The winds of anti-Trump sentiment sentiment seem to be blowing hard in Virginia as Democratic turnout for the 2017 Gubernatorial primaries appear to have broken previous records. Democrats came out in droves, with over 536K votes case in their primary, choosing Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam to represent them come November. Meanwhile, about 363 thousand Republicans cast their vote with businessman and GOP operative Ed Gillespie taking the lead on their side.
Further down the ballot, LGBTQ folks have reigned in support across the state. Notably, Prince William County journalist and transgender woman Danica Roem beat three opponents in Virginia’s 13th district. She’s the state’s first openly-trans candidate and will face off against Bob Marshall, a long time delegate who helped author the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as well as numerous failed anti-transgender bathroom bills over the last few General Assembly session.
In Richmond, out lesbian and nurse practitioner Dawn Adams beat out her two challengers. She’ll face off against Manoli Loupassi who has served the district since 2008.
Adams and Roem will join Ben Hixon (D-30) and Kelly DeLucia (HD-96) as openly LGBTQ candidates running in the 2017 election.
Now we vote every year in Virginia, but what we vote for changes every year as well. And in the past decade, both Republicans and Democrats have managed to keep their party pretty organized when it comes to primaries with as little dispute as possible, or running a convention as was the case with the GOP back in 2013 when Ken Cuccinelli lost to our current Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
But looking at the data available, 2017 proved to be a banner year for Democrats and possibly a sign of Trump’s waining popularity. That is to say, the number or Republicans who came out to vote in today’s primary (363K) was dwarfed by the turnout during the 2016 Primary when Trump won with 356K votes with a total of over 1 million Republicans coming out.
For Gubernatorial primaries, about 320K Democrats came out to vote in 2013, giving Senator Creigh Deeds his failing bid against Bob McDonell. And back in 2005 only 175K Republicans came out to vote for Jerry Kilgore who would eventually lose to former Governor-turned-State Senator Tim Kaine.
If these numbers are to be interpreted in any way, this means Democrats have smashed previous primaries records and could be set to do the same in November.
Election nerds often point to low turnout among parties where the President shares their views, and the challengers, when the President faces dwindling favorability ratings (like Trump currently). But Virginia also went blue last year, with Hillary Clinton taking 50% of the vote vs. Trumps 44%. Combine that with Trump’s tanking numbers and things are starting out grim for the GOP as both parties head into the real election season.
Of course there’s many variables: Trump could find some way to come back into favor and an off-election year usually fails to attract the much-needed Democratic party base. But the stats, so far, look promising for the Democratic party and LGBTQ folks who will benefit from their inclusive policies.
And while the news was generally good, there is one sticking point that might shock more moderate GOP party members – just how well Confederate Monument-fetishist Corey Stewart did. Sure, he didn’t win, but as of press time, he’s only down about 5K votes with 99.88 precent of precincts reporting.
Stewart based his election similarly to Trump’s, using anti-Islamic rhetoric and childish insults to help push him in front of cameras and attract a fanatic “populous” base. Lets be good to not forget this happened – and remember where the GOP base almost fell tonight.
Brad Kuttner is the Editor in Chief of GAYRVA.com and Editor of RVA Magazine in Richmond.