The Virginia Redistricting Commission collapsed without completing a congressional map. Therefore, the state Supreme Court will draw the map from scratch.
By Jim Ellis
Nov. 4, 2021 — Now that Tuesday’s election numbers are becoming more available and final, we can explore the contests that proved to be upsets and ones providing us with some surprises. In most instances, the Republicans performed better in these races than expected.
The first obvious upset, though a mild one as we approached election day because most people understood that Republican Glenn Youngkin had a legitimate chance to score a victory over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is the Virginia statewide race. The biggest surprise was New Jersey Republican Jack Ciattarelli within one percentage point of defeating Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
With that background, let’s begin with our upsets:
• Georgia: Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), attempting to regain his former position in the open seat 2021 race, has apparently failed to qualify for the runoff. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore (D) placed first, with City Councilman Andre Dickens (D) running 612 votes ahead of Reed for second position with all of the precincts reporting.
Mail votes and ancillary ballots could still push Reed into a runoff with Moore, but it appears that Dickens has the inside track to nose the former mayor out of this race.
• Maine:• New Jersey: State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) has apparently lost his southern New Jersey seat to truck driver Edward Durr (R) who spent only about $5,000 on his campaign. Durr leads 52-48 percent, which should be enough for him to eventually claim victory.
• New York: Big Republican local election wins occurred in Suffolk and Nassau County on Long Island. GOP candidates won the Suffolk and Nassau County District Attorney’s offices, and defeated the Nassau County Executive. They also reclaimed the majority on the Suffolk County legislature for the first time since 2005.
• Texas: Continuing a GOP rebound among Hispanic voters in Texas, Republican John Lujan converted a 71 percent Hispanic district in southeast Bexar County (San Antonio). Lujan was a 51-49 percent winner in Texas House District 118.
• Virginia: Glenn Youngkin (R) defeated Terry McAuliffe (D), 51-48 percent. Winsome Sears (R) topped state Del. Hala Ayala (D), 51-49 percent. State Del. Jason Miyares (R) ousted Attorney General Mark Herring (D), 51-49 percent. Republicans have clinched or lead in 52 House of Delegates races, enough for them to re-claim the majority. Not only did Youngkin score an upset win, but he had obvious coattails.
There were several interesting surprises on election night, too:
• Florida: Miami area Democrats went to the polls to choose a special election nominee to replace the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) and the result yielded a photo finish. Recounts will be ordered and a long post-election process is expected before someone advances to the January 11th special general election.
At first take with supposedly all votes counted, businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick looks to have secured the party nomination by just 31 votes. A later count then put Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness on top by an even smaller 12-vote margin. Expect this one to be in the courts long before a Democratic nominee is finally settled upon.
Nov. 3, 2021 — Republican Glenn Youngkin claimed the Virginia governor’s race with his victory over former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), becoming the first Republican to win a Virginia statewide office since the 2009 election.
In New Jersey, Republican Jack Ciattarelli is fighting Gov. Phil Murphy (D) to a virtual tie, but outstanding ballots suggest the Democratic governor may barely hang on to win a second term. It was a surprisingly strong showing for Ciattarelli in such a heavily Democratic state. Though both houses of the New Jersey legislature will remain under Democratic control, Republicans appear to have added seats in both chambers.
While mail votes are still being tallied and other ballots can be received in Virginia until Friday, it appears Youngkin did exceed the 50 percent plateau with McAuliffe about two percentage points behind. The Youngkin victory helped pull his lieutenant governor Republican partner, Winsome Sears, over the top to claim the state’s second position.
The Virginia attorney general’s race features another Republican, state Delegate Jason Miyares, leading incumbent Mark Herring (D), who is running for a third term. This is the closest of the three races, so uncounted mail ballots and votes to be received after election day could make a difference. Some entities have projected Miyares a winner, and he is certainly in the better position, but the final outcome may not yet be conclusive.
Several other races are still close, but Republicans may have converted the six seats they need to re-claim the state House majority. In any event, the party gained seats.
Turnout was higher than expected in Virginia. More that 3.2 million ballots have been tabulated, meaning that more than 73 percent of the number of people who voted in the record setting 2020 election returned to cast their votes in the 2021 governor’s race. When comparing the 2017 gubernatorial election to the 2016 presidential, the return rate was 66 percent.
