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Politics in Virginia


Virginia Senate
The Virginia Senate in session, presided over by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. Roll mouse over this image to see the Virginia House of Delegates, just before Speaker William Howell called the session to order. Photo taken during a Central Virginia Community College field trip, Feb. 25, 2009.
Also see the camera Politics photo gallery.

Introduction

The political system in the Commonwealth of Virginia is unique in various ways. It is the only one of the fifty states in which cities are legally independent of the counties in which they are situated. Consequently, court districts and election returns are all "segregated" between the urban centers and the adjacent suburban/rural areas. Virginia is one of three states that hold elections for state officers and legislatures in odd-numbered years; Mississippi and New Jersey are the other two. (Kentucky and Louisiana also elect their governors in odd-numbered years, but elect their legislatures in even-numbered years.) Having state elections separate from federal elections tends to reduce voter turnout in the former, and it tends to separate state issues from national issues. Likewise, the staggered election cycle also blurs the ideological distinction between parties. Finally, Virginia has a remarkable independent streak and pride in its cultural heritage, often going against the grain of national trends, and this often yields odd results in the political scene. This page provides a geographical and historical background to help understand politics in Virginia.


Virginia party trends

Summary of federal and state election trends

The adjacent set of bar graphs illustrates the transformation from Virginia from a one-party state, especially in terms of state-level political offices, into a competitive two-party state. The shift was very gradual, and was manifested at the Federal level (presidential and congressional races) before it reached the state and local level. From 1876 through 1948, the Democratic candidate won in every presidential election in Virginia except for 1928, when Herbert Hoover beat Smith. From 1952 through 2004, in contrast, the Republican candidate won in every such election except for 1964, when Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater. The results of the 2010 midterm elections suggest that the 2008 victory of Democrat Barack Obama in Virginia was only a temporary blip and not a long-term turning point. The Republicans gained at least three of the eleven seats in the House of Representatives, with the 11th District still too close to call. Assuming it stays in the Democratic column, that would mean eight House seats for the Republicans, and three for the Democrats.

NOTE: Because Virginia has a staggered election cycle, the years in the adjacent graphs refer to overlapping terms. State office terms begin in even-numbered years, so "1992" means the 1992-1993 term, resulting from the 1991 election. Federal office terms begin in odd-numbered years, so "1991" means the 1991-1992 term, resulting from the 1990 election.

Governors of Virginia since the onset of the "Byrd Organization"



Maps of districts and election results

Roll your mouse over the links below to see different map versions. (NOTE: 2000-2004 and 2008-2012 shift maps forthcoming.)

2000 president 2000-2004 shift 2004 president 2004-2008 shift 2008 president 2008-2012 shift 2012 president
2000 Congress   2002 Congress 2004 Congress   2006 Congress 2008 Congress   2010 Congress 2012 Congress
1992 cong. dist. 2002 cong. dist. 2012 cong. dist. { my proposal } County names Population (data) Population (dots)

