RICHMOND — A group devoted to helping Democrats win legislative races around the country announced Monday that it will plow $1 million into Virginia, where the party could take control of the state House and Senate next year by picking up two seats in each chamber.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee described the commitment as one of the largest “early donations” ever made by the group, established in 1994. More could come from the DLCC as Virginia’s 2019 campaigns get fully underway, officials there said.
Gov. Ralph Northam, Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax) and House Minority Leader David Toscano (Charlottesville) appeared with DLCC leaders in Washington as the donation was announced Monday.
“We know we have to invest early so we can have strong operations on the ground ready to recruit and train strong candidates,” DLCC executive director Jessica Post said in a tweet. “We know we must work overtime to beat Republicans on their own gerrymandered maps. Next November, we will deliver the final blow and retake the Virginia Legislature, ensuring Republicans can no longer diminish the power of a Virginian’s vote in favor of their own agenda.”
David James, a spokesman for the Republican State Leadership Committee, said Democratic groups spent heavily on legislative races in other states this year but couldn’t come close to the “Republican Red Wave of 2010.”
“Republicans continue to deliver good policies and governance nationally which is why the socialist driven left continues to fail at making inroads at the state level,” he wrote in an email. The RSLC gave $3.2 million to Republican candidates in Virginia legislative races between 2014 and 2018, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. The DLCC gave on a much smaller scale over that period, with donations totaling $90,000.
All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 in the state Senate will be on the ballot in November. Virginia Democrats have, in recent election cycles, pulled nearly even with Republicans in the legislature and cemented their hold on statewide offices.
The stakes for both parties are particularly high given that Northam and the legislature elected in November will decide the state’s legislative and congressional maps in 2021, following the 2020 Census.
Virginia was the only Southern state to choose Hillary Clinton for president over Donald Trump in 2016. In 2017 elections widely seen as a rebuke to Trump, Northam led a sweep of three statewide offices and Democrats picked up 15 seats in the House, all but erasing the GOP’s 2-to-1 majority. This year, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D) easily won reelection over Corey Stewart (R), a Trumpian provocateur, and Democrats flipped three congressional seats.
At the DLCC’s announcement, Northam touted accomplishments since 2017, including the expansion of Medicaid and raising the felony threshold from $200 to $500. He also boasted about the state’s strong economy. A normally mild-mannered pediatrician who famously called Trump a “narcissistic maniac” during his run for governor, Northam cast the Democrats’ recent election successes as a reaction to the president.
“We all watched a campaign in 2016 that I believe was embarrassing,” he said. “It was based on a lot of hatred, and bigotry, and discrimination and misinformation. And I think people — not only in Virginia but from across the country — stood and up and said, ‘This is not the country that I believe in and certainly not the commonwealth of Virginia.’”