- - Monday, November 11, 2019

Largely overlooked amid Virginia Democrats’ (understandable) gloating about capturing control of the Virginia General Assembly for the first time in 20 years and narrowly winning the Kentucky governorship, there were election results — from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Arizona and Mississippi and back to Kentucky — that should help take Republicans off suicide watch.

With the benefit of a week’s hindsight since the Nov. 5 off-off-year elections, a calm examination of last week’s vote should serve to allay some of the handwringing. While not putting an unduly brave face on it, Republicans should not be too quick to drink the hemlock.

That’s because Democrats’ full control in Richmond beginning in January could well serve as a much-needed wake-up call to centrist suburban voters who have been trending Democratic across Northern Virginia over the past few election cycles.


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If, as seems likely, Democrats are unable to control their worst left-wing impulses, and they steer the Virginia ship of state far to the portside — on issues ranging from gun control to illegal immigration and from taxes and spending to the LGBT agenda — their majorities could prove short-lived.

Even The Washington Post, hardly a bastion of conservatism, cautioned Democrats in a front-page story headlined “In Virginia, Democrats set to test the blue depths” with the subhead “Mindful of dangers in a plunge too far left, legislators begin work.”



“A new crop of Democrats, more progressive than their predecessors, could push the state too far to the left, only to lose it all with the next election,” the article noted, using “progressive” as a euphemism for “ultraliberal.”

It will require flipping just six seats in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2021 to retake control of the chamber and just two seats in the state Senate, although that can’t happen until 2023.

It will also be interesting to see whether Virginia Democrats, who “sued till it’s blue” for the judge-mandated legislative redistricting that made their win possible, will remain consistent in their opposition to gerrymandering when they get to oversee the next redistricting in 2021.

Whether they’re genuinely committed to leaving redistricting to a bipartisan commission now that they will be in charge of the process is a questionable presumption.

Meanwhile, Virginia Democrats’ counterparts in neighboring Kentucky are gleeful about recapturing the governorship, but it was less a win for state Attorney General Andy Beshear than a loss for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

In four years, Mr. Bevin’s abrasive personality rubbed enough Kentuckians the wrong way sufficiently to turn a comfortable win in 2015 to a narrow re-election loss.

Kentucky Democrats aren’t painting the statehouse in Frankfort purple, much less blue, however, because, despite a national poll in October that ranked him the second-most unpopular governor in the country, Mr. Bevin still lost by a scant 0.4 percent. Even then, it was only because the Libertarian third-party candidate siphoned off 2 percent of the vote.

Virginia Republicans can surely identify with that. Libertarian Robert Sarvis’ spoiler candidacies in 2013 and 2014 served only to gift-wrap the governorship for Terry McAuliffe and to rescue the seat of Sen. Mark Warner, respectively. As such, two asterisks should be required whenever Virginia Democrats gloat that Republicans haven’t won statewide since 2009.

Mr. Beshear could well follow in Mr. Bevin’s footsteps as a one-termer, since the other five statewide races in Kentucky were swept by Republicans, four of them in landslides. That included capturing the attorney general’s office for the first time since 1944. One of the five likely will be the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2023.

Not to be outdone, Republicans in Mississippi swept all eight statewide races for the first time since Reconstruction.

In Pennsylvania, much was made of Democrats’ big gains on three traditionally Republican counties’ councils, all of them exurbs of Philadelphia. But Republicans captured several similar seats in the Pittsburgh suburbs long held by Democrats, and in deep-blue neighboring New Jersey, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “Blue wave skips New Jersey as Democrats lose legislative seats.”

In Tucson, Arizona, a city with a Democratic mayor and all-Democrat City Council, voters overwhelmingly rejected a “sanctuary city” measure. Proposition 205 — the euphemistically named Tucson Families Free and Together Initiative — was rejected by 71.4 percent of the vote.

That — together with blue-wave-defying wins by Republican sheriffs of Prince William and Loudoun counties in Virginia who have been tough on illegal immigration — should give pause to Democrats in Richmond in January who might fancy turning the Old Dominion into a sanctuary state.

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