Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin desperately wants to be seen as a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But to do that, he will have to establish his credibility among social conservatives. To that end, he is trying to restrict abortion in one of the 26 states where it is still legal. But special election voters in Virginia just overturned a high-profile Republican governor’s plan by electing a Democrat to a previously Republican legislative seat and cementing a pro-choice majority in the state Senate.
After the 2022 election cycle, Virginia’s vote sent a powerful signal that abortion rights will continue to be a defining issue in the crucial state legislative election in 2023. And in the 2024 presidential election, abortion rights are already on the table.
Youngkin’s plan to enact a 15-week abortion ban stalled in December in the Virginia Senate, where Democrats retain tenuous control. But concerns about a swing Democrat in the Senate have party leaders worried about whether they can stay the course. So last Tuesday’s special election for the Virginia Beach Senate seat — which began after Republican state Sen. Jen Keegans was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last fall — became a key test of how the abortion issue will play out in the next year in Virginia. and other state elections.
When the votes were counted, the seat identified as a “Republican seat” turned out to be Aaron Rouse, a pro-choice Democrat.
Rouse, a Virginia Beach City Council member and former Green Bay Packers player, had pledged to oppose Jankin’s ban, while Republican Kevin Adams, who he narrowly defeated, said he would support it. “When I was in the NFL, my job was to be the last line of defense. Now, that’s what we need in Richmond,” Rouse said in a statement. his campaign ad“Women’s reproductive freedom is at stake, and I will never back down.”
That stance is key, explains Tarina Keene, executive director of REPRO Rising Virginia.
“Reproductive rights and liberties in Virginia have been up in the air, especially in roe “It all boils down to one vote, and having Aaron Rouse in the state Senate during this volatile time will only help support reproductive rights and liberties here in the Commonwealth.” ”
Rouse’s victory expanded the Democrats’ majority in the state Senate to 22-18, eliminating the possibility of Youngkin reaching a deal with dissident Democrats to secure the ban. “Electing Aaron Rouse ensures that no abortion bans or restrictions will be on Governor Youngkin’s desk this year,” explained Gianni Snidle, communications director for the Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus.
The Virginia special election comes at the start of the year, when pro-choice sentiment will be tested in regular elections and special elections across the country. Voters will determine control of Virginia’s legislature and Senate, as well as the legislatures of Louisiana, Mississippi and New Jersey. They will also decide key contests in states such as Wisconsin, where special elections for vacant seats on April 4 could strengthen legislative Democrats’ ability to maintain Gov. Tony Evers’ veto. Firth is one of the nation’s most enthusiastic supporters of the nominee’s governorship.
Noting last year’s results, four legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota have all swung to the Democratic Party — all of which have elected pro-choice Democratic governors — Jessica Poss, Chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Tet noted that the Virginia results were a harbinger of things to come.
“After historic midterm elections in state legislatures, Democrats are starting the new year yet again against a Republican agenda, clearly at odds with voters,” Post said. “Not only can the GOP fail to flip a House amid historic headwinds [in 2022], but now they are fighting for another seat in the Virginia Senate. ”