Earlier this month, I attended a luncheon presented by the Virginia Society of Association Executives in Richmond. The keynote was presented by Dr. Robert Holsworth who currently serves as Managing Principal of DecideSmart. The presentation was captivating and intriguing, presenting the 2019 political landscape of Virginia within the General Assembly.

Below are some of the highlights that I heard:

  • Virginia has historically been a “purple state” meaning that both, Republicans and Democrats, had a reasonable chance to carry the state
  • Virginia has now become “purple” with a heavy “blue tint”
  • Republicans continue to win in rural Virginia as they have been in rural America. In the same way, Democrats are winning in urban Virginia as they have been in urban America.
  • The tilt in Virginia is within the suburbs. These areas in Virginia are leaning hard “blue” as the demographics in these areas is becoming increasingly diverse
  • Republicans are likely concerned in Virginia as they have lost both U.S. Senate seats, a majority of the U.S. House seats, the positions of Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General in Virginia, and control of the Virginia House and Senate has slipped
  • The 2019 elections will be significant in terms of control. Currently, the Virginia House consists of 51 – R; 49 – D and the Virginia Senate is at 21 – R; 19 – D
  • It is predicted that there will be four main areas of focus within the General Assembly: Taxes, Gambling/Betting, Interstate-81, and Redistricting
  • Taxes will be debated and discussed within the purview of the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017
    • This bill lowered income taxes on individuals but raised deductions
    • These cuts are in place for 5 years
    • Sources say that it is estimated that 94% of Americans will not itemize their federal taxes this year because of the increased deductions
    • This means Virginia can do nothing or have its deductions match the federal deductions
    • If you do nothing, Virginia gets a large boost to its bottom line where the Democratic-led Administration has a set of plans that includes giving money back to those with lower income. The Republican Party pitches that the money should go back to the taxpayers.  There is a strong difference in opinion between the two parties in how the money should be used.
  • Historically, gambling and betting in Virginia has not been viewed favorably
    • Success has been seen with the MGM Casino at the National Harbor
    • A prospective entity is interested in constructing a gambling/betting venue in Bristol
    • Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk have also expressed interest in bringing a gambling/betting venue to its area
    • At the end of the day, the amount of economic fruit produced by these venues is hard to turn a blind eye to
  • Interstate 81
    • Many believe I-81 should be expanded to help accommodate the volume of trucks traffic. The question of how to pay for such an endeavor still looms
    • Some have proposed tolls as a source of revenue
    • There is concern for those Virginians who have less financial resources but need to access I-81 routinely. For those, one proposal is to develop a discount rate (let’s say $30/month) that comes with unlimited interstate use.
    • This may work well for those in Southwest Virginia where families typically earn less pay compared to Northern Virginia. But how do legislators who have Northern Virginian constituents respond to that approach when they may pay $30 per day in tolls to use the “Fast Lanes”
  • Redistricting
    • The question is will politicians ever give up their power to have this done independently?
  • The Democrats who won in the Virginia House recently predominantly ran on social equity and advocacy issues. What does silence around running on business and economic development platforms mean for the business climate in Virginia if Democrats take control of the Virginia House and Senate?

What this report says is that there is power in voting.  Regardless of who you vote for or what party you support, exercise your right to vote.  It makes a difference.

Corey Clayborne, AIA
Executive Vice President
AIA Virginia