s legislative elections, retaking full control of the General Assembly after two years of divided power.
The outcome is a sharp loss for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who exerted a great deal of energy, money and political capital on an effort to secure a GOP trifecta.
Virginia is one of just four states holding legislative races this year, and it’s something of a microcosm of other closely divided states that will be critical in next year’s presidential election. That has fueled outsized interest in the legislative races, as both parties are closely monitoring the results for signs about voter moods heading into the 2024 campaign.
With a full statehouse majority, Democrats will have even greater leeway to thwart Youngkin’s policy agenda, though they will have to work with him to advance their own.
Every General Assembly seat was on the ballot this year, with the most competitive seats based in Hampton Roads and the suburbs of Richmond and Washington. Democrats flipped the House of Delegates and held the majority they’ve had in the Senate since 2020.
Virginia Democrats largely centered their message to voters around pledges to protect abortion rights. Virginia is the only state in the South that has not enacted new restrictions on abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. The results are certain to comfort the national party as President Joe Biden and other Democrats are expected to prioritize abortion rights in next year’s campaign to energize their voters.
Republicans campaigned on issues including lowering taxes, supporting parental involvement in schools, rolling back Democrat-sponsored clean energy mandates and improving public safety. On abortion, many GOP candidates in the most competitive swing districts coalesced around Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.