Election 2017: Everything Just Got a Little Less Terrible

A roundup of results, along with why you should care about each race (even if it just means feeling a little better about the world).

How the U.S. looks at the state level after tonight (Daily Kos)

Materially speaking, it doesn’t change a thing in Washington, but after 2016’s concussive rout, tonight was a comparatively resounding victory for progressive America. (In case you were momentarily struck with panic, San Francisco has nothing to vote on this year.)

There were only a handful of marquee races — two governorships and the mayoralty of America’s largest city — but up and down what few ballots there were, Americans decisively rejected Donald Trump, his party, and his ideology, although some races remain too close to call. There aren’t as many tea leaves to read as there will be next year, but the results were pretty much as bad as they could possibly be for the GOP, everywhere in the nation. It was also a great night for trans representation in America.

What: Virginia governor
Who won: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D)
Result: A Democratic hold on a seat they’ve held for eight years, 54-45
Why you should care: Where to begin? This was the one that got the most attention. Ed Gillespie, a George W. Bush-era Establishment Republican, tried to reinvent himself as a Trump-style crypto-fascist, railing against sanctuary cities in Virginia — which has none. His opponent, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, ran a cautious campaign in the style of Hillary Clinton, and his early lead appeared to narrow considerably in recent weeks. (As Virginia limits governors to one term each, incumbent Democrat Terry McAuliffe could not run again.) Widely seen as a referendum on the ability of the GOP to bottle Trump’s lightning in a purple-to-blue state, Northam won resoundingly, over-performing relative to Clinton in 2016 and McAuliffe in 2013 on the strength of huge turnout. Charlottesville, a college town where Nazis marched openly in August, saw a surge of votes for the Democratic Party, which also held the lieutenant governorship and the attorney general.

What: New Jersey governor
Who won: Philip Murphy (D)
Result: A Democratic pick-up as Gov. Chris Christie leaves office, 54-43
Why you should care: New Jersey is one of those blue states that’s had a Republican governor for two terms, after the GOP reaction against Barack Obama set in. The notoriously outspoken Chris Christie has an approval rating in the toilet, and as predicted, his Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was unable to succeed him. Outside New Jersey, it’s entirely symbolic, although Christie’s political career is likely over for good after a series of humiliations during his short-lived run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Also: Christie got into yet another sparring match with a voter only this morning. What a dick.

What: New York City mayor
Who won: Bill De Blasio (D)
Result: Democratic hold, 67-28
Why you should care: His mayoralty has been dogged by accusations of corruption and quirkiness, but New York City is simply too Democratic to unseat an incumbent with decent approval numbers. De Blasio, arguably like our own Ed Lee, isn’t quite the progressive leader people desperately wish he’d be, but he won a second term by crushing his borderline-token opponents, one of whom broke her foot two weeks ago to avoid stepping on her dog by accident. Nobody seems to think this is a slap in Trump’s face in spite of this being his hometown, but isn’t it kind of amazing that NYC elected a Republican five times in a row before De Blasio (Giuliani twice, Bloomberg three times)?

What: Virginia House of Delegates
Who won: The Democrats picked up at least 15 seats in a chamber of 100 members, with five races too close to call
Result: A 66-34 Republican majority is now much smaller (if not gone).
Why you should care: Theoretically, down-ballot races capture the mood — but apart from the numerical gains, diversity won big in Virginia. This was an unexpected result for Democrats, who have basically taken over the affluent, populous, and fast-growing Northern part of the state. If they sweep the five uncalled seats, they’ll take over Virginia’s lower legislative body. Virginia also elected its first two Latinas and its first Asian-American woman. Notably, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be elected to state government in the U.S. by unseating Bob Marshall, a long-term GOP incumbent who called himself the commonwealth’s “chief homophobe” and just so happened to write an anti-trans bathroom bill similar to North Carolina’s. Additionally, Roem isn’t just trans; she’s also totally metal. If that weren’t satisfying enough, a Democratic Socialist named Lee Carter also won a district that was widely viewed as a Republican hold.

What: Washington State House
Who won: The Democrats flipped a seat in the Seattle area, 55-45.
Result: Sounds minor, but the Dems now have full control of Washington state government.
Why you should care: Both California and Oregon have Democratic governors and Democrat-controlled legislatures. Before today, Washington had a Democratic governor and State Senate, with a narrowly GOP-controlled House. This means that the West Coast is officially a Blue Wall, and the Democratic Party has rebounded from its depressing post-2016 low point of controlling a mere six state governments. (Still, it’s only eight, while Republicans have 26, with the remaining 16 split between the two parties in some fashion.)

What: Utah’s third Congressional district
Who won: John Curtis (R)
Result: The GOP held the only seat in the House of Representatives up for grabs, 58-27
Why you should care: You almost really have to. When former Rep. Jason Chaffetz suddenly resigned his seat in the Salt Lake City suburbs to become a Fox News contributor earlier this year, there was basically zero chance it would change hands in this, today’s only election in either wing of Congress. Granted, Trump performed abysmally in Utah owing to the presence of a rogue Republican who happened to be Mormon, but UT-03 is a hyper-conservative, lily-white district that’s 25 points more Republican than the national average.

What: Maine Medicaid expansion
Who won: Health care for low-income Mainers
Result: A California-style ballot prop wins 59-41
Why you should care: Maine has a rather dreadful governor in conservative Republican Paul LePage, and as a result, it’s one of 19 states that didn’t expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Voters overruled LePage’s whims, another victory in the inexorable move toward a rational health care system. It’s the first state ever to do it that way.

Elsewhere

Democrats won two special elections in Georgia and one in New Hampshire state races. All three were unexpected pickups, although none has any bearing on either state’s overall political balance.

Democrats wrested control of the county executive offices in New York’s Westchester and Nassau counties, two populous suburban pockets where Trump outperformed Mitt Romney — the latter of which is where I’m from, so #hellyeah. The Town of Hempstead, a jurisdiction of Nassau County with 750,000 residents, just elected its first Democratic supervisor — which is more like a mayor than a supervisor in the S.F. sense — in more than a century.

Charlotte and St. Paul elected their first African-American mayors, and Virginia its first African-American lieutenant governor, both Democrats.

Wilmot Collins, a Liberian refugee, unseated a 16-year incumbent in Helena, Mont., becoming the state’s first Black mayor.

Hoboken, N.J., just elected a Sikh mayor named Ravi Bhalla, the first in the state and the second in the nation (after Charlottesville, Va., as it happens).

By winning a seat on the little ol’ School Board in Erie, Penn., Tyler Titus became the Keystone State’s first openly transgender person to hold office. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, civil rights attorney Lee Krasner — who had been called “completely unelectable” — crushed Republican Beth Grossman 74-26 to become Philadelphia’s district attorney.

Andrea Jenkins, the first transgender woman of color elected to public office in the U.S., won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council.

Lisa Middleton won a seat on Palm Springs’ City Council to become the first trans person in California to win a legislative office.

Stephanie Morales, one of very few prosecutors in this country to have brought a case against a white cop for killing a person of color, was re-elected in Portsmouth, VaVirginia is for lovers and momentum into 2018 is looking good.

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