How Democrats won the majority in the Virginia House and Senate and what Republicans intend to do to recover from November 5th’s losses were among the topics of discussion Tuesday night during the seventh “After Virginia Votes,” a conversation among representatives of both dominant political parties, presented by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) and the Schar School of Policy and Government.
Nearly 300 audience members filled the auditorium at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus to hear a discussion between Kristina Hagen, Executive Director of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and Matt Moran, Chief of Staff for House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-66). Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell moderated the 90-minute discussion.
Topics ranged from fund-raising strategies, jerrymandering, the Equal Rights Amendment (Virginia could be the 38th and final state to ratify the amendment), campaign technology, and gun control policies, but it was Moran who brought up “the elephant in the room” that likely changed the outcome for Republican candidates, that being President Trump. “A deeply unpopular president energized voters,” he concluded. “There’s no denying the outsized role the president played in this election.”
Rozell asked if the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill affected the outcome. Hagen suggested that “from a base [voter] perspective, it played a role.” Moran added that “it was a huge base motivator for use and in the end, I think it made some of the races a tiny bit closer.”
Both Hagen and Moran suggested their parties have viable candidates in the wings for future campaigns, including state-wide races slated for 2021. “We have a growing bench of phenomenal candidates,” Hagen said. “It really is a wealth of riches.”