The Nov. 5 election completed Virginia’s progression from red to blue, although not in Culpeper or its neighboring counties. For the first time in a generation, Democrats took control of both houses of the General Assembly.
Republicans fought this election with their usual vitriol and misrepresentation, while rarely offering problem-solving proposals.
During the time they controlled the General Assembly, Republicans blocked most meaningful legislation aimed at practical solutions to serious problems, usually by not allowing it out of committee.
After only 90 minutes, they shut down the governor’s special legislative session on gun violence in response to the Virginia Beach shootings and relegated any action to a commission. Then, just this past week, that Republican-controlled commission issued a mere three-page report without any recommendations.
Political observers note that Virginia Republicans outside Northern Virginia have been stepping to the right and boosting narrow partisanship at every opportunity.
Culpeper Republicans censured GOP Sens. Emmett Hanger and Jill Vogel, and even removed these candidates’ names from the Republican sample ballot mailed out across the county. Furthermore, the Culpeper Republicans made every effort to advertise down-ballot candidates as Republican, even though Virginia ballots do not list party designation for offices below House of Delegates and state Senate.
This ill-advised partisan labeling does not well serve our local community. For example, a School Board member is also in charge of Culpeper Republican party campaign events, including staging demonstrations for President Trump, instead of focusing on improving our local schools.
Culpeper Republicans are now characterized by Corey Stewart’s brand of Republicanism: immigrant-bashing, gun-loving, women’s healthcare-controlling, trash-talking, Trump-lionizing, and the like.
Del. Nick Freitas, who is on the libertarian side of the conservative spectrum, is equally in limbo. He had hoped to position himself for a congressional race in 2020. Emerging from a hard-right small county in the northern part of the 7th Congressional District will not help him in the suburbs of Richmond, regardless of how much money outside libertarian millionaires put into the race.
Democratic control of Virginia House and Senate committees means Culpeper’s five Republican legislators could be isolated, impacting the farmers, businesspeople and families they represent. If these lawmakers fail to find practical ways to influence legislation, such as adopting a veneer of bipartisanship, as Loudon County Republicans have done, they will be ignored.
While Culpeper Republicans are on the outside looking in, the new legislature will work on important issues that have not been addressed in years.
Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment may be first on the list. It is unsettling that full citizenship rights for women and freed African-American slaves have required specific constitutional protections.
Virginia’s formulas for funding of rural schools should come under scrutiny. Reducing gun violence by enacting expanded background checks and red-flag laws should be a top priority. There will be no legislation that takes away anyone’s guns.
We should see continued support for the bipartisan constitutional amendment that will create Virginia’s first-ever redistricting commission and, hopefully, end gerrymandering in the commonwealth once and for all. Culpeper voters would welcome this. Many found this last election confusing because the county was divided into three state Senate and two House districts that required 17 different ballots.
Elections have consequences. Culpeper Republicans may be right that change is coming. The new Blue Virginia will be significantly different, and that’s what most Virginia voters want.
David Reuther, a retired foreign service officer, chairs the Culpeper Democratic Committee. These are his personal observations.