In the US House, two new Ohio members-elect completed their special election victories with ease. In the vacant Cleveland-Akron seat that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge (D) represented, Democratic Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, as expected, easily won the congressional special general election with 79 percent of of the vote.
Nov. 2, 2021 — Today is a significant Election Day, and the menu of races stretches beyond a Virginia governor’s race that has attracted the lion’s share of political attention.
While the VA governor’s race will of course be top of mind as results come in tonight and analysts attempt to assign precursor status to the contest regardless of the final result, other campaigns will also be of significance.
In the Virginia race, if Republican Glenn Youngkin scores an upset win, and the late indications are clearly moving his way, it may be cast as an affront to the Biden Administration and the Democratic majorities in Congress relating to their legislative agenda. In actuality, it is a more locally based issue, education, that should correctly be cast as the linchpin to describe a Youngkin victory.
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) debate comment saying he did not believe “parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” will actually prove to be the key turning point to a Youngkin victory should it materialize. In McAuliffe wins, then the talk of a coming Republican wave election next year will certainly dissipate at least in the short term.
In addition to the Virginia governor’s race, the remainder of the statewide ticket, the lieutenant governor and attorney general races could be of significance. If Winsome Sears (R), running for lieutenant governor, and Jason Miyares (R), running for attorney general, both win their races to compliment a Youngkin victory, then talk of a clear precursor or budding Republican wave election will carry a more serious tone.
New Jersey voters will decide their governor’s contest as well. In Jersey, late polling, after seeing some closer numbers not even 10 days ago, seems to show Gov. Phil Murphy (D) pulling away from Republican Jack Ciattarelli in the closing week. The final result will likely be closer than most analysts would have projected at the beginning of the odd-numbered year election cycle, however.
In both Virginia and New Jersey, voters will also be electing members of the state legislature. In the Old Dominion, only the House of Delegates is on the ballot, as state senators, with their four year terms, won’t face the voters as a unit until the 2023 election cycle.
In the Garden State, both parties are projecting they will gain seats, but no one believes the strong Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly are in any danger. In the Virginia House of Delegates, Republicans need to convert a net six seats to re-claim the majority they lost in the 2019 election.
Nov. 1, 2021 — A surprising polling turn of events came to light late last week as Fox News released a new Virginia survey that shows Republican Glenn Youngkin (R) holding an eight-point lead in the race for governor, his largest of any poll throughout the campaign. The surprise comes in a result that reverses last week’s Fox poll that found former Gov. Terry McAuliffe holding a five-point advantage.
The Fox News poll (Oct. 24-27; 1,212 registered Virginia voters; 1,015 individuals identified as likely VA gubernatorial election voters, live interview) finds Youngkin claiming a 53-45 percent advantage within the likely voter segment. When looking at the entire registered voter sample, however, the Youngkin edge shrinks to 48-47 percent.
The previous Fox poll (Oct. 10-13; 1,004 registered Virginia voters; 726 individuals identified as likely VA gubernatorial election voters, live interview) gave McAuliffe a 51-46 percent margin. Within the entire sample, the McAuliffe advantage leapt to a double-digit eleven point lead at 52-41 percent.
Though Fox News has a well-known right-of-center orientation, their polling operation does not. The Fox Polls are conducted jointly through a Democratic survey research firm and a Republican polling organization. Beacon Research is the Democratic firm, formerly known as Anderson Robbins Research, while the Republican entity is Shaw & Company Research. The two have been collaborating on the Fox polls for 10 years, since 2011.
According to the FiveThirtyEight research organization that ranks polling firms, Fox News is scored with an A rating, but has a Democratic bias factor of 1.8 percentage points. Therefore, despite Fox News’ reputation, their polling arm has trended more Democratic over the joint partnership’s long history.
That being said, this particular poll appears to have a Republican skew. Looking at the likely voters, 46 percent identified themselves as solid or leaning Republican, while 42 percent responded Democratic. This ratio is contrary to recent Virginia voter history.
The Commonwealth does not register voters by political party, so people can float between the two major political organizations. The move toward the Republicans in this poll could be the centrist, or independent voter, moving to the right for this particular election. Regardless, it is probable that Youngkin’s eight-point margin among likely voters is at least somewhat inflated.
A further problem for McAuliffe is his standing among committed voters. In both the current survey and the previous Fox study that found him leading by five points, his committed support remained constant at 44 percent. Seeing no movement on this question suggests that McAuliffe is lacking momentum in the closing days.