Election Day 2017 LIVE BLOG
Live updates on races in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine, New York, Utah, Washington state, and around the country tonight.
Virginia: Statewide races are being held for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, as well as the 100 seats in Virginia's lower legislative house, the House of Delegates.
7:00 PM EST: The polls have closed in Virginia.
7:12 PM EST: The New York Times' first update gives a very slight edge of 0.3% to Ed Gillespie, among the roughly 2.4 million votes left to be counted.
7:24 PM EST: As per a CNN exit poll, roughly 75% of independent voters want to leave Confederate monuments in place. Ed Gillespie made this a key issue in the campaign within the last few weeks.
7:33 PM EST: With roughly 11% reporting, the Virginia Department of Elections gives an extremely narrow edge to Gillespie by about 0.8%.
7:37 PM EST: The New York Times predicts a margin of about 5.7% for Northam.
7:48 PM EST: Exit polls from The Washington Post show that roughly 52% of independents voted for Gillespie. Additionally, for those who felt President Trump was not a factor in their decision, 57% broke for Gillespie.
7:49 PM EST: The New York Times first predicts that Northam will win.
8:00 PM EST: With about 40% reporting, the Virginia Department of Elections gives Northam a lead of just under 5%.
8:14 PM EST: AP has called the race for Ralph Northam.
New Jersey: The main race here is the gubernatorial election.
8:00 PM EST: Polls have closed in New Jersey.
8:13 PM EST: With less than 1% reporting, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (R) has a roughly 500-vote lead over Phil Murphy (D) in Sussex County.
8:27 PM EST: Phil Murphy has been projected to win the New Jersey gubernatorial election, after consistently leading in polling by double digits.
Maine: A ballot measure, referred to as "Question 2," asks the voters whether or not they wish to expand Medicaid under the provisions of ObamaCare.
8:51 PM EST: With 16% reporting, the New York Times reports that "Yes" has just under a 9% lead.
8:59 PM EST: With 24% reporting, "Yes" has a lead of 11 points.
9:29 PM EST: With 44% reporting, "Yes" leads by about 15%.
10:02 PM EST: With 62% reporting, "Yes" is beating "No" by nearly 18% - roughly 125,000 to 87,000.
10:20 PM EST: With 70% reporting, the race has been called for "Yes."
New York: The two primary races here are the race for Mayor of New York - where incumbent Democrat Bill De Blasio is challenged by Republican State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis - and a statewide ballot measure, Question 1, asking whether or not New Yorkers want to hold a convention to amend the state constitution.
9:10 PM EST: With 2% reporting, De Blasio has a sizable lead of 3,300 votes over Malliotakis.
9:15 PM EST: With 4% reporting, the "No" option on Question 1 has a 27,000 vote lead over "Yes."
9:28 PM EST: With 46% reporting, the New York Times has called the mayoral election for De Blasio. Malliotakis appears set to only win Staten Island, while De Blasio will win the rest of the city.
9:30 PM EST: With 14% reporting, "No" has an overwhelming lead of 59% (about 150,000 votes).
10:01 PM EST: With 39% reporting, the election has been called for the "No" option, meaning that no constitutional convention will be held next year.
Utah: The 3rd Congressional District was left vacant after Representative Jason Chaffetz resigned to become a Fox News contributor.
10:48 PM EST: With 55% reporting, Republican John Curtis has a sizable lead of nearly 59%, while Democrat Kathie Allen has 26%, and United Utah candidate Jim Bennett has 9%.
10:55 PM EST: The race has been called for Curtis, keeping the seat under Republican control.
Washington: There is a special election for the 45th State Senate district, after the incumbent State Senator - Republican Andy Hill - died last October. As the State Senate currently sees a slim Republican majority of 25-24, this seat will determine the balance of power in the chamber.
11:11 PM EST: Democrat Manka Dhingra currently leads with 16,000 votes (55%) over Republican Jinyoung Englund's 13,000 (45%).
11:26 PM EST: The race has been called for Dhingra.
