Democrats Seize Virginia Legislature, Elevating Felon To House Leadership

Virginia Democrats secured the state House of Delegates and retained control of the Senate on Tuesday, marking a reversal from the Republican surge that propelled Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to an unexpected victory two years ago.

Dave Wasserman, the Cook Political Report editor, swiftly deemed it a settled matter shortly after 11 p.m., as Democrats appeared to claim 51 seats in the House of Delegates. Three races remained undecided, including that of the controversial candidate Susanna Gibson, known for her involvement in the adult entertainment industry.

The fact that Virginians were seriously contemplating a candidate involved in explicit online activities during her campaign instead of choosing a Republican underscored the challenging situation for Republicans in the state.

Despite the Democrats having four out of the last six governors, Republicans had generally maintained control of the lower chamber. They had held a continuous grip on it since 2000, except for a two-year period following the 2019 elections.

However, voters anticipating that a Democrat-controlled legislature would resemble that of two years ago might be in for a surprise. Their time out of power prompted a shift within the party, transforming it from one focused on governance to a party of resistance that amplified its most provocative voices.

During this period, numerous mainstream Democrats lost their primaries to left-leaning challengers. The once-in-a-decade redistricting process also contributed to this reshuffling.

Moderate Democrats, like former House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, were displaced and succeeded by insurgents such as Don Scott (D). Scott had an encounter with federal agents in a Denny’s restaurant in 1994 when he attempted to flush thousands of dollars in drug money down a bathroom toilet. He received a 10-year sentence and served seven and a half years. Now, he is poised to assume the role of House Speaker.

After his initial election, Scott proposed a bill aimed at releasing inmates at age 60 if they had completed at least a decade of their sentence or at age 65 if they had served a minimum of five years. This proposal encompassed almost all felonies, including many murder convictions.

Aside from the state legislature, a variety of positions, spanning from sheriff to school board, were up for election. Surprisingly, many Democrats campaigned on the issue of abortion, even in roles like school board, where the topic had no direct relevance.

In contests where the candidates were relatively unknown to voters, they capitalized on national politics by portraying their Republican opponents as “MAGA.” In some instances, this strategy was used to divert attention from the significant flaws of the Democratic candidates.

Especially notable in this context is Susanna Gibson, who engaged in online adult entertainment to fund her campaign. Law enforcement is currently looking into potential forgery in her campaign documentation.