Democratic wins in Virginia point to defeat for Youngkin abortion plans

Republican governor will see much of legislative agenda, including abortion ban, blocked by Democrats

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 08 November 2023 05:16 GMT
Biden ‘not worried’ new House Speaker Mike Johnson could overturn 2024 elections

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Louise Thomas

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Virginia Republicans led by Governor Glenn Youngkin found themselves disappointed on Tuesday as their opponents retained control of the state Senate and, later in the evening, stole back control of the lower House of Delegates.

The party, which had been campaigning on removing barriers to Mr Youngkin’s plotted conservative agenda, instead saw a whole new obstacle erected in its path. Mr Youngkin, considered by many Beltway commentators to be presidential fodder for 2028 (or, in their dreams, 2024), now faces the task of leading a true split-party government and salvaging what little can be done with Democratic support.

Democrats were predicted to win at least 51 seats, though the exact number remained up in the air just after 11pm est.

The victory by Democrats in the lower chamber likely means the death of one major piece of Mr Youngkin’s agenda in particular — a proposed 15-week abortion ban which the left had rallied fiercely against in the days leading up to the vote. Mr Youngkin was forced on the defensive, playing up the legislation’s exceptions for issues such as rape or incest.

This was the third big win of the night for proponents of reproductive rights. The movement had just a short time earlier celebrated a ballot measure victory in Ohio, where voters have chosen by a significant margin to enshrine those rights in their state constitution. In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear was re-elected as governor after pummeling his opponent, Daniel Cameron, on that state’s existing ban.

As the results came in across Virginia, supporters of abortion rights made clear that they believed voters had given lawmakers a mandate on the issue. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted that Virginians had voted to “protect reproductive freedom and create a firewall against efforts to pass extreme abortion bans.”

The left’s big night in the Old Dominion State was much-needed good news for President Joe Biden, whose popularity (or lack thereof) was blamed in part for the ascension of Mr Youngkin to the governor’s mansion in 2021.

Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated her party’s victory on Tuesday evening in a video message specifically urging supporter of reproductive rights to remain engaged politically ahead of 2024’s presidential election.

Tim Kaine, one of Virginia’s two Democratic US senators, also cheered his party’s resurgence.

Republicans, and in particular Youngkin fans, were crestfallen as the night played out.

“We had hoped for a stronger outcome this evening but are proud of the effort all of our candidates put in to these extremely competitive districts,” wrote Dave Rexrode, a key Youngkin ally, on Twitter.

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