Democrats claim momentum from election wins
Gun control activists, Obamacare supporters, immigrant rights advocates, environmentalists, gay rights activists — every part of the Democratic coalition — claimed momentum in the wake of stunning victories in the off-year elections.
Although no federal offices were at stake, the fallout could reach deep into Capitol Hill, where Democrats said they are newly energized in their battle against the tax-cut bill and warned Republicans to heed the signs in Virginia.
Given a choice between a pro-Obamacare candidate in Ralph Northam and a tax-cutting candidate in Republican nominee Ed Gillespie, voters picked Mr. Northam, who posted the largest Democratic victory in the state in decades.
“We just had a trial run about whether a tax cut was appealing in a battleground state. The answer was no,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat.
Mr. Northam’s victory was just one part of an electoral wave. Democrats swept both of Virginia’s other top state offices, made historic gains in the state House of Delegates, recaptured the governorship in New Jersey, seemed poised to win control of the state Senate in Washington and flipped a number of high-profile executive jobs in suburban counties in New York.
Most important, Democrats said, was the battleground in those races: suburban areas that make up the key battlegrounds where next year’s midterm congressional elections are likely to be fought.
Those are also the places with middleand upper-class taxpayers poised to lose some of their biggest tax breaks under the Republican tax-cut bill while becoming increasingly comfortable with Obamacare nearly eight years on.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, ticked off a list of House Republicans whose constituents would lose the generous state and local tax deduction under the tax bill, saying they would be “committing political suicide” if they backed the plan.
“If you continue to try and eliminate the state and local deduction, you’re going to kill suburban legislators who are already in trouble because the suburbs don’t seem to like Donald Trump,” Mr. Schumer said. “As Clint Eastwood said, you want to pass this tax bill, you want to hurt the suburbs? Make our day. Make our day.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, insisted those suburban families will end up benefiting from the tax cuts because the loss of deductions is more than offset by lower tax rates for many of them.
He said voters were not reacting to a too-expansive Republican Party, but a tootimid party that has failed to deliver on the agenda Mr. Trump promised voters.
“What people want to know and see is that this Donald Trump presidency and this Republican Congress makes a positive difference in my life,” Mr. Ryan said on the “Brian Kilmeade Show.”
He flatly ruled out the idea of Republicans distancing themselves from the president and returning to a party more closely tied to the Bush years.
“We already made that choice. We’re with Trump,” Mr. Ryan said. “We merged our agendas. We ran with Donald Trump.”
Outside of Capitol Hill, liberal activists crowed over the results of the election, saying the victories created an across-theboard success for the rainbow coalition of racial and sexual minorities, young people, women and other demographics who gave Democrats wins in 2008 and 2012, but who fractured in 2010, 2014 and 2016 — years President Obama wasn’t on the ballot.
Gay rights supporters said this has become the “year of the trans candidate” because a handful of victories will place transgender people in the Virginia House and local boards across the nation.
Immigration rights activists said Mr. Trump’s immigration plans are in tatters after Republican candidates for governor in New Jersey and Virginia adopted his rhetoric against sanctuary cities and were soundly spanked by voters.
“Voters soundly rejected hate, immigrant bashing and racism across the country,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “The nativism and divisiveness of Trumpism lost big last night.”
He said the results also showed there is no tension between white voters and the rainbow coalition Democrats have counted on and that powered Mr. Obama but failed Hillary Clinton last year.
“The new paradigm, on display in every key race, is that bottom-up mobilization efforts that turn out base voters, combined with persuasion strategies that hit a broader universe of voters, is the key,” he said. “It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.”
Gun control activists said they were emboldened by electoral gains and pointed in particular to the election of Chris Hurst to a House seat in Virginia. Mr. Hurst was a news anchor at a Roanoke television station in 2015 when his girlfriend, reporter Alison Parker, was shot and killed live on air by a disgruntled former reporter from the station.
“Every single idea that could possibly address and reduce the number of people who are dying from homicide, suicide and accidental firearm deaths, I think now, is finally on the table,” Mr. Hurst told CNN.
Left-wing activists said they see momentum for establishing government-run health care, raising the minimum wage and other long-held aims of progressives.
The League of Conservation Voters said voters sent a message that they wanted politicians to tackle climate change; the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Muslim voters deserved credit for helping boost Mr. Northam and pointed to Muslim candidates who won local races across the country; and the Democratic National Committee said female candidates were particular winners.
Democrats said their unity in races such as Virginia, where a divisive primary was quickly patched, is a model for their party as they move forward.
“We run on jobs, education and health care. We don’t fight with each other. And we reject division,” Mr. Kaine said.
Mr. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the results were good enough that it has them considering the possibility of retaking control of both chambers of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
“The door is certainly open for us,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Mr. Schumer said he was reminded of 2005, when Democrats won governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia, which he said presaged the 2006 midterm elections that cost Republicans control of both houses of Congress.
“The results last night smell exactly the same way. Our Republican friends better look out,” he said.
Sally Persons contributed to this report.