by Samuel Gardner
Lt. Governor Ralph Northam will become the Governor of Virginia after a narrow win against Republican rival Ed Gillespie in the gubernatorial race, which ended after the election on Tuesday, November 7.
Prior to the election, the gubernatorial race was expected to be extremely close. Polls conducted in the week prior showed Northam holding a slight lead over Gillespie, with a Polling Company poll showing Northam with a meager 1% lead over Gillespie. Other polls showed Northam with a more sizeable lead, such as a Quinnipac University poll which projected a 9% lead over Gillespie. Ballotpedia, after averaging multiple polls, reported an average lead of 4% in Northam’s favor- a small lead in a traditionally divided state like Virginia.
But in the end, Northam took the governancy with a whopping 8.9% lead, garnering 53.9% of the vote, leaving Gillespie with only 45%. Libertarian candidate Clifford Hyra received 1.2%, a drop from the 6.5% obtained by the Libertarian Party in 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election.
Across Virginia, democratic candidates overtook their largely Republican rivals in one of the largest political shifts in modern Virginia history. In a historic shift, 14 of the 66 seats held by Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates were lost to Democrats. Another 2 seats remain undecided, as voting precincts count and recount the results. With an even 50/50 split in the House possible, tensions are high on both sides.
Tuesday also saw the election of Democrat Justin Fairfax as Lieutenant Governor and Democrat Mark Herring as Attorney General. Locally, Democratic incumbent Jennifer Boysko was re-elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in District 86.
The election also saw much social change, as Virginia’s Prince Willian County elected Danica Roem, the first openly transgender legislator. A shift in the House gender demographic came as 11 of the 14 seats taken by Democrats were taken by female delegates, increasing the number of women in the legislature to 27/100. Included in that group were the first Asian American and Latina delegates elected to the legislature.
Whether the change was political or social, the elections of 2017 have set Virginia up for a period of change in a typically traditional state.