Virginia liberals, a group that includes many Richmond students, had two victories to celebrate after last week’s election. Not only did Barack Obama win a second term as president, but he also won Virginia, a state that was considered thoroughly Republican until four years ago.
However, Obama’s victory may become very bittersweet for the Virginian left, because this state has been subject to a unique political trend (or curse) for more than 30 years.
Since 1977, the party that won the presidency lost the following year’s gubernatorial election.
Virginia will be one of only two states to elect a governor next year, and the race is shaping up to be a fiery clash over abortion, marriage equality and environmentalism.
The likely Republican candidate is Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He has made his conservative beliefs clear through the powers of his office. He sued a former U.Va. climate researcher because he believed that the man’s research, which focused on proving the issue of global warming, was a fraudulent use of state funding.
In a later incident, the attorney general tried to force Virginia public universities to strip protections for sexual orientation and gender identity from their non-discrimination policies. He also decided that Virginia’s seal showed one breast too many, and he began using buttons that had Virtus, the Roman god depicted on the seal, a little more covered.
Cuccinelli’s blunt speeches and activism won him the devotion of the Tea Party movement and the respect of many other Virginia conservatives.
He is relatively young and attractive, or so said my best friend from high school, who found a lot of irony in being gay and attracted to a homophobe. In comparison with Gov. Bob McDonnell’s two-faced strategy of vague, moderate speeches and hardline politics, Cuccinelli seems honest and straightforward. To Virginia conservatives, he is their general against a perceived wave of liberalism overtaking this once conservative state.
With this past election, Virginia Democrats have sent their only two successful candidates for governor from the past two decades to Washington, D.C. as senators. In contrast with its success nationwide, the Virginia Democratic Party is static and powerless. It controls neither house of the General Assembly and none of the three executive offices (governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general).
Democrats have a steep climb to beat the curse of the past three decades. There is still a lot of celebration to do over Barack Obama’s victory, but when it comes to the man or woman who will control Virginia’s future, the Republicans have history and personality on their side.