It has been a quiet year for elections so far, with a handful of special congressional races producing status quo outcomes that barely registered in the political consciousness.
But that quiet could be coming to a close as Virginia gears up for November, when it will host the most expensive gubernatorial contest in the state’s history. Last Tuesday’s Democratic primary finalized November’s matchup. On one side, a ferocious fundraiser and Democratic impresario. On the other, a political newcomer who could be Republicans’ best chance at staunching the party’s decade-long hemorrhaging in the commonwealth.
The Virginia race will be the biggest contest of the Biden era to date.
For Republicans, it presents an opportunity to demonstrate the party can not only hold together the Trump coalition without former President Donald Trump on the ballot, but win in places Trump couldn’t and send a message that “blue states” aren’t going to be off-limits in the 2022 midterm elections. For Democrats, the race will be a proving ground for how to hang a still-unpopular Trump around the neck of non-Trump Republican candidates.
It is also a chance for Democrats to figure out how to win an election as the party in power. Democrats have full control of Virginia for the first time since the 1990s, and have enacted an ambitious legislative agenda over the past two years. They’ll have to defend that record to voters, in addition simply to running against the GOP.
In a way, it’s a…