We Flipped Virginia and Celebrate our First Win in Mississippi

Election night 2019 was one for the books! Sister District returned to Virginia, where we got our start three years ago working on 13 races in the House of Delegates. This year, we helped seven new candidates to victory, and all of our 2017 alumni defend their seats. Incredibly, we gained enough seats to flip both the House of Delegates and the Senate blue, making Virginia a Democratic trifecta.

We are also celebrating our first win in the deep red South, with a victorious candidate in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

The wins in Virginia and Mississippi tell different stories. In Virginia, Democrats were down just two seats in each chamber when the night began, and ended with majorities in both—delivering a blue trifecta to VA for the first time in 25 years. In Mississippi, Shanda Yates’ win shows what a hard-working, adequately-resourced, inspiring Democratic candidate can accomplish in difficult Trump-red turf.

All of these wins are going to help Democrats pass important legislation around education, criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, and environmental protection. And, these new legislators help us build the bench of progressive candidates for higher office.

These wins also give us some insight into what the future holds — after wins in VA, KY and MS (yes, I said MS…), Democrats have all the proof in the world that the South is fertile ground for investment, and we must build on these successes immediately. Democrats have momentum going into 2020, and proves yet again that coalitions work and that grassroots volunteers are rebuilding progressive power from the ground up across the country.

I’ll share additional thoughts as we continue to crunch the numbers. For now, let’s take a quick look at what happened last night, for Sister District and for the bigger picture.

By the Numbers: Achievements in Field and Fundraising

Our Candidates Helped Flip Both Chambers in Virginia

Dems needed two seats in the Senate and two in the House to flip. Last night, two of our Senate candidates flipped their seats blue (Ghazala Hashmi [VA-SD10] and John Bell [VA-SD13]), and two of our House candidates flipped red seats blue (Josh Cole [VA-HD28] and Shelly Simonds [VA-HD94]).

In addition, our two fragile incumbents won (Hala Ayala [VA-HD51] and Wendy Gooditis [VA-HD10]). Alex Askew (VA-HD85) won the open seat in his district. At the time of this writing, Larry Barnett’s (VA-HD27) race is still too close to call.

Bottom line: both chambers flipped, WOOHOO!

Close Races and Tiny Margins

Many of these races were decided by razor-thin margins. Here are just a few:

  • Shanda Yates (MS-HD64): won by 136 votes (1.55%)
  • Larry Barnett (VA-HD27): down 191 votes (0.63%) (note: race not yet called)
  • Cheryl Turpin (VA-SD7): lost by 514 votes (0.87%)
  • Alex Askew (VA-HD85): won by 800 votes (3.45%)

Our Volunteers Are Voter Outreach and Fundraising Powerhouses

Our final GOTV numbers are still coming in, but so far, our Sister District volunteers achieved the following for our 2019 candidates:

  • $735,379.63 raised
  • 19,324 door knocks
  • 205,954 phone calls
  • 273,033 text messages
  • 201,202 postcards sent

Highlights: Impact on Individual Campaigns
Our 2019 field and fundraising efforts had a significant impact on each campaign. Among other accomplishments, Sister District volunteers made:

  • 57% of Delegate-elect Josh Cole’s volunteer phonebank calls
  • 66% of Delegate-elect Shelly Simonds’ volunteer phonebank calls
  • 82% of Delegate Hala Ayala’s text messages
  • 100% of Senator-elect John Bell’s text messages
  • 100% of Representative-elect Shanda Yates’ text messages
  • 100% of Delegate-elect Alex Askew’s postcards

Field & Fundraising Across Candidates
And a quick look at how our 2019 field and fundraising efforts broke down across our slate of candidates:

  • % of fundraising for female candidates: 65.74%
  • % of fundraising for candidates of color: 35.18%
  • % of fundraising to candidates where race was decided by <5%: 68.45%
  • % of fundraising to candidates where race was decided by <10%: 80.06%
  • % of field touches made for female candidates: 71.18%
  • % of field touches made for candidates of color: 31.42%
  • % of field touches made in races decided by <5%: 73.03%
  • % of field touches made in races decided by  <10%: 87.08%
  • % of phone calls for female candidates: 73.21%
  • % of postcards for female candidates: 79.97%
  • % of text messages for female candidates: 75.09%
  • % of door knocks for candidates of color: 45.34%
  • % of door knocks made in races decided by <5%: 72.89%
  • % of phone calls made in races decided by <5%: 75.25%

