On Tuesday, a ballot recount over a contested seat in the Virginia House of Delegates ended in a one-vote victory for Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds, resulting in a 50-50 split of the state house between Republicans and Democrats. Though the results must be certified by a three judge panel on Wednesday, Simonds is expected to represent the 94th district, located in Newport News, Virginia, unseating Republican incumbent David Yancey.
Anti-reproductive rights Republicans held a two-thirds majority in the 100 person Virginia state house before Democrats picked up 16 seats in the November 2017 election, ending the GOP’s 17-year control of the House of Delegates. Two other Delegate seats are currently being contested, though they are expected to go to the Republican candidates, preserving the rare 50-50 split.
Simonds had received widespread endorsements from feminist groups, including the Feminist Majority, whose statement read, “Shelly is a supporter of reproductive healthcare services and will work to expand Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians. Shelly also believes in protecting working families, promoting workers’ rights through strengthening job security, and advocating for higher wages across the state.”
After the recount, Simonds said, “This is part of a huge wave election in Virginia where voters came out in record numbers to force a change in Virginia, and I’m really proud to be part of that change.”
While Simmonds had run for the House of Delegates in 2015, many of the other Democratic victors were first time candidates, inspired by the current political climate, running in districts that hadn’t seen Democratic challengers in years.
Simonds’ victory, along with the victories of 11 other feminist women new to the House of Delegates, is seen as a rejection of Trumpism and a vote for healthcare, gun reform, and equality. From Danica Roem, the first transgender woman ever elected to a state legislature in the U.S., to Hala Ayala—founder of Prince William County National Organization for Women—and Elizabeth Guzman, the first Latinas ever elected to state house in Virginia, feminist leaders paved the way for a historic election.
In addition to the victory in the House of Delegates, Democrats won big with feminist candidates for Virginia Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General who ran on a progressive platform championing reproductive rights, environmental justice and LGBTQ equality.
Women voters are largely credited with the wave of progressive victories. According to exit polls, Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for Governor, won women voters by 22 points, earning 61 percent of the female vote. While 91 percent of black women voted for the Democratic candidate, only 48 percent of white women turned out for Northam, 7 points more than the 41 percent Clinton got from that demographic in 2016.
Democrats are expected to immediately begin pushing for the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to 400,000 Virginians, a proposal that Republicans in the state house have blocked for years.
Media Resources: Washington Post 12/19/17; Washington Post 11/8/17