Tuesday delivered a string of high-profile victories for Democrats in gubernatorial races. Democrat Ralph Northam won the Virginia governor’s race in what had become a nail-biter of a contest, defeating Republican Ed Gillespie in the election to replace outgoing Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy prevailed in the race to replace Republican governor Chris Christie, an expected victory over Republican Kim Guadagno.
The New Jersey gubernatorial Democratic win paves the way for the party to enact progressive policies statewide. Christie has clashed with the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature. Murphy’s win could set the stage for tax increases, marijuana legalization, health care, education investments, and the enactment of other liberal policy priorities.
The Virginia race had been the most closely watched and competitive of the two contests. Northam’s victory will reassure Democrats who have been buffeted by a string of defeats in special elections in 2017 so far, and may tamp down some of the divisions between the party’s progressive and moderate wing.
The stakes were especially high in the Virginia race, because if Democrats had lost they would have had to forfeit yet another governor’s mansion. The party hit a record low in the number of governorships it controls earlier this year when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice switched parties from Democrat to Republican.