Midterm Elections in Virginia Take the National Stage

Atticus Sagilir, Staff Writer

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On November 6, the voters participating in the General Election arrived at Broad Run to cast their votes for two races. One race is for United States Senator, which has an elections for one of its two positions every other year. This year, the candidates are Democratic incumbent Tim Kaine, Republican Corey Stewart, and Libertarian longshot Matt Waters.

Perhaps the most interesting race, however, was the 10th Congressional District Election, which determines Northern Virginia’s Delegate to the House of Representatives. The candidates were Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock and Democratic dark horse Jennifer Wexton. What made this election so very intriguing was the fact that although most elections in the state of Virginia have resulted in Democratic victories, Republican Comstock had managed to retain her seat in a predominantly blue state. This had resulted in other regions calling for a change in leadership for this district.

This is the process for how the  U.S. Senate works: Each state is allotted two Senators, and every three years, one of them must run for re-election. Three years later, the other Senator must do the same.

This year, the incumbent candidate was Democrat Tim Kaine, who has held office since 2013. Kaine, born in St. Paul, Minnesota, graduated from the University of Missouri, and earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Harvard. He then moved up Virginia’s political ladder until being elected governor in 2005. He was in office from 2006 to 2010. Kaine then served as the Democratic National Committee chair until winning a seat in the United States Senate in 2012. He has been serving in the Senate since then.  According to polling done by various institutions and universities, including University of Mary Washington, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Christopher Newport University, Kaine was projected to receive an absolute majority of votes in all but three of eleven polls taken throughout Virginia.  Kaine’s stances on various issues such as gun control are seen as liberal, but certainly more towards the centrist side, more old-fashioned, and not very extreme.  Kaine’s victory on November 6 bore out the predictions, with him defeating Republican candidate Corey Stewart.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart. Stewart, who is considered more to the political right than Kaine is to the left, has spent a good amount of his career combating illegal immigrants. He, like Kaine, was also born in Minnesota, in Duluth, and graduated from Georgetown University. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from William Mitchell College of Law. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college.

Stewart was originally elected Chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in 2006, when he won in a special election to replace Sean Connaughton, the previous Chair, who resigned. Stewart’s first acts as Chair were to rid the county of undocumented immigrants. He has also aided gun owners, amending laws to simplify the process of acquiring a gun permit. In 2013, Stewart unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor of Virginia. In 2016, President Donald Trump selected Stewart to lead his campaign in Virginia, due to Stewart being an outspoken supporter of Trump. Last year, Stewart ran for governor, but lost narrowly to Ed Gillespie in the gubernatorial primaries. Stewart was the perceived underdog in the current election, as much of the state has turned Democratic in the past half-decade.

In a recent poll done by the University of Mary Washington, Kaine appeared poised to rack up an absolute majority, 52 percent of the votes, while they projected Stewart receiving only 36 percent.  the actual results were 57 percent to 42 percent. This race was yet another example of why Virginia is such an unpredictable, valuable state; Since the early 20th century, Virginia has been vigorously Republican. However, the past few elections have bucked that trend, and while most voters waved it off as a fluke, similar results seem to be shaping up this year.

The other race, the 10th Congressional District election, appeared to be a very tight race, due to Wexton, the democratic candidate, gaining support rapidly, following the “blue wave” trend that has swept through the DMV.

Comstock, the incumbent candidate, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Comstock has held office since 2014. She was considered to be a candidate to oppose Senator Tim Kaine, but elected not to run against him. Comstock’s situation is peculiar, because Republican candidates have been leaving office in “purple” states (states that are neither Republican nor Democrat” en masse. Her response when questioned why she wanted to stay in office was, “I’m healthy, my family’s healthy, my kids are healthy, I love this job.”

Comstock graduated cum laude from Middlebury College in 1981. For one semester in college, she interned for Republican Senator Ted Kennedy, and became a Republican after growing up Democrat. Comstock first became involved in politics in 1991, where she served as a senior aide to Congressman Frank Wolf for four years. Comstock also worked in the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. In 2007, she was elected to a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Then, in 2014, Comstock ran successfully for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time of this writing, Comstock has voted with President Donald Trump 98 percent of the time. She has voted against the American Health Care Act of 2017, and she supports the NRA has voted to repeal some gun laws in her time in office.

The Democratic candidate, Wexton, is a former lawyer from Leesburg, Virginia. She has held her role of state Senator from the 33rd district for four years. She graduated with a BA from the University of Maryland, and received a Juris Doctor from the College of William and Mary Law School. Wexton is also a partner in The Laurel Brigade Law group. When her predecessor, Mark Herring, left office in 2013 to serve as the Attorney General of Virginia, Wexton defeated her Republican opposition John Whitbeck to assume office in January of 2014. In April 2017, she declared her candidacy for Virginia’s 10th congressional district election.

Wexton has often based her campaign ads on her background as a Senator, prosecutor, and working mother to seem relatable to voters. She feels strongly about gun violence prevention. She has previously voted for expanding mandatory background checks on gun sales. She also believes gun violence should be seen and treated as a public health issue. On the issue of healthcare, Wexton believes it is natural right and has supported expanding Medicaid in Virginia.

Comstock, unlike the other incumbent, Kaine, is not favored to win the election. In fact, one poll had her tied with Wexton, while public polls from the New York Times and The Washington Post had her trailing by seven to 12 percentage points. The results aligned with the polls, with Wexton winning 56 percent of the vote to Comstock’s 44 percent.

Overall, the most telling statistic is that most pundits saw both races in this year’s election as a battleground race; a race that has the most impact on the rest of the state, and even the country. The election for the U.S. House appeared to be one of the closest races this century, while also showing a switch in party control of the House for the first time since 1980.

In the race for the U.S. Senate, it was interesting to see whether or not the supposed “blue wave” actually occurred in this region of Virginia and the nation. With both Democratic candidates, Kaine and Wexton, elected, it marked the first time in the history of the 1oth district that there will be both a democratic Senator and Representative in office.

On a national level, however, the Senate remained in Republican control, with Republicans winning tight races in states such as Texas and Indiana.  In the end, The House of Representatives will be 223 Democrats to 197 Republicans, where the Senate will be 51 Republicans to 44 Democrats, with two Senators classifying themselves as being from other parties.  Three seats remain to be decided.