How it Happened in Virginia and Mississippi

Virginia: Democrats Flipped Both Chambers

Senate Before Election
Dems: 19 / Republicans: 20 / Vacant: 1

Senate After Election:
Dems: 21 / Republicans 19 / Vacant: 0

House Before Election:
Dems: 48 / Republicans: 51 / Vacant: 1

House After Election:
Dems: 54 / Republicans 43 / Undecided: 3

Virginia: Both Parties Turned Out
Turnout, especially in our candidates’ districts, was massive overall. Getting voters to the polls in an off-off year is a huge challenge, but both Democratic and Republican voters were really fired up this year. In most of our House districts, turnout was within a few hundred votes of 2017, which was a historic level (and featured a gubernatorial candidate).  In some districts, turnout was even higher than 2017 (including Wendy Gooditis, Larry Barnett, and Josh Cole).

In the Senate, turnout in our districts was massively higher than 2015, the last time the Senate was up. In each of our four Senate districts, more than 25,000 additional voters showed up this year than did in 2015!!

This increase in turnout did not uniformly help push Democrats over the finish line.  For instance, while Debra Rodman outperformed the 2015 Democratic candidate by nearly 11%, and 36,000 more voters turned out overall, she narrowly lost by less than 2% of the vote.

Mississippi: Hard Fought

Sister District was so excited to support three amazing candidates running for the Mississippi house this year. We are absolutely elated that Shanda Yates (MS-HD64) won her race. And we are also incredibly proud of our other two candidates, Aisha Sanders (MS-HD96) and Brandon Rue (MS-HD102), who fought hard.

Senate Before Election
Dems: 18/ Republicans: 31 / Vacant: 3

Senate After Election:
Dems: 16 / Republicans 36 / Vacant: 0

House Before Election:
Dems: 44 / Republicans: 74 / Independents: 2 / Vacant: 2

House After Election:
Dems: 43 / Republicans 74 / Independents: 1 / Undecided: 4

Mississippi: Shanda’s Win Is A Bright Light
While no chambers were flipped, Shanda Yates’ success is a true triumph. No Democrat had run for this seat in decades, and the Republican incumbent she faced had been in office since she was seven. Trump carried the district in 2016, and Clinton only received 44% of the vote. This was tough turf for a Democrat. But Shanda was willing to do the work. She worked closely with our Head of Campaigns Brandon Turner to develop a top-shelf field and fundraising plan, and stuck to it every day.

Our Sister District community provided more than 20% of her total fundraising haul, and sent all of her text messages and 80% of her postcards. Shanda’s win is proof positive that the more we invest in Mississippi and tough turf, and empower inspiring candidates with enough resources to reach their voters, the more we will win!

“Firsts” Among Sister District 2019 Legislators-Elected

Our Sister District legislators-elect represent incredible firsts. These include:

  • Ghazala Hashmi (VA-SD10) became the first Muslim woman elected to the VA Senate.
  • Hala Ayala (VA-HD51) and Eliabeth Guzman (VA-HD31) were the first Latinas elected, and now re-elected, to the VA House.
  • Alex Askew (VA-HD85) is the first person of color to ever, and only the second Democrat in 45 years, hold this seat.
  • Joshua Cole (VA-HD28) is the first Black person, and the youngest, to ever hold this seat.
  • Shanda is the first Democrat, and first woman, to hold this seat in generations. She unseated the House Republican Floor Leader, who held the seat since 1988.

What this Election Means for 2020

November 5th was a great night for Democrats. Democrat Andy Beshear won the Governor’s race in Kentucky, which was a gigantic win. Flipping both chambers, Democrats gained trifecta control of Virginia — an important bellwether for 2020. And although Democrats didn’t win big statewide in Mississippi, there were rays of light like Shanda Yates, showing us what adequate resources and sustained support to great candidates can do.

Gaining control in VA was gigantic. The state can now pass important legislation to improve school funding, and ratify the ERA! Last night is also a bellwether in terms of how voters are feeling about policy issues and campaign messages ahead of next year’s races.  But let’s not overlook the bright spots in Kentucky and Mississippi. These advances clearly demonstrate that the South is fertile ground for Democratic investment and support. As a movement, we must invest much more in the South, in terms of human and financial resources, candidate training and support. No state, no district, no region is off limits.

More thoughts to come, but one last thought — there are still elections this year! Louisiana is holding statewide and legislative runoff elections on Nov. 16. It’s not too late to donate to great progressive candidates in LA including Dr. Tammy Savoie, and to get involved to make phone calls and knock doors to help get out the vote.

We’re ready to go big in 2020. Help us keep expanding with a donation to Sister District!