By Ben Christopher, CALmatters
You’ve heard the term “all politics is local”? California Republicans had better hope so.
The polls told us that this week’s gubernatorial matchup in Virginia would be a nailbiter. Instead, it was an electoral thrashing. Voters handed the governor’s mansion to Democrat Ralph Northam with a decisive 9 point margin while stripping the state GOP of its firm grip on the legislature’s lower chamber, reducing a supermajority to within spitting distance of a tie (and counting).
By all accounts this blue wave—which also swept up statehouse races in New Jersey and New Hampshire, municipal contests in Pennsylvania, a special election in Washington state, and a Medicaid expansion vote in Maine— was as much a referendum on what’s happening in Washington D.C. as it was a rebuke of local lawmakers.
Or as Republican political consultant Mike Murphy told the Washington Post, Virginia was a test of whether the GOP’s electoral fates are tied to the President’s approval numbers. “The canary in the coal mine didn’t just pass out,” he said. “Its head exploded.”
Though political analysts are only beginning to pore over the numbers, it sure looks that way. Virginia saw its highest increase in voter turnout in two decades, with the bulk of the bump coming from Clinton-winning districts in the suburbs. Young voters and voters with college educations flocked to the Democratic side. According to exit polls, a third of all voters said they cast their ballot in part to “express opposition to Donald Trump.”
“There may have been some local issues involved, but the main driver of what happened was the energy among base Democratic constituents who finally woke up,” said Mike Madrid, a Republican political consultant who advises the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa.
California Democrats are hoping for a similar awakening in the elections of 2018. On the line: their lock on power in Sacramento, where the party holds a commanding two-thirds supermajority of legislative seats, along with all statewide constitutional offices. At the same time, the GOP’s control of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. could also be decided here. Of the 14 California districts that last sent Republicans to Congress, seven voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.
Hours before Tuesday’s election returns rolled in, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista became the first of those 14 to…