RICHMOND—The deepening crisis for Virginia Democrats—tinged by race and sex—could ripple through high-stakes legislative elections this fall but might be dwarfed by other political distractions, analysts say.
In November, Virginians decide all 140 legislative seats, determining control of the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate, both of which have slender Republican majorities.
“My mind automatically goes to the fall elections,” said Quentin Kidd, a political analyst at Christopher Newport University.
“Nine months is a long time. We’re going to have three dozen other scandals that might or might not involve Virginia but capture our attention.”
Kidd said the calculation for African–American voters, alarmed by reports of racial insensitivity and alleged sexual misconduct engulfing the state’s top three officials, all Democrats, could be a “Machiavellian decision”—to support scandal-scarred Democrats who, at least, have a history of supporting black aspirations and interests.
Mark Rozell, a dean at George Mason University and longtime observer of Virginia politics, said Democrats’ zero-tolerance stance on race and gender—intended to sharpen the contrast with President Donald Trump’s disputed personal behavior—is becoming an obstacle for their party.
“Politically, I think they’re getting hammered by their own standard,” said Rozell.
Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, tweeted Wednesday afternoon: “Everyone connected to @UVA should be embarrassed that AG Herring’s blackface was here. I know I am. And my guess is this wasn’t an isolated incident.”
He added in a follow-up tweet: “ ‘Isolated incident’ for Herring, perhaps, but not for @UVA. A certain element here has long thought blackface was amusing and acceptable. I favor automatic explulsion for any student engaging in this disgraceful conduct.”
The continuing embarrassment for Democrats could ease pressure, somewhat, on Republicans accused in the Trump era of turning a blind eye to racial intolerance and sexual misconduct.
Rozell said Republicans can say: “Stop pointing your finger at us—clean your own house.”