Southern Parties and Elections: Studies in Regional Political Change

By Robert P. Steed; Laurence W. Moreland et al. | Go to book overview

Table 9.5. Party Competition in the Virginia Senate, 1971-1991
CandidatesParty competitive districts
Election
Year
Dem.Rep.Party contestsTotalDem. WonRep. won
1971392726422
19754020202--2
1979392625954
1983382321651
1987362319743
19913830281358
Note: Status is as of the completion of the general election in the year indicated.
Source: Compiled from reports of the state Board of Elections.

Concluding Observations

The growth of the Republican Party to competitive status in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly has been mostly a gradual affair marked by occasional "breakthrough" elections ( 1969 and 1993 in the house; 1991 in the senate). In neither chamber has there been close competition across even a majority of districts; the real battles in each election rarely involve more than twelve to fifteen house districts and six to eight senate districts (thus making the senate the more competitive body, given the differences in size). In the senate, Republicans have advanced about equally by defeating incumbents and by capturing open seats; in the house, GOP gains have come more often through the capture of open seats.

I found little evidence that either gubernatorial coattails or midterm fall- off were at work in House of Delegates elections, and of course they are irrelevant for the senate, given its election schedule. Independent candidacies have been much more frequent in the house and have resulted in some successes there, but the house total of fifteen Independents elected in 1973 gives a misleading picture, for they quickly faded with little disturbance of the preexisting partisan alignments.

I have not tried to measure the influence of the civil rights revolution and the reapportionment revolution on the partisan balance in the General Assembly, treating them rather as part of the context within which narrower and more manageable questions can be explored. There can be no doubt, however, that both played a major role in breaking up the Democrats' near monopoly of seats in the General Assembly. In Virginia, as elsewhere, the two revolutions turned out to be highly interactive, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Republicans, of course, from the outset saw the potential for their party in both revolutions (some perhaps saw the dangers as well). The

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