Virginia: This is gonna get the lion’s share of analysis, because a lot can - and must - be said here.
First, as Bill Mitchell said on Twitter, this result actually should not be much of a surprise. Many of Virginia’s statewide elections in recent history - from Governor to U.S. Senate - have seen at least one, or both, major nominees selected by their party’s convention rather than by the primary. This was the first race in recent memory to have both nominees be decided by open primary, and in that primary on June 13, Democratic turnout was significantly higher: 543,000 Democrats voted in their primary, compared to just 366,000 Republicans. With those numbers, Gillespie winning would’ve truly been an upset.
Gillespie was pursuing a very interesting strategy, as Politico noted: In his in-person stump speeches directly to voters, he hit hard on substantive policy to promote himself and attack his opponent, on matters such as the economy. In his viral ads, both on TV and the Internet, he slammed his opponent for the more hot-button cultural issues such as immigration and Confederate monuments. This worked and put Northam on defense over the last few weeks. As the gap closed, Northam was forced to shift further to the right; he came out against sanctuary cities and said he would not tear down Confederate monuments, much to the ire of some progressive groups. So in that sense, Gillespie did very much frame the narrative of the election with numerous effective attacks. In more of a swing state, or perhaps a blue state that Trump won in 2016, this could have carried him directly to victory.
However, it is interesting to note the flip of certain counties. Gillespie did pick up four counties that the previous gubernatorial nominee, Ken Cuccinelli, lost in 2013: Franklin, Nelson, Caroline, and Westmoreland. However, what sunk his campaign was his loss of three counties that he carried in his U.S. Senate run in 2014: The Southeastern counties of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, and the crucial Northeastern county of Loudoun.
A treasure trove of information can be found in the Washington Post exit polls: In many of the listed demographics - race, education, gender, gender and race, gender and education, party, and a plethora of others - Gillespie seemed to outperform the President’s performance in the state in 2016. The major demographics where Trump performed better than Gillespie were younger voters and white evangelicals, interestingly enough. Gillespie won narrowly among independents (52-48), as well as by a sizable margin among those who did not consider President Trump to be a factor in their vote (57-39).
But Gillespie performed worse than Trump overall; he lost by 9 points, while Trump lost by just 5 points (and that was against a Democratic ticket that had one of Virginia’s Senators as the running mate). However, Gillespie did not suffer from a lack of support among the Republican base, as was feared by his cautious distancing from Trump; but rather, the Democratic base turned out more (especially African-Americans and the youth). The rain did not appear to dampen turnout in those increasingly-populous Northeastern counties bordering Washington D.C., which is only growing larger while the rural areas remain roughly the same. Gillespie won the base and won independents, but just like Romney in 2012, the Democratic base is larger than those two groups combined.
Worst of all, this increase and subsequent large turnout indeed translated down-ballot: Democrats swept the other two major statewide races (Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General), and have made significant gains in Virginia’s sole legislative house, the House of Delegates. They won 13 Republican-held seats, which was just 4 short of the 17 they needed to flip control of the house. They came that close to flipping the House of Delegates back to Democratic control for the first time since 2000. As the New York Times notes, this was the closest thing possible to a blank, generic ballot for the voters, since practically none of the House of Delegates candidates had name recognition, and were simply running on the basis of their party and their stance on President Trump. If this is used as a basic bellwether for the 2018 midterms, it seems to indicate that the Democrats can make serious gains in the House of Representatives, but may not actually retake the chamber.
My conclusion: Virginia is now slowly approaching the same dilemma as New York and Illinois. While a vast majority of the state is rural (and thus deep red), the state is finding itself overruled by a small, heavily-populated urban area. Just as with New York City in New York, and Chicago in Illinois (and, arguably, Portland in Oregon and Seattle in Washington), Virginia appears to be dominated now by the northeastern regions of Fairfax and Arlington (which is mostly populated by people who work in the Swamp), the southeastern region known as Hampton Roads, and the city of Richmond in the middle of the state.
