Ralph Northam(D) won Virginia last night in overwhelming fashion over Ed Gillespie(R). Polls had the race close. Progressive groups like Democracy for America had pulled their support, saying he was too moderate. National pundits were talking about how he couldn’t motivate the voters Democrats need to win.
And yet he won by 10%. It’s a bigger victory than Hillary in 2016, than the sitting Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe had in 2013. It is a huge victory.
And when you look at the breakdown of his votes and of the Georgia elections from last night, you can see a huge Georgia victory in the future.
Ralph Northam, who voted for George W. Bush twice, is a moderate progressive but ran a race focused on local concerns, not pleasing national progressive organizations funded by left wing mega-donors. There was a worry that he couldn’t motivate Democrats, and that he wasn’t talking enough to our base. They said he was from a Trump area of the state, and didn’t represent progressive values. He ran against Tom Periello, who was a darling of the DC establishment, heralded by progressive causes like Our Revolution, plus Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Periello got most of his money from out of state. He talked about progressive ideals, focusing on our base and ignoring the rest.
Northam beat Periello by 12 in the primary.
Here in Georgia we have the same dynamic. Stacey Abrams is a hero of the Washington groups staffed by professional Democratic operatives. Our Revolution, Emily’s List, and all the rest. Her contributions come from out of state (63% of them!) and she spends more time in DC, NYC, and San Francisco than she does is Statesboro, Athens, and Ellijay.
Contrast that to Stacey Evans and the Northam lesson becomes clear. She’s a Trump Country Democrat who lives in the suburbs. She has local support – not national – and she talks about HOPE, tuition-free technical colleges, and community schools. Those are Georgia ideas, not national talking points. Throw in that she’s got more support from African-American legislators than Abrams does, and the comparison becomes even more striking. Evans doesn’t have the conservative baggage that Northam did, but the victory biography and numbers start looking the same.
Last night, Northam’s coalition looked like the path to victory here. The base Democratic voters showed up big yesterday, especially in the DC suburbs, but Northam also had significant shifts among white voters. 41% of white women voted for Clinton in Virginia, while Northam got 48% of that vote. 29% of white men voted for Clinton, while Northam got 36%.
When you look at the exit polls and see that only 41% of voters said they were Democrats, you can see it was non-Democrats who were a key to powering Northam’s landslide and helping Democratic candidates make big gains in the legislature.
The legislative results here in Georgia tell the rest of the story. Jen Jordan and Jaha Howard, two Democrats, led the field of four Republicans and one other Dem in the special election to replace Hunter Hill. They nearly topped 50% just on their votes and this seat knocked the Republicans out of the supermajority in the state Senate. The district was gerrymandered to consolidate Republican control, but Democrats still managed to flip it.
The two House districts that flipped are even more striking. Though neither had even seen a Democrat attempt to compete since Abrams took over the Caucus after redistricting in 2011, both won their races easily in areas with not a lot of traditional Democratic voters. Oconee County in particular has been a heavily Republican area, and in it, voters decided to send a Democrat to Atlanta.
Together these races show a path to victory for Stacey Evans. Trump is faltering in Georgia, Democrats are winning special elections, and Ossoff (remember him?) outperformed Democratic expectations in that race. You put those together and it shows an Evans victory in 2018.