WASHINGTON, November 8, 2013 — With the election of Terry McAuliffe as the next governor in Virginia, the state continues a noticeable shift towards the Democratic party over the past few years.
Including the Governor-elect, three of the last four gubernatorial elections have gone to Democrats. In fact, the state has only seen three Republican governors since 1982. All of Virginia’s electoral votes went to President Obama in the last two Presidential elections, and both Senators from the state are Democrats as well. Only three Congressmen from Virginia are Democrats, but they represent some of the most influential districts and cities, including most of Northern Virginia and the state capitol in Richmond.
Previous to the election of President Obama, Virginia had long been considered a Republican stronghold. The state had never sent its electoral college votes to any Democrat since 1964, and no Senate seat had been taken by any Democrat since 1972, until Senator Mark Warner won the 2008 election by nearly 30 percentage points.
Leigh Andersen, a 28 year old woman from Fairfax, VA disagrees with the notion that Virginia is becoming a blue state. A self-identified Republican, she says “Virginia is becoming more and more divided as a state. The population in Northern Virginia is continuing to boom. As a high number of the people here have jobs that are based on the Federal government, the area is naturally becoming more ‘Blue’.
“That said, much of the state is still very ‘red’, and when you get out of Fairfax or Loudoun and into the more rural parts of the state, you see how vastly different the politics are. I find it funny when people call Virginia ‘purple,’ I would instead call it a ‘red’ state with a few patches of high density ‘blue’ that have successfully tipped the scales for Democrats in recent years. The ‘blue’ and ‘red’ parts are vastly different and pretty separate from one another.”
The current terminology for “blue” and “red” states is attributed to well-known journalist Tim Russert, who coined the terms in the 2000 Presidential elections during an airing of the Today show. Previous to that, news networks interchangeably assigned the two colors to either political party. The practice of assigning red and blue to political parties comes from ancient European traditions, although in the past “red” was typically reserved for liberal groups. “Purple” is used to describe states with significant mixes of both conservative and liberal leaning voters.
President Obama referred to the concept of blue and red states in his 2008 victory speech, where he said “Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”
Many political experts attribute the gubernatorial election to the recent federal government shutdown, which is widely attributed to the Tea Party and other Republican elected officials. While there is significant evidence that the shutdown played a role in swaying voters, it does not explain the result of previous elections in favor of Democratic candidates.
In an interesting turn of events, just as the Tea Party dwindles in popularity in the state of Virginia, a new group of Tea Party enthusiasts have formed the Maryland Society of Patriots (MSOP) in the neighboring state. Representatives of the MSOP do not expect to make major changes to the state’s political landscape, but do attempt to raise awareness of issues of importance to them. Maryland has traditionally been regarded as a strongly “blue state.”
Andersen continues “In the past, it seemed to me that if you lived in the DC metro area and you are conservative, you lived in Virginia, and if you are liberal, you lived in Maryland. I suppose that’s more the case 30 years ago, not so much now…”