Republican voters say party needs to do some ‘soul searching’ after losing power

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- One day after losing their majority in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly, Republican voters said the party needs to do some “soul searching” for how to best move forward as the minority party.

Hot tubs and spas are symbols of complete relaxation, but Gail McDaniel, owner of Swimming Pools, Billiards, and Spas in Chesterfield, did not feel relaxed as election results began to roll in Tuesday night.

McDaniel supported a straight Republican ticket at the polls.

"I was worried,” McDaniel said.

Gail McDaniel

The Chesterfield resident said she personally knows several Republican candidates who won re-election races Tuesday, like Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Carrie Coyner (R-Chesterfield). McDaniel said as a small business owner, who spends more time doing regulatory paperwork than with customers, her views align with Republican candidates.

"They know what the business people are up against all the time, and they know our concerns,” McDaniel said.

Although Republicans won a majority of their seats in Central Virginia, Democrats scored major wins statewide and come January will control the executive and legislative branches of Virginia government for the first time since the early 1990s.

Virginia Republican leaders said their focus now turns to becoming a check of the Democrats agenda, which some conservatives worry will be decidedly more liberal than the Virginia Democrats of the previous generation.

"Virginians should expect public policies that look a lot more like the train-wreck that is California than the Virginia of good fiscal management and common-sense conservative governance,” said House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) in a statement Tuesday night.

"Republican policies have kept Virginians safe, prosperous, and free for more than two decades. In the months ahead, Democrats will seek to make good on their extreme agenda. We will fight that agenda at every turn, but with unchecked control of both Houses and a governor still desperately seeking rehabilitation, we will have our work cut out for us.”

During a cabinet meeting and open press event Wednesday morning, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) told his top officials to begin pursuing legislation to increase the minimum wage, decriminalize marijuana, and keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

Chesterfield voter Brendan Lobb said his biggest concern with the new Democratic majority was how far they would go when it comes to gun sales and ownership policies.

"The biggest thing really was second amendment rights, really. It seems to be what they've been trying to go after for a while now. It started under President Obama, and states have either followed suit with it, or against it,” Lobb said.

Virginia has experienced a demographic shift over the past decade that gives Democrats a great advantage in the suburban areas of Richmond, Tidewater, and Norther Virginia. Conservative and rural voices feel left out of the conversation following Tuesday’s results, according to Lobb.

Brendan Lobb

"It doesn't feel like it does. We have people that want these things, but just because we don't have the sheer numbers it feels like we're not being represented in the state,” Lobb said.

Lobb said he noticed an enthusiasm gap at his polling place Tuesday and think Virginia Republicans need to identify a cohesive rallying cry to regain relevance at the state level.

"We have to voter turnout and I definitely didn’t see that at the polls,” Lobb said. "You see a lot of the liberal or democratic people coming out to vote. I mean they’re not happy with President Trump, and they’re going to make their voices heard.”

Back at McDaniel’s spa and billiard store, the longtime Republican voter said her fingers are crossed that her party will still carry some kind of weight at the State Capitol.

"We're where we are now, but if they could all work together, that's my hope,” McDaniel said of both parties.

When asked if she was confident that would happen, McDaniel said, “not very” and chuckled.

Multiple Republican lawmakers in Central Virginia who won their elections Tuesday night declined to comment Wednesday.

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