Virginia is one of a handful of states that elects its legislature and council of state in odd-numbered years. Historically, Virginia has given North Carolina, and the nation, an indication of what to expect the following year, especially in politically tumultuous times.
In 1993, Virginia offered a window into the “Republican Revolution” that would sweep the nation the following year. Democrats took a thumping. George Allen won a landslide victory to become the first Republican Governor in 12 years and the House of Delegates almost went to the GOP for the first time in a century. In 1994, North Carolina followed suit with Republicans winning the state house and only one victory away from capturing the state senate.
This year, the country is in similar turmoil. We face uncertain economic times, health care is a dominant theme and we’re even more sharply divided than we were 20 years ago. However, Virginia this year may not be as much of a bellwether.
This year’s candidates for governor in Virginia are seriously flawed. Democrat Terry McAuliffe is an ethically challenged political fundraiser who probably should stick to his day job. His Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, is a right-winger whose extreme views on social issues are out of the mainstream. He’s also been tainted by accepting questionable gifts from a political donor. In addition, the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, E. W. Jackson, makes Cuccinelli look like a screaming liberal.
Most polls have McAuliffe beating Cuccinelli and Jackson losing to his Democratic opponent, Sen. Ralph Northam. Democrats, though, shouldn’t necessarily see this as a look into the crystal ball. Better GOP candidates could have beaten McAuliffe and Northam handily.
The GOP, on the other hand, should view this election as a cautionary tale. The vote tomorrow, if McAuliffe wins, is a rejection of extremism, not an endorsement of Democrats. In North Carolina, Republicans should be very wary of nominating either Mark Harris or Greg Brannon. Kay Hagan will be tough for them to beat with a moderate candidate. She’ll be virtually invincible against a candidate from the GOP right flank.