Democrats are crowing over yesterday’s elections where they won the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, portraying them as repudiations of Donald Trump and all that he represents. While the results were good for Democrats, they should not be oversold. What is true is that it would have been devastating if they had lost either race and so at least they avoided that. After all, the outgoing Virginia governor is a Democrat and Hillary Clinton won the state last year. New Jersey is a reliably Democratic state and how the obnoxious Chris Christie won two terms is the anomaly. It may have been because his predecessor in that office Jon Corzine was an unpopular Goldman Sachs CEO who somehow managed to avoid going to jail for shady business practices at his firm MF Global after losing his re-election bid in 2009, something that wealthy, well-connected bankers seem to be able to do easily.
But there were undoubtedly some other good signs. Democrats also won the lieutenant governor and attorney general positions in Virginia. The Virginia House of Delegates had been a solid 66-34 Republican majority but now is evenly split with a recount being held in a Republican-held district. The senate remains with 21-19 Republican majority. Many of the flipped house seats had been held by Republican extremists and the most satisfying result was when an extreme right-wing homophobe who had held his seat for 26 years was beaten by a transgender woman.
Democrat Danica Roem ousted longtime incumbent Del. Robert G. Marshall (R) Tuesday, becoming the first openly transgender elected official in Virginia — and one of very few in the nation.
The race between Roem, 33, and Marshall, 73, focused on traffic and other local issues in Prince William County but also exposed the nation’s fault lines over gender identity. It pitted a local journalist who began her physical gender transition four years ago against an outspoken social conservative who has referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe” earlier this year introduced a “bathroom bill” that died in committee.
Marshall, who was first elected in 1991, refused to debate Roem, kept his schedule private and declined most interview requests. But he also mounted a healthy ground game; his campaign said this week that they knocked on voters’ doors about 49,000 times this fall.
While Roem campaigned mostly on local frustrations with traffic congestion along Route 28, she also talked about her gender identity when asked. The race took an ugly turn when Marshall and his supporters released ads highlighting Roem ’s transgender identity and referring to the Democrat with male pronouns.
In the end, that tactic failed, with Roem leading by nearly 10 percentage points with 90 percent of the vote counted, according to preliminary, unofficial results.
In other word, Marshall behaved like a real jerk. Bye, bye, homophobe, go back and join your fellow homophobes under a rock.
In the governor’s race, things got nasty as usual, with Republican Ed Gillespie invoking racial fear-mongering and Trump’s anti-immigrant theme, supporting confederate monuments and trying to tie Democrat Ralph Northam to the issue of sanctuary cities (which Virginia law does not allow) and to an international gang called MS-13 that I had never heard of before, with ads such as this one.
Meanwhile, a Super PAC supporting Northam put out an ad that caused a controversy and was withdrawn.
Gillespie leaned hard into the cultural battle in the race’s final days.
His campaign’s closing message was that Democrats had gone too far and portrayed all Republicans as racists — pointing to a Latino Victory Fund ad that showed four minority children being chased through the streets by a white man driving a pick-up truck with a Confederate flag and a Gillespie bumper sticker. The group spent just $30,000 to air the ad and pulled it almost immediately, but Gillespie’s campaign still seized on it.
Here’s the ad. Take a look and judge for yourself.
This ad portrays dramatically something what many mainstream commentators have been saying for some time, that white nationalists and neo-Nazis feel emboldened that Trump and the Republican party is on their side, and this has enabled them to march openly under their hateful message in Charlottesville and elsewhere and this sentiment has generated widespread fears among minority and immigrant communities and people of color that they can be attacked with impunity. Take for example, details of this little noticed killing of three Hispanic people at a Walmart just this week.
Ostrem killed three Hispanic people, Pam Marques, Victor Vasquez, and Carlos Moreno, all parents. In the apartment complex where Ostrem lived, neighbors described him as “a bizarre, angry man who lived alone in an apartment with a stack of Bibles and virtually no furniture.” He was a “loner who would walk around carrying weapons” like a shotgun or bow and arrows.
When it came to relations with neighbors, Ostrem “was very racist towards Hispanics.” Another said he was “verbally abusive towards Hispanics.”
The local CBS affiliate reported Ostrem “often expressed dislike for Hispanics to their faces.” A Hispanic employee at the building said, “If he saw a Hispanic person, he would tell them to get out of his way.” One neighbor said Ostrem would say, “’This is America. You shouldn’t be here.”
The shrieks of outrage from Republicans are a sign that this ad really hit close to home.
After the loss, Trump has, of course, distanced himself from Gillespie, suggesting that he lost because he did not embrace him closely enough. Neither Northam in Virginia nor Phil Murphy in New Jersey can be called progressives and despite their comfortable margins of victory (54-45% in Virginia, and 55-42% in New Jersey), those numbers still show a considerable amount of Republican support even after a year of Trump’s nasty, lying administration. Gillespie won men by 2 points and whites by 15 points but lost women by 22 points.
Meanwhile locally on amendments to Ohio’s constitution, Issue 1 that I opposed passed handily 83-17% while Issue 2 that I supported lost handily 79-21%. In both cases, the side that spent the most money won.
I really seem to have the pulse of the people, don’t I?