Prelude: Virginia's State Government
The beauty of living in the state with the oldest legislative body in the country, which produced most of our country’s most influential Founding Fathers, is that the Federal Government mirrors Virginia’s. If you ‘get’ one, you ‘get’ the other.
There are three branches.
1. Executive Branch
Governor, Lieutenant Gov. Attorney General and staff for all three
2. Legislative Branch
Virginia House of Delegates: made up of 100 Delegates from 20 districts across the state
Virginia House of Senate made up of 40 Senators -number of Senators per district population density dependent. (We’ll review the Senate at a later date.)
3. Judicial Branch
Judges are selected by both Legislative Houses for 12 year terms, and there are no term limits. Like many other states, Virginia’s Supreme Court is a court of last resort: ie. a decision made by this court cannot be overturned. While there no Supreme Court term renewals in the next two years, as the saying goes, "life happens" and positions need to be filled before the end of a term.
Why Are We Reviewing This?
The entire Executive Branch & The Entire Virginia House of Delegates Are Up For Re-Election In 2017.
All 103 Seats.
Knowing how the Exec Branch is elected, how it overlays the House of Delegates, and the role of the HofDs, provides a decent start to understanding the importance of the 2017 VA election cycle.
Executive Branch Elections
Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General
Each of these positions is held for four years, and is up for re-election at the same time during every odd year following a presidential election. The timing allows Virginians an opportunity to balance the Presidential election, and direction of thought, in our state.
Traditionally Virginia leans away from the party that won the Presidential Election. In 2017, that’s Trump....(long, pregnant pause.....) But this is no sure thing in 2017.
Each candidate runs on her/his own ballot/ticket. ie. There’s no two-for-ones like the President and Vice President--each candidate is voted in independently. Despite candidates running under the same party there will likely be platform differences, especially with the GOP candidates who are challenging Democratic incumbents.
Holdup...Did you catch it?
Each candidate runs and is selected on an independent platform, so it’s possible to have Democrats, Republicans, (and yes, third party candidates) each hold one of the 3 Executive Branch seats in the same term. Actually, this happens with some regularity.
Could Be Good, No?
Depending on the political climate that could be a nice balance of power, but this is no ordinary election cycle. Understanding the issues and being familiar with each candidate is super important. We need to ensure the votes go to candidates that share our ideals. Without going down the detailed road of past elections, suffice to say the margins between the 2017 GOP candidates and the incumbent Democrats is going to be tight at best.
But There’s More!
In 8/2016 VA Republicans narrowly chose to use a primary to select their 2017 candidates instead of choosing nominees, leaving us cloudy with a chance of silver lining.
Voter turnout in 2016 was up (yay us!), but the gap between the 2015 gubernatorial candidates D. Terry McAuliffe and R. Ken Cuccinelli can't even be considered "gap". The percentage was 47.75% D vs. 45.23% R. The margins for the 2016 Presidential candidates were similar, Clinton at 49.74% and Trump with 44.43%. With these kinda numbers many moderates and liberals worry the voting turnout will remain high and with just the right push, move the Executive Branch back into the conservative zone, especially in the current socio-political climate.
How Could the Party Affiliations in the Exec. Branch Affect Our Larger Legislative System?
The answer lies below in the section on House of Delegates.
What Do We Do With This Info?
Pay attention to the GOP candidates. Study them. Why? Virginia voters DO NOT register by party; ANY person can vote in any primary. Theoretically then, all of Virginia could participate in the Summer 2017 GOP primary to choose each of the GOP’s Exec. Branch candidates. Those looking for moderation on the GOP ticket, here’s your chance to start influencing the vote BEFORE 11/7/2017.
Study the Democratic Nominees. Two incumbents are running but a Dem. candidate for Lt Governor has yet to announce. The more we know about our potential leaders the better we can support them.
NOW About The House of Delegates
There are 100 delegates in the Virginia House of Delegates (akin to House of Representatives)
each representing of the 100 stare delegate districts. Delegates are elected every TWO years, on odd years, without term limits. Currently there are almost twice as many Republican delegates (66) as Democrat delegates (34).
There are any number of reasons why understanding this ratio is important.
It’s this ratio that largely influences which bills make it through the House for a General Assembly vote (both House and Senate) and ultimately pass
Voting district redrawing/gerrymandering (district remapping to support incumbents) is pretty rampant in Virginia: this has a two-fold impact: first, see above ratio. Second, it often affects access to polls (Democrats tend to loosen voter restrictions making it easier to vote, Republicans tighten)
The potential choice of a Va Supreme Court Justice pre-term end(due to say, retirement)
And the list goes on.
Closing Disclaimer and Charge! For The Coming Year
For the record, we understand this is article is reductionist: it boils down ideals and motivations into a simple Democrat vs. Republican discussion and really, we know for many these "lines in the sand" are less distinct. But generally speaking we can mostly agree Democrats tend to be socially and fiscally more moderate-liberal, while Republicans lean toward a fiscally and socially conservative approach that is often less inclusive. Our point? To explain why being familiar with the process is particularly important this year, and to remind everyone this is not a sprint, but a marathon. Stay informed, stay tuned, and stay active!
Following shortly will be a list of candidates, the major issues at the top of the campaigns, and where each candidate stands per each issue. Included will be news articles that discuss the candidates and their positions. We will update that page and make sure all pertinent alerts are posted here and on another other pertinent spaces