Virginia politics, policy and entertainment from the Greater Richmond-Washington Metro Area perspective.

The Myth Of Red Virginia

We’ve been hearing for years that Virginia is a “red” state.  True, Republican presidential candidates carried it in every election from 1968 through 2004, but apart from that, exactly how “red” has Virginia been?

If Mark Obenshain loses the race for Attorney General following the recount (as of right now after the completion of county canvases, he trails by fewer than 200 votes), Democrats will hold all five statewide offices – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and both U.S. Senate seats – for the first time since before the 1969 election when Linwood Holton was elected Governor as a Republican.  If Virginia ever was such a “red” state, then surely Republicans have matched this feat.

In truth, Republicans have held all five statewide seats only once in the history of Virginia and that lasted for but one year between the 2000 and 2001 elections.  At that time, Jim Gilmore was Governor, John Hager was Lt. Governor, Mark Earley was Attorney General, and John Warner and George Allen were our U.S. Senators.  It was at this point when Virginia was declared a solid red state.  To me, that was always a myth.  Let’s look at the numbers…

Republicans have only held a U.S. Senate seat from Virginia 5 times — John Lewis 1870, William Scott 1972, John Warner 1978, Paul Trible 1982 and George Allen 2000.

We’ve only held the office of Governor 8 times – 6 since the end of Reconstruction. Dems have won the governorship 40 times.

We’ve only held the office of Lt. Governor 7 times – 3 since the end of Reconstruction. Dems have won the seat 26 times.

We’ve only won the office of Attorney General 8 times – 6 since the end of Reconstruction. (Republicans have had a total of 12 AGs, since 4 of them were appointed to fill the unexpired terms of AGs who won the GOP nomination and resigned from office early to run.) Dems have won the office in election 14 times.

That is a total of only 19 Republicans who have held any one of the 5 statewide offices in Virginia since Reconstruction ended in the 1870s. (Some of those 19 are the same person as George Allen was both Governor and U.S. Senator, Jim Gilmore and Bob McDonnell were both AG and Gov., etc.)

Virginia is not nor has it ever been a “red” state.  To the same extent, I would argue that despite Democrats’ recent successes in the Commonwealth that it has not turned “blue” either, but remains an ever shifting degree of purple.

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6 Responses to “The Myth Of Red Virginia”

  1. Anonymous

    Its a purple state with shades of red and blue. I agree with the overall analysis and would hope that we see a bit more red shades in the future (why the HECK do we have two liberal Democrats representing us in the Senate??) If I wanted this kind of thing, I would move back north!

    • Peregry

      Why do we have two liberal democrats? That’s easy, they both ran and/or governed as closer to moderates while in Virginia. Warner especially ran as a fiscally conservative democrat who would bring his moderate attitude to the Senate. So did Kaine, who ran as a moderate, fiscal conservative who main selling point was his opposition to the Iraq War (and who was pushed to victory by a drummed up controversy created by the WashPost that Allen could never get a handle on… gee, that sounds familiar).

      As soon as they got to Washington, bam, they start voting and acting like national liberal democrats rather than the moderate democrats they ran as. Meanwhile the Washington Post and DC media allow them to continue to pretend to be moderates and cover their asses, all the while continue to manufacture controversies about Republicans so that instead of having to run on their record, they get to run as “not the nutso Republican”.

    • LarryG

      I guess I would consider them moderates who align with the party on many issues – not that different than say Cantor or other GOP in Va.

      but be that as it may – are you going to beat these kinds of Dems by running wacko birds against them?

      at some point – the GOP candidates have to appeal to the bluer parts of Va or they’re probably going to lose.

      pick your poison.

  2. Anonymous

    The saving grace of this election is the Democrats failed (and I mean FAILED) to make any significant gains in the House of Delegates. The GOP holds 67 seats which is a veto-proof majority and will put a serious dent in McA’s ability to push his agenda (whatever that actually is) forward without acting at least somewhat conciliatory.

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