- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Democrats in Virginia attribute their success Tuesday to a combination of early voter enthusiasm and micro-targeted campaign efforts.

Virginia House Minority Leader David J. Toscano said Democrats benefited from an unforeseen wave of enthusiasm that swept his party to victory in at least 14 districts in the House of Delegates, although Democrats are claiming victory in a total of 16 races. Five districts remain too close to call and are expected to go through recall votes.

Democrats need to win 17 seats to flip the majority in the state capital of Richmond for the first time in nearly 20 years.

“We saw tremendous energy coming out of various districts,” Mr. Toscano said in a call with reporters. “We found that the enthusiasm we had was unprecedented.”

Mr. Toscano wrote in a Washington Post op-ed back in July predicting that Virginia would be the bellwether of the Trump presidency more so than the special election congressional race in Georgia — a race that became the most expensive competition for a U.S. House seat in history. But Mr. Toscano admitted that Democrats didn’t see a wave of this magnitude coming.

“Few people predicted the degree of this wave,” he said.

Democratic pollster Josh Ulibarri of Lake Research said Democrats had three key factors working in their favor — motivated voters, early vote consolidation and unique candidates.

“We really boiled this down to the values,” Mr. Ulibarri said of the candidates’ platforms, adding that door-knocking and voter-outreach efforts were centered on each candidate’s unique platform.

He said they started surveys in Northern Virginia and Southside, and then began looking at each individual district, allowing candidates to build platforms specific to the district in which they were running.

Virginia House Minority Caucus Chair Charniele Herring said the diversity of the Democratic candidates — which includes two Hispanic women, an Asia-American woman and a transgender woman — will help usher in a new type of legislation in the Statehouse.

“We’re looking forward to hopefully making progress on this policies with a more diverse chamber,” Ms. Herring said.

The race for the delegates reflected the larger race for governor. Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam handily beat Republican nominee Ed Gillespie by nearly 10 percentage points as of Wednesday afternoon in what had been predicted to be a close race.

The win is not a flip for Democrats, who already control the governorship with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, but with the unprecedented wins in the House of Delegates, Democrats are hopeful it’s an indicator of what’s to come next year.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Democrats represent sanity in the age of President Trump.

“People are so sick of these Twitter tirades. They want leaders they can be proud of. And that’s why people like Phil Murphy and Ralph Northam were able to win — because they’re sane,” Mr. Perez said on MSNBC, referring to the Democratic winners in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia on Tuesday.

The Democratic National Committee invested more than $1.5 million in Virginia this cycle and knocked on more than 256,050 doors, nearly double that of 2013, according to a news release. The DNC said it invested in new technology to reach voters via social media in a personal way and emphasized unity with outside groups to help re-enforce efforts.

“So while Steve Bannon tries to primary Republicans in 2018, the Democratic National Committee will be Winning with Partners in 2018 — working with state parties and progressive allies — to elect Democrats across America and ensuring Every Zip Code Counts,” DNC CEO Jess O’Connell said in a statement, referring to Mr. Trump’s former White House chief strategist.

But according to Democrats, what motivated voters in Virginia and other states with elections on Tuesday is more complicated than just a reaction against Mr. Trump.

“It’s not just the backlash against Trump from last year. It’s also the policy agenda that Republican and President Trump have been pursuing in the Congress. Trying to roll back access to affordable health care for millions of Americans, and I predict this tax debate is actually going to be really hard on Republicans,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said on Fox News.

Mr. Van Hollen is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee through the next cycle.


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