Where there’s a congregation of Democrats, there’s a blow-up Donald Trump Baby.
You know the one. It’s orange, angry-faced and adorned with a diaper and strands of blonde chest hairs.
Tuesday night’s Democratic Joint Caucus watch party at the Hilton was no different.
In the hours before the results come in, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger effortlessly throws her head back to every joke told as if they were all part of a John Mulaney comedy stand-up special. Spanberger’s relatability and excitement to speak to Richmonders make you dimly forget she’s a politician representing Virginia’s 7th District. She’s a natural.
And so is the Trump Baby, who keeps floating around the crowd, lingering ever-so-slightly to the who’s who of Virginia Democrats, as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense marks its spot on the tables closest to the chicken tenders and guacamole offerings.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring make their way through the crowd as the conversations switch from niceties to the real reason everyone’s here: Will Virginia turn blue?
Spoiler alert: it did.
But prior to Virginia’s historic flipping of both the Senate and House of Delegates to a Democratic stronghold for the first time in 26 years, reporters forehead veins are on the verge of collapse.
As they furiously type in their designated corners, the Virginia Department of Elections website is down. Results are contradicting each other and journalists on Twitter rush into a frenzy as the dreaded deadline is near and no one can confirm what in the hell is going on in Chesterfield County — a location that could see Sheila Bynum-Coleman unseat the nearly 30-year Republican incumbent Kirk Cox in Colonial Heights.
All the while, Trump Baby is off socializing before attempting to appear in the background of Mayor Levar Stoney’s TV interview.
The Democratic Upsets
Disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive list
Once the IT Help gurus got it together, Chesterfield County comes in. Democrat and gun violence reform advocate Sheila Bynum-Coleman lost. Around 9 p.m., Kirk Cox takes the stage at the GOP election night party — at the Tractor Museum no less — to declare a win before swiftly pulling an Elvis Presley and leaving the building.
In Senate District 11, the battle of the Amandas isn’t a close one. Republican Amanda Chase defeats Democrat Amanda Pohl for a second term just over a month after being notified by the Chesterfield GOP that she was being removed from the county party following a series of controversies. In July, she took to Facebook to say “It’s those who are naive and unprepared who get raped,” before later saying the post was taken out of context.
“I feel like we as Democrats have some reflection to do on that one,” social activist Chelsea Higgs-Wise says before emphasizing it’s time to now put in the work. Shortly after, Higgs-Wise rolls her eyes at the mention of Joe Morrissey’s Senate District 16 win.
Soon all eyes are on Senate District 12, where early results say that Del. Debra Rodman has won over Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant and misinformation leads people to think Dunnavant conceded. By late Tuesday night, with all 62 precincts reporting, Dunnavant (R) declares victory. The 12th District had been Republican since 1988.
The Historic Wins
Trump Baby seems like a fan of celebrating, since every time cheers erupt, you can see his hair bobbing around the crowd.
“Another One Bites the Dust” plays in the background before Ghazala Hashmi, the first Muslim woman to take the Virginia state senate, takes the stage after winning against Republican incumbent Glen Sturtevant for the Senate District 10 seat.
“I guess you’ve proven that Ghazala is truly an American name!” she says.
Del. Danica Roem wins re-election in the 13th District, making her the first openly transgender person to be elected to the House of Delgates — twice in a row.
There’s also a new sheriff in town. Democrat Alissa Gregory is the first woman to ever take the coveted Henrico County sheriff spot. She won with more than 55% of the vote.
And last but far from least, Virginia turns blue. Capturing the Senate and the House, means that Democrats will be in control when the next cycle of redistricting starts in 2021, which could help them stay in power for the next decade. When Gov. Ralph Northam takes the mic, he leads a chant that results in a muddy “Flipped! Blue!” between participants.
“The NRA should start looking for another state to call home,” says John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety. The National Rifle Association is based in Fairfax.
Despite Del. Lashresce Aird challenging House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn for House Speaker, whoever wins the contest will be the first female Speaker of the House in Virginia.
After whether Virginia would turn blue was answered — the next question from most is what now? The historic flip of power could pave the way for long stymied bills, including the polarizing issue of gun control in Virginia.
According to Gov. McAuliffe and other Democrats in the room, people want to see change not only involving gun control measures but also investment in education, teacher and minimum wage pay raises and the Equal Rights Amendment passed.
“This is a big precursor to 2020,” McAuliffe says. “When I got elected six years ago, we had only 32 Democrats in the House of Delegates. We’re a different state today ... People see Virginia moving in the right direction.” Gov. Northam would later say in a cabinet meeting that priorities looking forward will also include the decriminalization of marijuana and the expansion of job training opportunities in high school.
Looking toward the 2020 presidential election, Del. Jeff Bourne, who represents District 71, says that tonight provides the country a look at where the country really stands, as well as a reminder to hold elected officials accountable.
“Folks wants results and solutions to major problems,” Bourne says. “Like how do we reduce gun violence? How do we protect and keep healthcare affordable?”
By now, the Donald Trump baby is wrinkled and partially deflated. His infamous hair part droops slightly. But the music is still playing: “Changes” by David Bowie continues the Democrats’ punny humor.
Before the night ends, the woman who’s been holding her phone up recording on Facebook live for the past three hours, despite only having two people viewing her feed, is bumped by someone who yells, “Suck a fat one Kirk Cox!”
A woman to my right just realizes the Democrats now control both the House and Senate and begins yelling before heading home. “Game on, baby! Game on!”