Virginia 2010 Congressionial Election By County Virginia counties names

Federal office holders

Year
term
began
U.S.
Senator
U.S.
Senator
House 1st Dist. House 2nd Dist. House 3rd Dist. House 4th Dist. House 5th Dist. House
6th Dist.
House 7th Dist. House 8th Dist. House 9th Dist. House 10th Dist. House 11th Dist.
1965 Robertson Byrd, Sr. / Jr. Downing Hardy Satterfield Abbitt Tuck Poff Marsh Smith Jennings Broyhill
1967 Spong Byrd, Jr. Downing Hardy Satterfield Abbitt W. Daniel Poff Marsh Scott Wampler Broyhill
1969 Spong Byrd, Jr. Downing Whitehurst Satterfield Abbitt W. Daniel Poff Marsh Scott Wampler Broyhill
1971 Spong Byrd, Jr. Downing Whitehurst Satterfield Abbitt W. Daniel Poff Robinson Scott Wampler Broyhill
® 1973 ® Scott Byrd, Jr. Downing Whitehurst Satterfield R. Daniel W. Daniel Butler Robinson Parris Wampler Broyhill
1975 Scott Byrd, Jr. Downing Whitehurst Satterfield R. Daniel W. Daniel Butler Robinson Harris Wampler Fisher
1977 Scott Byrd, Jr. Trible Whitehurst Satterfield R. Daniel W. Daniel Butler Robinson Harris Wampler Fisher
1979 J. Warner Byrd, Jr. Trible Whitehurst Satterfield R. Daniel W. Daniel Butler Robinson Harris Wampler Fisher
1981 J. Warner Byrd, Jr. Trible Whitehurst Bliley & R. Daniel W. Daniel Butler Robinson Parris Wampler Wolf
® 1983 ® J. Warner Trible Bateman & Whitehurst Bliley Sisisky W. Daniel Olin Robinson Parris Boucher Wolf
1985 J. Warner Trible Bateman Whitehurst Bliley Sisisky W. Daniel Olin Slaughter Parris Boucher Wolf
1987 J. Warner Trible Bateman Pickett Bliley Sisisky W. Daniel # Olin Slaughter Parris Boucher Wolf
1989 J. Warner Robb Bateman Pickett Bliley Sisisky Payne Olin Slaughter Parris Boucher Wolf
1991 J. Warner Robb Bateman Pickett Bliley Sisisky Payne Olin Sla. / Allen Moran Boucher Wolf
® 1993 ® J. Warner Robb Bateman Pickett Scott Sisisky Payne Goodlatte Bliley Moran Boucher Wolf L. Byrne
1995 J. Warner Robb Bateman Pickett Scott Sisisky Payne Goodlatte Bliley Moran Boucher Wolf T. Davis
1997 J. Warner Robb Bateman Pickett Scott Sisisky Goode Goodlatte Bliley Moran Boucher Wolf T. Davis
1999 J. Warner Robb Bateman Pickett Scott Sisisky Goode Goodlatte Bliley Moran Boucher Wolf T. Davis
2001 J. Warner Allen J. Davis Schrock Scott Forbes Goode Goodlatte Cantor Moran Boucher Wolf T. Davis
® 2003 ® J. Warner Allen J. Davis Schrock Scott Forbes Goode Goodlatte Cantor Moran Boucher Wolf T. Davis
2005 J. Warner Allen J. Davis Drake Scott Forbes Goode Goodlatte Cantor Moran Boucher Wolf T. Davis
2007 J. Warner Webb J. Davis # Drake Scott Forbes Goode Goodlatte Cantor Moran Boucher Wolf T. Davis
2009 M. Warner Webb Wittman Nye Scott Forbes Perriello Goodlatte Cantor Moran Boucher Wolf Connolly
2011 M. Warner Webb Wittman Rigell Scott Forbes Hurt Goodlatte Cantor Moran Griffith Wolf Connolly
® 2013 ® M. Warner Kaine Wittman Rigell Scott Forbes Hurt Goodlatte Cantor Moran Griffith Wolf Connolly

NOTES:
#: Died before term ended.
&: Republicans who were formerly Democrats
®: redistricting

SOURCES: Larry Sabato, Virginia Votes (various years); Frank Atkinson, Dynamic Dominion; Virginia State Board of Elections


