Election 2020Politics

In This Election, Virginia Voters are at a Crossroads

Biden Takes Virginia, Warner Narrowly Wins Reelection and Redistricting Resolution Passes

UPDATE: According to the Associated Press, former Vice President Joe Biden secured nearly  53 percent of Virginia voters on Tuesday to win that state’s 13 Electoral College votes. In the U.S. Senate race,  Mark Warner narrowly won his reelection bid against Daniel Gade.  As of Wednesday morning, Republicans were on their way to taking 7 out of 11 congressional seats. A resolution establishing a Redistricting Commission also passed.  

How We Got Here

Though numerous polling stations in Northern Virginia had significantly less traffic on Election Day than in years past, some of those who chose to perform their civic duty on this special day fanned the flames of an ongoing battle for the political and social conscience of the commonwealth.

While some Republicans may be of the opinion that conservatism is waning in Virginia, some voters, like a woman of color who asked to be identified as Anna, maintains that much remains to be done in improving race relations and the quality of life for people living in her community, and much of Fairfax County.

“To see [the way] this country changed in the last 30 years kind of scares me,” said Anna, an East African who came to the U.S. as a refugee during her childhood. Moments earlier, she filled out her ballot at the Centreville Regional Library in Centreville as her son watched.

“It’s supposed to be a country for everyone and the way that people are fighting among one another doesn’t make it feel like it. It’s like it’s everyone for themselves. It doesn’t feel as welcoming anymore.”

A Tug-of-War Between Conservatives and Liberals

During this election cycle, Virgnia saw a less-than-usual amount of ad purchases from either of the presidential candidates, which raised the question of whether it was still considered a battleground state, especially since the focus has shifted in Georgia and Arizona, states that haven’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since the 1990s.

Virginia’s political climate, on the other hand, has been more volatile. Since the turn of the century, the state’s increasing population of immigrants and young, affluent people has slowly turned Virginia purple.

Trump’s meteoric rise in 2016 further compelled members of that voter bloc into action, ultimately earning Secretary of State Hilary Clinton 13 electoral votes.

In the 2020 election, voters not only made their choice for president, but one of their senators, nearly a dozen congressional seats, and a controversial ballot measure that, if passed,  establishes a Redistricting Commission, what some voters have described as a gerrymandering tool. In Fauquier County, the race to determine who will replace Rep. Denver Lee Riggleman III (R – Dist. 5), who lost his primary battle after officiating a gay marriage, has shined a spotlight on one of the more contentious parts of Northern Virginia.

Despite the appeal of Democratic contender Dr. Cameron Webb, and the visceral reaction to the Trump presidency, some members of Fauquier County’s political elite, like Patrick Miller,  said they don’t foresee a conspicuous change in their community.

In fact, Miller noted that Democrats and Republicans in The Plains, Va., where he lives, have been able to coexist peacefully and push back against what President Trump and his conservative supporters call an increasingly divisive environment.

“I’m not voting for a man, I’m voting for what I believe in as far as the country goes,” said Miller, precinct captain of the Republican Party of Fauquier County, as he and his colleagues passed out greeted voters and passed out materials at Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, Va.  

“I definitely think President Trump is an asset and I would base that not on his personality, but more on his record,” Miller continued. “He did the things he said he was going to do. I generally don’t like politicians [because] they’re full of themselves and tell you what they want when they’re on that podium [but] Trump did most of what he said.”

Brian Garland, a Black man and 13-year resident of The Plains, held a markedly different view on President Trump and the political climate in Fauquier County.

“We need a change [because] Trump  can’t be here for four more years,” said Garland, who brought his pre-teen daughter along with him to Grace Episcopal Church on the morning of Nov. 3.

“Hopefully Biden will take it. A lot of people aren’t  for him, but anything’s better than Trump. Trump takes everything as a joke and people’s lives are on the line [in this election].”

Four Years of Change?

Virginia has been an epicenter of anti-racist resistance during the Trump presidency. The Alt-right’s 2017 assault of protesters at the Unite the Right in Charlottesville reignited calls to remove Confederate statues throughout Virginia.

This week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) praised a court ruling that affirmed his right to take down the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond. This development came nearly a year after a panel recommended the removal of Virginia’s centuries-old discriminatory laws.

Throughout much of Monday, Kimberly Horton, a white female Gen-Xer and Democratic Party volunteer, stood in front of Kettle Run High School in Nokesville, Va. to finish a mission she said began four years ago. She told The Informer that, given recent events in portions of her state, change is on the horizon.

“You have closet Democrats [and] I think it’s a cultural thing,” said Horton.

“I hope that we get to see the benefit of working together and celebrating each other’s individuality. Virginia is going blue for president and Congress, but it’s the district races we need to focus on. Some people are going to vote for Republicans.”

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