Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin holds a pair of pumpkins while touring an H Mart supermarket during a meeting with Asian community leaders on April 06, 2023 in Fairfax, Virginia. Youngkin spent the morning visiting constituencies across Northern Virginia.
Win at Mcnamee | Getty Images
Virginia’s narrowly divided legislature is up for grabs Tuesday, as voters head to the polls in an election that could decide the future of abortion in the Old Dominion, and test the political winds in the key swing state before the 2024 presidential contest.
Republicans currently have a narrow 51-to-46 majority in the House of Delegates, while Democrats have a slim 22-to-18 edge in the state Senate. All 140 state seats were on the ballot Tuesday.
Inflation and the economy are the top issues on voters’ minds, two areas where polls show Republicans have an advantage. But Tuesday’s election also hinges on voter turnout, and here, Democrats have an advantage.
If Republican majorities take over both chambers, they will almost certainly enact a controversial 15-week abortion ban proposed by Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. This prospect made abortion a major issue in the races.
It also gained national currency in the contests, in which Democratic candidates advanced more overall than Republicans, according to an analysis by Virginia Public Access Project.
In the Senate, Democrats took in $12.7 million in contributions, compared to $10.6 million raised by Republicans. In the House, Democrats booked $14.2 million, compared to $8.4 million by Republicans.
Tuesday’s legislative races are the first statewide elections in Virginia since Republicans broke unified Democratic control of the Old Dominion in 2021. That year, Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor, and the GOP ended up with a majority in the House of Delegates.
The Republican victory suggested Virginia voters are shifting to the right, just a year after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the state in 2020. Youngkin remains popular in Virginia, with a 54% approval rating, while Biden is a burden for Democrats in the state, with an approval rating hovering just above 40%.
The US Supreme Court’s decision to remove national abortion rights by overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022 has put Republicans on the defensive in statewide races across the country.
Like others in his party, Youngkin wants to restrict abortion in Virginia. But he sought a middle ground compared to Republicans who want to ban the procedure outright. Under Youngkin’s proposal, abortion would be banned after the 15th week of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.
Democrats in the legislature have made preserving abortion rights in Virginia central to their campaigns. Currently, the procedure is legal through the 26th week of pregnancy in the Old Dominion, the only Southern state not to impose restrictions after Roe was overturned.
Virginians overwhelmingly support abortion access, with more than 70% of voters in favor of keeping the state’s current laws, or making the procedure more accessible, according to two recent polls.
However, it’s unclear how many voters oppose Youngkin’s proposed 15-week ban. A recent survey found that 54% of voters were against such a ban, while another poll suggested that Virginians were evenly split on the issue.
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