Last week, Virginia Democrats flipped both the House of Delegates and the State Senate, giving the party control over Virginia’s government for the first time in a generation.
It’s a change that really started in 2017, when Dems captured 15 Republican seats in the House of Delegates, the biggest Democratic shift since 1899. That election left Republicans holding onto a House majority by only one seat, the result of a random drawing in a race (for the 94th district) that had been declared a tie. Yet they showed no signs of acknowledging the message voters had sent by eliminating their mandate; after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach that killed 12 people, Republicans refused to even consider
any gun control measures, shutting down a special legislative session in 90 minutes.
Democratic control is already bringing tangible change, with the party electing as Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, the first woman and first Jewish person to hold that position in the body’s 400-year history. The legislative session could bring progress on long-stalled liberal priorities like gun control, combating climate change, and raising the minimum wage, not to mention local control of Confederate monuments (an issue twice killed in Republican-led subcommittees).
Locally, where Democrats swept city and county races, some of the biggest changes may come from Robert Tracci’s ouster as Albemarle County commonwealth’s attorney.
His replacement, Jim Hingeley, campaigned on a platform of criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration, noting that “Family separation is not just an ICE policy.” As
a public defender, Hingeley said in an interview, “I saw families that were torn apart, and I saw the consequences of that.” He’s pledged to pursue alternatives to incarceration that keep more people in the community, and to end cash bail in favor of pre-trial supervision.
“If I’m elected and other progressive prosecutors are elected,” he said last August, “we would be small in number, but we can constitute a different voice.”