Historically, off-year elections are terrible for the incumbent President’s party. So in that sense, Election Night 2021 went as expected. The degree of the reaction, however, still stung as a red wave swept through the nation last night.
It was the kind of night where the only silver lining for Democrats was the fact that there weren’t more offices on the ballot this year.
There are sure to be a mountain of takes to explain these results in the days to come. With precedent stacked against the Democrats, they would’ve needed an exceptional year to reverse the trend. At first, with COVID rates dropping and the economy revving back up, such a year seemed possible.
The turning point was a surge in COVID cases caused by the Delta Variant, concurrent with a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which led President Biden’s approval rating to plummet during a nightmare August.
The news didn’t get any better in the fall, as the President’s twin-infrastructure bills were mired in Congressional gridlock and sailed past multiple legislative deadlines. All the while, Republicans were successfully able to motivate their base over grievances extending from inflation to curriculum concerns.
Whereas Dems were depressed at the notion that they were now on the wrong side of the cyclical nature of politics, Republicans were enticed to imagine 2022 could be another monumental night on par with 1994 and 2010.
But enough pontificating from me, they’ll be plenty of time for that later, let’s get to the results!
Republicans Triumph in Virginia
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Republicans made a clean sweep of the most-watched contests in the nation.
At the top of the ticket, Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe by a 50.73% to 48.58% margin in the open Governor’s race.
Down-ballot, the GOP also won the contests for Lt. Governor and Attorney General. In the former, Winsome Sears prevailed over Hala Ayala 51.10% to 48.90%, and in the latter, Jason Miyares defeated incumbent Mark Herring 50.57% to 49.43%.
In addition to the statewide races, Republicans also flipped the Virginia House of Delegates thanks to a net gain of six seats. The Democrats maintain a thin 21-19 majority in the Virginia State Senate, primarily because none of those races were contested this year.
Murphy Hangs On in Near New Jersey Shocker
Perhaps the most surprising numbers of the night came from a race Democrats won, albeit barely.
The race between incumbent Governor Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli was never really considered to be close. The final polls showed Murphy with a lead of between six and eleven points and no prognosticator thought Ciattarelli had a chance. Yet as the results haphazardly poured in last night, it became clear that Republicans throughout the state were vastly outperforming expectations.
At the moment, Murphy leads the race by just over 23,000 votes with 91% of precincts in. Most of the vote outstanding is believed to be from blue areas, so the race was called for Murphy on Wednesday night.
Nevertheless, the massive GOP trend was felt down-ballot as well. For instance, State Senate President and long-time Democratic power-broker Steve Sweeney appears to have lost his seat to a truck driver who spent only $153 on his campaign. Currently, Republican Edward Durr leads Sweeney 51.85% to 48.15% with an estimated 96% of the vote in.
Perhaps the most anti-climatic result of the night was Eric Adams’ victory in the New York City Mayoral race. This contest was basically decided by the primary back in June as Adams took 66% of the vote against his Republican challenger Curtis Sliwa.
A proud moderate Democrat, with an unusual background and maverick personality, Adams’ tenure is sure to take up more than its fair share of space both on the back pages of NYC tabloids and on Twitter timelines.
Over in the Keystone State, Republicans were able to win every contested statewide judicial race in what ended up being a great night for them throughout the commonwealth. For example, in my native Bucks County, the GOP won every row office. Progressives were left only with victories in the cities, like Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner’s re-election and the ascension of new Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey.
Speaking of mayoral races, it appears that incumbent Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s found a particularly circuitous route to re-election. Brown lost his primary to DSA-backed candidate India Walton last summer. Walton’s win, however, divided enough Democrats for Brown to launch a write-in campaign that’s on the verge of victory.
At the same time, in Minneapolis, a highly-publicized ballot question to replace the city’s Police Department with a Department of Public Safety failed 56% to 44%.
Finally in Florida, a crowded Democratic field continues to fight for the open Congressional seat held by the late Alcee Hastings. Dale Holness leads Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick by just 12 votes and a recount is once again expected in South Florida.
To dig into all the results yourselves, check out Decision Desk’s results page!