RICHMOND, Va. First the bad news – Ron Villanueva, the first Filipino American to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates lost in the Nov. 7 statewide elections. The good news – he was defeated by neophyte Kelly Convirs-Fowler, whose grandfathers are Filipinos, who was part of a Democratic “blue wave” that’s swept the three top Commonwealth posts and are now on the brink of wrestling control of the lower chamber.
Fowler, 36, ran only for the first time for elective office and upset Villanueva, the four-term Republican incumbent, 53 vs 46 percent, for the 21st District seat which covers Virginia Beach and the other large Fil-Am enclaves in the Hampton Roads region.
Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring won as Virginia Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively, behind an unexpected surge of voters in the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions. The race between Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie, which polling suggested would be tight, turned into a rout by Virginia standards – the eight percent spread was bigger than Hillary Clinton’s edge over Pres. Donald Trump in 2016 and outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s four years ago.
Some viewed the “blue wave” as repudiation of Pres. Trump’s brand of politics.
An article in AsAmNews quoted Fowler as saying that she brought her daughter with her to the Women’s March the day after Trump inauguration. “After last year’s election, it’s amazing to win and feel like we’re making progress,” said Fowler who was a teacher before becoming a real estate broker.
Women make up half of the U.S. population, Fowler noted, adding, “But they comprise a much smaller percentage of representatives throughout our nation’s statehouses and the U.S. Congress. I am proud to be one of 43 women running for the House of Delegates this year.”
She supports efforts the protect Virginia’s coastal areas from climate change, favors background checks and a waiting period for gun buyers, champions women’s right to choose and equal pay, and vowed to back Medicaid expansion in the Commonwealth.
“Many people I speak with in the 21st District tell me that their healthcare costs are too high, healthcare coverage is too limited, and prescription drugs are too expensive,” she averred. “Turning down federal funds to help the most vulnerable citizens is both inexcusable and economically foolish – especially considering Virginia’s tax dollars are being exported to other states in lieu of helping our own citizens.”
And as a daughter of immigrants, she threw her support squarely behind Dreamers.
A 3rd Fil-Am, Democrat Francis Stevens fell short in the race for the 65th District, bowing to 10-term Del. Lee Ware Jr. But Stevens, a Capitol Police officer, showed political courage in running in the heavily Republican district against a veteran used to winning the seat without an opponent. Stevens was born in the Philippines, grew up in California and moved to Virginia after his wife, a psychologist, took a job at the Central State Hospital.
Democrats picked up at least 15 seats in the House of Delegates and could win more depending on the result of recounts (ongoing as of press-time). Four seats that are the subject of the recount will determine which party will control the House (Republicans have dominated it since 2000).
Republicans lead with 51 seats and Democrats hold 49. Results in the 27th, 28th, 40th and 94th districts are being reviewed because they lie within the 1 percent to qualify for a fully funded recount – Republican candidates are leading in all four districts.
This year’s elections produced some remarkable and historic results. Democrat Danica Roem became the 1st ever openly transgender woman to win a seat in the House (13th district), upsetting incumbent Del. Bob Marshall who once described himself as the “chief homophobe” and sponsored bills to restrict bathrooms transgender people can use and disqualify gay people from serving with Virginia National Guard.
In New Jersey, the Democratic candidate, former US Ambassador Phil Murphy handily beat back Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, succeeding Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Voters in Hoboken chose Ravinder Bhalla, the 1st Sikh mayor to be elected in New Jersey.