WASHINGTON, November 7, 2017 ⏤ Democrats claimed victories in gubernatorial elections in two key states this week. Virginia Lt. Gov Ralph Northam won the governor’s race in Virginia, beating Republican Ed Gillespie. In New Jersey, Democratic candidate Phil Murphy defeated Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
The results were a major boost for Democrats, who desperately needed a win after the 2016 presidential election and subsequent losses in special congressional elections.
The Virginia race was neck-and-neck heading into election day. Both Democrats and Republicans poured millions into the race. Democrats seeking to link Gillespie to Trump cast the election as a chance to stand up to “Trump, Gillespie and hate.”
A much needed win for Democrats
DNC Chairman Tom Perez addressed the crowd at Northam’s victory party. “The Democratic party is back,” he said. “We’re back big-time. We are organizing everywhere. We’re mobilizing everywhere. We are leading with our values.”
President Trump weighed in on the results via Twitter, distancing himself from Gillespie’s defeat.
Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
Gillespie called Northam on Tuesday night to concede and congratulate him.
“Governor-elect Northam is a good man and I appreciate his service to our country and our commonwealth and I wish him nothing but the best success as our 73rd governor,” Gillespie said.
Trump had pledged that Gillespie would be “tough on crime and on the border” while Northam will be “a total disaster for your state,” according to a Politico report. He tweeted that the Virginia economy would come roaring back with Gillespie. He even took time out during his Asia trip to attack his Democratic opponent as being soft on crime. Gillespie copied Trump’s playbook, attacking Northam over sanctuary cities and promising to not remove any Confederate Civil War monuments.
He lost decisively. Many pundits believe that Trump’s 43 percent approval rating helped Northam win.
Not just a Democratic victory, but a hard slap at Republicans
The Democratic victory was a disappointment to Republicans, but not a total surprise. Democrats have carried Virginia in the last three presidential elections and in three of the last four governor’s races. The current governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a Democrat and is term-limited. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the state by 5 points. More disturbing was that Democrats swept all the statewide races and may have taken control of the state’s House of Delegates, which Republicans currently dominate with 66 of 100 seats.
In New Jersey, Murphy’s win returns the state to Democratic control after eight years of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Trump has been less involved in political races after backing Sen. Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican Senate primary. Strange ended up losing to former judge Roy Moore. With their wins in Virginia and New Jersey, the Democrats seem to be regaining some lost traction and to have generated some desperately needed enthusiasm, despite the infighting that continues within the party.