Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Winter 2022 12 The Democratic Electoral Decline of 2021 By STEPHEN J. FARNSWORTH, STEPHEN HANNA, AND CASSANDRA ATKINSON Virginia Democrats know how to get voters to the polls, as they did for every election after Donald Trump won the presidency. But in 2021, the first post-Trump election, the party failed to get its voters to turn out with comparable enthusiasm, costing the party losses in all statewide contests and control of the House of Delegates. Over the four years of the Trump presidency, and the year before that when Trump was first a candidate, Virginia Democrats were on a roll, winning the Commonwealth’s Electoral College votes twice, coasting to two easy wins in U.S. Senate elections, securing control of the Virginia House of Delegates and even winning a majority of Virginia’s gerrymandered congressional seats on the strength of exceptional turnout. Virginia Republicans were shut out in every statewide election between 2009, when the party won all three contests, and 2021, when the party next won Virginia’s statewide trifecta. Compared to Ralph Northam’s 2017 victory, the 2021 gubernatorial election demonstrated the extent of the Democratic Party’s decline. Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe secured a greater percentage of the vote in only three Virginia jurisdictions: Isle of Wight County, Emporia City, and Williamsburg City. Republicans gained ground in every other jurisdiction in Virginia, including reducing Democratic margins in the large population Northern Virginia counties of Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun. Republicans also gained ground among voters in suburban Richmond, and in most of the political subdivisions of the Hampton Roads area. While Democrats continued to win some of the largest urban and suburban cities and counties, they did not win most of them by margins anywhere near that of four years earlier. Among the three big population centers of Virginia, McAuliffe fared far worse in the Hampton Roads area than he did in Northern Virginia or in the Richmond region. McAuliffe’s support was 5 to 7.5 percentage points lower than Northam’s in the jurisdictions of Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Hampton. The largest declines—those of 10 points or more—included Bath County and Radford City along the conservative Interstate 81 Cartogram of Gubernatorial Election Voting Trends: 2017 - 2021 less than 2.5% decline increase (0.1% to 7.4%) greater than 7.5% decline 5.0% to 7.5% decline 2.5% to 5% decline for Democratic Candidates Change in Support for Source: Electoral data are from the Virginia State Board of Elections website ( Map by Stephen P. Hanna, UMW Geography Department. Counties and independent cities are scaled by the number of votes cast in 2021. For example, Fairfax County (436,108 votes) is a little more than three times the size of Henrico County (135,771 votes). HANNA ATKINSON FARNSWORTH