What was once considered a swing state is now indeed trending more closely to the blue column. This may not necessarily have the broad implications for 2018 that the Democrats are hoping for (how indicative of the entire country is a decisively blue state anyway?). And most importantly: This will only fuel the crusade of Steve Bannon, who insists that more Trump-friendly Republicans are the way to go in 2018. Gillespie, after all, defeated a very pro-Trump candidate named Corey Stewart in the primary. Now, Bannon will make the same claim that President Trump already has: Gillespie did not embrace Trump enough, and this may have cost him the election. This, coupled with a win by Judge Roy Moore in Alabama next month, will leave Bannon feeling vindicated in his war against the GOP establishment, as he goes after more Roy Moores and Corey Stewarts in the 2018 cycle.
New Jersey: Nothing to see here. We all knew this was coming. New Jersey was always a deep blue state, and Christie was an outlier. After Bridgegate, he doomed any chance the Republicans had of possibly holding statewide office long-term and flipping New Jersey to the purple column. New Jersey has now flipped back into complete Democratic control in terms of both the governorship and the state legislature; it is only the seventh state in the country to do so, joining Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, California, and Oregon.
New York: Same thing as New Jersey.
Maine: During the fiasco of the Senate GOP attempting to repeal Obamacare this last summer, one name that universally voted “no” on every single measure was Susan Collins, a Republican, from none other than Maine. Tonight’s result should be a clear indication of why she repeatedly betrayed the party on one of its biggest political promises. She comes from a heavily Democratic state that has not gone red in a presidential election since 1988, and where the voters clearly support universal healthcare by an overwhelming margin. This solidifies, once and for all, that when it comes to the issue of healthcare, Susan Collins might as well be a Democrat.
Utah: Even as the Democrats make their gains and hold their ground in statewide and state legislative races within blue states, this continues the trend of them being unable to take arguably the most significant battleground of them all - Congress. This marks the fifth special election in a row for the House of Representatives that the Republicans managed to hold. Being in Utah, a Republican victory was always a given. I had previously said to keep an eye on third-party candidate Jim Bennett of the United Utah Party - not to see if he won, but to see how he’d do. This was the first-ever run for office by the UU, which was founded in late May of this year. This can be considered a relatively decent performance for such a brand new party, particularly one that ran on a message of dissatisfaction with both major parties. From here, UU can continue to build up its reputation, infrastructure, and a potential fundraising apparatus, to continue contesting elections in the near future, and potentially with Bennett returning as a candidate.
Washington: With this election, the Democrats have narrowly regained control of the State Senate, adding that to a similarly narrow lead in the Washington House of Representatives, as well as a Democratic governor. This makes Washington only the eighth state in the country to be under total Democratic rule at the state level, following New Jersey. Most notably, this has firmly built up a whole new “blue wall” along the entirety of the West Coast, to make up for the blue wall in the Rust Belt/Great Lakes region that President Trump tore down in 2016.
OVERALL: The Democrats finally got some victories after numerous frustrating defeats over the course of 2017. In just one night, they flipped two more states into the firmly blue column, increasing their total to eight overall. However, it may be a false hope since they won in areas that were largely their own home turf to begin with (was there any doubt how New Jersey would go? And Washington was always barely hanging on the precipice of becoming solid blue). The Republicans still held the Congressional seat in Utah and maintained control of the Virginia House of Delegates, while the Democrats regained full control of New Jersey and brought Washington firmly into their new "blue wall" of the West Coast.
In particular, they solidified the statewide trend of Virginia going blue (this is their sixth consecutive statewide victory, either at the Presidential, Gubernatorial, or Senatorial level, since 2009), and this was actually their largest margin of victory in a statewide race in decades. But again, this is more likely to indicate Virginia shifting permanently into the blue column rather than the nation as a whole shifting towards the Democrats. Both parties are still rather unpopular, and now they both have mixed records of wins and losses to show as a result of the year 2017. And, whether or not President Trump actually played a role in how some voters made their decisions, there is no doubt that both parties will continue to make future elections all about him, for better or for worse.