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National Journal: Election Night Leaves Virginia Dems Down, But Not Out

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After yesterday's elections in Virginia, Republicans are expanding control in the house of delegates, and are on the cusp of having a working majority in the state senate. Reid Wilson, editor-in-chief of the National Journal Hotline, talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about what this means for the state, as well as other election results from around the  country.

Bad night for Democrats? Not so fast.

If the current counts stand, the Senate will break down with a 20-20 split, and tie votes will be broken by Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling. Despite the fact that Democrats may have lost their state senate majority, however, they could have fared worse, Wilson says.

This could have been a lot worse," he says. "There were five seriously competitive races, and most of them broke to Democrats." If Democrats in Northern Virginia hadn't turned out to the polls, "it could have resulted a really bad night for Democrats," Wilson adds. 

The two seats that changed political hands -- Edd Houck's seat in the 17th District and Roscoe Reynolds' seat in the 30th -- are in areas that the Democrats will have to work to gain back. As Del. Tim Hugo (R) pointed out on election night, if last night's results stand, there will be very few elected officials south of the Rappahanock River in Virginia. 

"Democrats are going to have to win back those votes that have been sort of traditional Democratic votes," Wilson says. "Those voters are now voting more for Republican candidates both at the state level, and the federal level."

Implications for 2012

Those same voters are the ones that ousted three Democratic incumbents from Congress in the 2010 election. Going into next year's general election, Democrats will likely have to convince voters in the southwestern and central parts of the state that their Republican incumbents haven't helped with the economy. 

"If Democrats are able to make the case that the economy is the Republicans' fault, then they're going to have a good chance of winning those votes back," Wilson says. "But it's going to be a difficult case to make, especially with President Obama in the White House. 

Costco wins big in Washington

Across the country, voters in Washington state approved a referendum to privatize liquor sales, a measure largely supported by giant retailer Costco. The shift there could have implications in other states where the state controls liquor sales, including Virginia. 

Gov. Bob  McDonnell has proposed privatizing Virginia's liquor industry before, but he might not be rushing to make this a top priority in the next year, says wilson. There may be a "renewed interest in the possibility of it getting through," Wilson says, but McDonnell has already laid out other issues fore the ocming year. 

"I expect McDonnell to push K-12 reform, reform of the state retirement, pensions," Wilson says. "[Liquor privatization] is probably not something he's going to spend political capital on." That's in part because there's such opposition to the move in the state legislature, both from Republicans and Democrats, Wilson says. 

Correction: The original version of this story mis-identified Tim Hugo's office and political affiliation. Tim Hugo is a Republican state delegate from Virginia.

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