- Both houses of Virginia’s General Assembly are under Democratic’ leadership, after the party held control of the commonwealth’s senate and flipped control of the House of Delegates in elections Tuesday. Despite losing a senate seat, Democrats still hold a 21-19 majority in the chamber and took a 51-48 majority in the house.
- The election results impact Republican Gov. Glen Youngkin’s plans to propose a 15-week abortion plan and undo former Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam’s climate policies, placing both proposals on hold.
- The results send a message to Virginia-based auto manufacturers that stricter emissions standards enacted by Northam are here to stay and to all state employers that more abortion protections could be on the way.
Democrats taking control of the Virginia legislature have likely scrambled Youngkin’s plans to make changes to the commonwealth’s environmental and social policies. After flipping the governorship and House of Delegates to Republicans’ hands in 2021, Youngkin has looked to undo key Northam climate policies, like adapting California’s strict vehicle emissions standards.
The governor also led the party to campaign on a 15-week abortion ban — with exceptions for incest, rape, and the life of the mother — that could have served as a playbook for a middle-ground Republican abortion restriction, had it succeeded.
The election wins should signal to auto manufacturers that Virginia will stay aligned with California’s vehicle emissions standards, adopted by a 2021 commonwealth law and signed by Northam. California’s standards, which will go into effect in 2025, will require all new cars sold in the state to be electric past 2035.
Youngkin tried to lead a repeal of the law in 2022, but a Virginia Senate committee killed the effort. The law doesn’t apply to existing cars or used vehicle sales, but will apply to the commonwealth’s $2.5 billion new car and truck industry. Major auto manufacturers in the state include Volkswagen Group, whose North American headquarters is in Herndon, Virginia; Volvo, which operates its largest truck manufacturing facility in Dublin, Virginia; and Mack Trucks, which creates all its heavy duty class 6 and 7 trucks in Roanoke, Virginia.
Abortion has proved to be a contentious issue in the last two election cycles, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Access to healthcare is also a key concern for employees and employers alike. In the wake of abortion protections being stricken and states’ enacting strict abortion bans, multiple major U.S. companies — including tech giant Amazon, who opened its HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, this May, and consulting firm Accenture, which also has an Arlington office — announced they would cover employee travel for the medical procedure if they lived in a state with a ban.
The Pentagon, also based right outside the nation’s capital in Arlington, makes the area a hotspot for defense contractors like General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman and consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte. Additionally, the commonwealth is home to energy giant Dominion, food manufacturers Nestlé and Mars, and banks Navy Federal and Capital One. State restrictions on the procedure — currently protected through 26 weeks with exceptions in the third trimester if the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother — could have created a headache for corporations in the state. Instead, the recent wins could allow Democrats in the General Assembly to build enough momentum to begin the process of giving voters a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion rights, like one that passed in Ohio this week.
“Abortion is potentially one of the most difficult topics in Virginia and around the nation,” Youngkin said Wednesday. “My hope was, is, continues to be that we can find a way to come together as Virginians and lead.”