Virginia officially turned back into a purple state on Tuesday. Voters elected Republicans Glenn Youngkin as governor and Winsome Sears as lieutenant governor, according to projections from Edison Research and media organizations, and they either flipped control of the state House of Delegates or evened it up to a 50-50 tie. Both Sears and her Democratic rival, Hala Ayala, would be the first woman in Virginia's second-highest office, and the first woman of color. Ayala has not conceded the race.
Sears, a 57-year-old former Marine, was born in Jamaica. "I'm telling you that what you are looking at is the American Dream," she said in a victory speech. She is known as a pragmatic conservative who strongly opposes abortion rights and supports gun rights. Along with taking over if the governor is incapacitated or leaves office, her main duty would be breaking a tie in the state Senate, where Democrats have a tenuous 21-19 lead. State Sen. Joseph Morrissey (D) is also opposed to abortion.
The Senate wasn't in play on Tuesday, but all 100 House seats were, and Republicans needed to win back at least six to take control. "Without former president Donald Trump on the ballot to galvanize liberal voters, the election tested the endurance of the blue wave that had flipped more than a dozen House seats to Democrats in 2017 and ousted Republicans from power in 2019 for the first time in a generation," The Washington Post explains. "Instead, Democrats had to grapple with President Biden's waning popularity and reduced enthusiasm among their voters."
Tuesday election will probably lead to gridlock "in the same way it has in Washington unless either side shows some willingness to reach across party lines and develop centrist policies," University of Mary political scientist Stephen Farnsworth tells the Post. "But the divisive politics of modern times, coupled with scorched-earth primary campaigns, are going to convince most elected officials that there isn't much point to compromising."