Interpretation of the Recent Election Results

Marco DiPierro

The United States Elections were held on November 2nd, where Americans voted to elect various candidates at the state and municipal level in various states and cities. The results were watched closely by voters as the results in 2021 could give an insight on the approval rating of President Joe Biden, and how things will turn out in the 2022 midterm elections. 



This was the most closely watched race by the news: Former Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, was running for his second (non-consecutive, as back to back terms are forbidden in the Virginia constitution) term as governor and faced Glenn Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. Teacher and activist Princess Blanding ran as a third party candidate on a progressive platform. McAullife was favored in most polls at the start, but Youngkin closed the gap later in the race, with the subsequent polling being neck and neck, though most pundits still expected McAullife to win. On election night, Youngkin picked up a big early lead, and although McAuliffe caught up as more results came in, Youngkin still turned out victorious with 50.57% of the vote. Blanding finished with less than 1% of the vote. 


Jamaican-born former Marine and former Virginia House of Delegates member Winsome Sears (R) won the race for lieutenant governor, becoming the first black woman — and first person of Jamaican origin — to win statewide office in Virginia’s history, beating Democrat Hala Ayala. 


In the race for attorney general, Republican candidate Jason Miyares won against incumbent Democrat Mark Herring, becoming the first Cuban-American — and first Hispanic person — to win a statewide office in Virginia.


Republicans also took control of the Virginia House of Delegates, winning 52 seats compared to the Democrats’ 48. 


One of the deciding factors that led to the results in Virginia was education, as Youngkin promoted the idea that parents should have a say in what gets taught, while McAullife didn’t support this idea. The reason why this was so important in Virginia was because the Loudoun County school board, in Loudoun County, Virginia, is ground zero for such debates as the school board has come under scrutiny for ignoring the concerns of parents. 


New Jersey

In New Jersey, incumbent Governor Phil Murphy won reelection, becoming the first Democratic governor to be reelected since 1976. However, this race was still considered an upset as Murphy was expected to easily win by a very large margin, yet on election day, he won with 51.1%, far below what was anticipated. His opponent, Republican Jack Ciattarelli, had also led throughout most of the count and was only overtaken very late into the race.


Democrats also retained control of the state legislature, but lost some seats, including an upset victory when state Senator Stephen Sweeney (D), the president of the New Jersey State Senate, and one of the most powerful politicians in New Jersey, was defeated by Edward Durr (R), a truck driver who spent just $2,300 on his campaign. The surprising result is attributed to the fact that local voters in the area believed that the state government no longer had their concerns in mind, and that their politicians were instead focused on power. Sweeney, who was one of the more important leaders in the New Jersey state government, was unlucky enough to be the one representing their district in the state Senate, and so was voted out.


Municipal Ballots

In Seattle, municipal elections were also held, with moderate candidates triumphing over progressives. Moderate candidate Bruce Harrell won the mayoral election against progressive Lorena Gonzales, replacing retiring mayor Jenny Durkan and becoming the city’s first Asian-American mayor. Meanwhile, registered Republican and pro-police candidate Ann Davison won the election for city attorney against progressive candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, becoming the first woman in Seattle’s history to win the office. 


In many other cities, such as Minneapolis, a ballot initiative to replace the police department was struck down by voters. The ballot initiative would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety. The Department of Public Safety was supposed to take a “comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” and “could” have a small group of police officers “if necessary”. The supporters of the initiative argued that it was necessary to stop police brutality. Many leaders in the Minneapolis area supported the initiative such as Progressive Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Minnesota state Attorney General Keith Ellison, and many progressive mayoral candidates who were challenging incumbent moderate mayor Jacob Frey, who during the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020, stated that he did not support dismantling the police department. 


The results were watched closely since Minneapolis was the city where George Floyd died, which sparked the BLM movement and popularized the idea of police reform. Another reason for the attention is that a ballot initiative like this passing could have encouraged similar police reform laws and referendums in other cities and eventually across the entire nation. In the end, the vote failed, however, the vote didn’t follow any racial lines, with many black people supporting the “No” vote. Mayor Jacob Frey was also reelected with 53% of the vote, and another ballot initiative in Minneapolis (which actually succeeded) changed the city’s government to transfer more executive powers to the mayor, which were previously held by the city council.



In conclusion, the results of the 2021 elections were a big win for conservatives and moderates, and were a disappointing result for progressives and liberals. Some scholars and pundits believe that the results in 2021 can help us see what the results will be like in the 2022 midterms, a statement supported by many Republicans who want to see a “red wave” in 2022. Although the election results do tell us that there will almost certainly be an increased Republican turnout in 2022, the election in Virginia alone cannot be used as a bellwether for the midterm election, as there is no pattern or correlation when looking at Virginia’s past elections after a presidential year, compared to the midterm elections that followed the subsequent year. 


In the end, if Democrats wish to keep control of Congress and other governorships up for election in 2022, it does still appear that they will have to rethink their election strategy. Democratic candidates will have to appear more moderate so as to not scare away voters, and they’ll also have to encourage more of their supporters to go out and vote in order to match the expected increased Republican turnout.