State office holders

Year
term
began
Governor Lieutenant Governor Attorney General State Senate
(number of seats)
House of Delegates
(number of seats)
Dem. GOP Indep. Dem. GOP Indep.
1966 Godwin Pollard Button 36 4 0 87 12 1
1968 Godwin Pollard Button 34 6 0 85 14 1
1970 Holton Reynolds * Miller 33 7 0 75 24 1
1972 Holton Howell Miller 33 7 0 73 24 3
1974 Godwin Dalton Miller 34 6 0 65 20 15
1976 Godwin Dalton Miller * 35 5 0 78 17 5
1978 Dalton Robb Coleman 34 6 0 76 21 3
1980 Dalton Robb Coleman 31 9 0 74 25 1
1982 Robb Davis Baliles 31 9 0 66 33 1
1984 Robb Davis Baliles * 32 8 0 65 34 1
1986 Baliles Wilder Terry 32 8 0 65 33 2
1988 Baliles Wilder Terry 30 10 0 64 35 1
1990 Wilder Beyer Terry 30 10 0 59 39 2
1992 Wilder Beyer Terry * 22 18 0 58 41 1
1994 Allen Beyer Gilmore 22 18 0 52 47 1
1996 Allen Beyer Gilmore * 20 20 0 53 46 1
1998 Gilmore Hager Earley 20 20 0 50 49 1
2000 Gilmore Hager Earley * 19 21 0 47 52 1
2002 M. Warner Kaine Kilgore 19 21 0 34 64 2
2004 M. Warner Kaine Kilgore * 16 24 0 37 61 2
2006 Kaine Bolling McDonnell 16 24 0 40 57 3
2008 Kaine Bolling McDonnell * 21 19 0 44 54 2
2010 McDonnell Bolling Cuccinelli 22 18 0 39 59 2
2012 McDonnell Bolling Cuccinelli 20 20 0 32 67 1
2014 McAuliffe Northam Herring 20 20 0 32 68 0

NOTE: * (asterisk): Died or resigned before term ended to run for governor. Marshall Coleman remained as attorney general while running for governor in the fall of 1981. Numbers pertain to the beginning of the term and do not account for legislators who switched parties or who were replaced by members of the other party due to resignation or death.
Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and Atty. Gen.-elect Mark Herring (pending recount) are vacating State Senate seats, which may not be filled until after the General Assembly convenes in early January 2014. If Mark Obenshain wins the recount, the State Senate will temporarily remain tied, 19-19.

SOURCES: Larry Sabato, Virginia Votes (various years); Frank Atkinson, Dynamic Dominion; National Conference of State Legislatures


Presidential election results (state & local)

Year Democrats Republicans Independents
Presidential &
Vice-Pres. candidates
Virginia Staunton Waynes- boro Augusta County Presidential &
Vice-Pres. candidates
Virginia Staunton Waynes- boro Augusta County Presid. candidate Virginia
1968 Humphrey / Muskie 32.5% % % % Nixon / Agnew 43.4% % % % Wallace 23.6%
1972 McGovern / Shriver 30.1% % % % Nixon / Agnew 67.8% % % % . %
1976 Carter / Mondale 48.0% 37.5% 37.3% 38.3% Ford / Dole 49.3% 59.5% 59.6% 57.5% . %
1980 Carter / Mondale 40.3% 33.5% 32.0% 30.3% Reagan / Bush 53.0% 60.8% 61.4% 64.3% Anderson 5.1%
1984 Mondale / Ferraro 37.1% 24.5% 26.0% 20.2% Reagan / Bush 62.3% 74.9% 73.2% 79.2% . %
1988 Dukakis / Bentsen 39.2% 29.5% 30.6% 23.6% Bush / Quayle 59.7% 69.3% 68.7% 75.1% . %
1992 Clinton / Gore 40.6% 30.9% 32.2% 23.7% Bush / Quayle 45.0% 54.0% 52.6% 59.0% Perot 13.6%
1996 Clinton / Gore 45.1% 37.5% 36.5% 27.0% Dole / Kemp 47.1% 53.7% 52.7% 60.9% Perot 6.6%
2000 Gore / Lieberman 44.4% 39.0% 38.4% 26.3% Bush / Cheney 52.5% 57.3% 57.5% 70.2% Nader 2.2%
2004 Kerry / Edwards 45.5% 39.0% 35.1% 23.6% Bush / Cheney 53.7% 60.3% 64.0% 74.4% . %
2008 Obama / Biden 52.6% 50.6% 44.1% 29.5% McCain / Palin 46.4% 48.4% 54.3% 69.3% . %
2012 Obama / Biden 51.2% 51.1% 43.7% 28.1% Romney / Ryan 47.3% 47.0% 54.5% 70.2% . 1.5%

NOTE: Orange background indicates national winners. Bold face indicates winners in Virginia. Also see the national results and Presidency.

SOURCES: