Virginia’s Nov. 7 election: rural vs. urban is the story

urbanrural

Democrats sweep in Virginia…as voters reject ‘Trumpism’, “ said OregonLive.

I’m not sure it’s that simple.

If you look at maps that break down election results by county in Virginia you will quickly see that it wasn’t so much Trumpism vs. Liberals as urban vs. rural. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate won by sweeping heavily liberal urban areas, but lost by big margins in rural areas.

It reminds me of statewide Oregon elections.

In 2016, when Kate Brown won the race for governor, her win was derived almost entirely from higher population urban areas, including counties with academic centers, such as the University of Oregon (Lane County) and Oregon State University (Benton County)

brownmap2

BLUE: Kate Brown; RED: Bud Pierce

John Kitzhaber’s 2014 race against Dennis Richardson followed the same pattern:

govenorsracepng

BLUE: Kitzhaber; RED: Richardsonn

Now look at the results of the Nov. 2017 governor’s race in Virginia, where voters chose Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie 54 percent to 45 percent.

votesharemapvirginia

RED: Gillespie    BLUE: Northam

The New York Times reported  that Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam won the race against Republican Ed Gillespie with huge margins in vote-rich metropolitan Virginia, and especially the populous Washington suburbs in Northern Virginia.

For example, in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest county (and where I used to live when working in Wash., D.C.) twice as many voters supported Northam than Gillespie. Northam also carried Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County by more than 23,000 votes — a 20-point spread.

Maps on the New York Times website  also show Northam’s big vote advantages in other urban areas, including Richmond (The State Capitol), Norfolk (Home to the largest U.S. Navy base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and one of NATO’s two Strategic Command headquarters, Roanoke ( Roanoke College , Hollins University and Virginia Tech  are in the area), and Harrisonburg (home to James Madison University, with an enrollment of 21,000 students).

Northam also did well in southeastern Virginia, where the state’s large black population is heavily concentrate. Northam also comes from Virginia’s eastern shore,

Meanwhile, Gillespie rolled up huge margins in rural areas, sometimes 70-80 percent of the vote. In southwest Virginia’s Scott County, for example, Gillespie took 81.4 percent, Northam 17.7 percent. The problem is all the rural areas couldn’t override Northam’s vote in populous urban areas.  Gillespie’s win got him just 4996 votes in Scott County., while Gillespie’s 67.9 percent win in Fairfax County got him 254,919 votes.

“Rural Virginia, mostly stuck with the GOP brand and backed Gillespie at almost the same levels as Trump,” Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the New York Times. “However, the problem for the rural areas is that Gillespie didn’t make any inroads in the Urban Crescent, meaning that the more urban and suburban parts of the state trumped the heavily Republican vote in areas such as Southwest Virginia, Southside, and the Shenandoah Valley.

This election suggests that the state’s politics may remain very polarized, with urban areas being very Democratic, suburban and exurban areas leaning Democratic, and rural areas voting heavily Republican.”

In other words, despite the Democrat’s success this week, it’s no sure thing that 2018 will see a Democratic sweep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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