RICHMOND, Va.—It’s a bit too on the nose: The prettiest street in Virginia’s capital city happens to be the one with all the monuments to men who fought for slavery, a boulevard lined with mansions on either side and, in the middle, towering tributes to the likes of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson.
The Lee statue is centered in a traffic circle, which means drivers literally have to go around this reminder of a disgraced era to get where they’re going. That is also an apt metaphor for the Democratic Party in Virginia, which is on the cusp of capturing full control of the state’s government for the first time in more than a quarter century. Democrats already occupy Virginia’s three most powerful statewide offices and both U.S. Senate seats, and in elections across the state next month, they need to flip just two seats in each chamber of the General Assembly to gain outright majorities.
Virginia has become a key battleground in the concerted Democratic bid to refocus energy and resources to flipping statehouses in the aftermath of Trump’s election in 2016, when Republicans controlled two-thirds of state governorships and Democrats were locked completely out of power in nearly half the country. A Democratic trifecta here—the governor’s office plus majorities in the bicameral legislature—would give the party the power to enact new restrictions on guns, safeguard the state’s expansion of Medicaid, and perhaps most consequentially, reverse Republican gerrymandering and redraw electoral districts for the legislature and Congress for the next decade. It would also cement Virginia’s relatively swift transformation from red to purple to blue in under two decades: At the beginning of George W. Bush’s presidency in 2001, Republicans held the governorship, the legislature, and both U.S. Senate seats; in 2020, the GOP might control none of the above.