Breaking down the Election

So today was the first major election since President Donald Trump became President. In the states of Virginia and New Jersey, they held races for Governor. Virginia also held their races for the House of Delegates, the lower house in Virginia. Other places in the country had a variety of local races. From New York City to New Hampshire, Georgia, Utah, and Washington.

In short, the Democrats had a great night. Winning the Governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, and winning every major election coast to coast with the exception of UT-3 where they had a special election to replace Republican Jason Chaffetz, which was an expected GOP hold anyhow.  The Democrats also have flipped seats in Georgia, Washington, Virginia (more on that in a moment), New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania. this is a pretty big election for the Democrats… even if it wasn’t nationwide.

This election is always interesting because a lot of pundits will use these results to begin predicting the 2018 midterm elections, where the US House of Representatives and 1/3 of the US Senate will be up for re-election. In many ways, they are correct to do this, as previous elections have seen these results help guide the mood going into 2018.

So in the spirit of reading the political tea leaves. I have done a little research into the Virginia House of Delegates Races to see if we can see some trends in the results.

Now I will fully admit here, I am not a statistician. I am “ok” with numbers… as long as there isn’t too much crazy stuff in it. However, I think these numbers speak well to the mood of Virginia, and potentially, the mood of the Country. So… let’s dig in.

Below is a table of the Contested Virginia Delegate Seats, and comparing the 2013 election with tonight’s election. I looked at the Margin of Victory in both races, the difference (swing) between the two, as well as the Turnout Percentage.

VA Election

I want to point out a few things in the numbers.

1) Firstly, the Republicans enjoyed a 66-34 Split in the House coming into this election. This was done in part because of the GOP Redistricting the state in 2011 embedding their advantage for the rest of the decade. IWhile several seats are uncalled at the moment, there is a real chance that the House will be split 50/50.

2) The Swing within the state is remarkable, with almost every seat seeing a swing to the Democrats. In seats where the Republican was safe, the swing seemed to be lower, but time and time again, there was a surprising swing towards the Democrats. The Average Swing was towards the Democrats by 13.1%. If this is duplicated in 2018, the House would flip to the Democrats with room to spare. Also, this is in line with the latest polls giving the Democrats an 11 point lead over Republicans in the House elections next year. Virginia proves that the gap is real, especially since Virginia is a battleground state. These should be scary numbers for any Republican running next year, regardless of where.

3) Turnout was up across the state. While looking at 2013, the turnout was up by 18.7% statewide, with some districts having over 30% increased voter turnout over 2013.

4) There is something weird in Delegate Seat 3. Not only did it buck the trend and the Republican gained in his margin of Victory, but turnout was down in this seat, which was the only seat to see turnout was lower.  I am a bit dubious about this, and I want to ask some questions as to what has happened.

What is interesting here was that the Democrats had a 13% swing, yet they still only got 50 Seats in the House of Delegates. This is the power of Gerrymandering. To overcome this, there needed to be a larger than expected Voter turnout. This is crucial to understand why it is so hard to overcome a gerrymandered district. in 2011, the GOP set up the current map so that they would have a built-in advantage to keep on winning. It looks like voter sentiment has turned against them, and now the Democrats look poised to turn the tables in 2021 (Unless the Supreme Court interferes… which another post for another time).

So what does this mean for 2018? While you cannot make a direct correlation between the results tonight and what will happen a year from now, it is important to see the state of the game moving forward: The Republicans are vulnerable. Several of these seats were won in surprising fashion. For example, in Delegate seat 13, Arch Conservative Bob Marshall lost his seat to Danica Roem, a Transgender woman who ented the race after Marshall tried, and failed to pass an Anti-Trans Bathroom bill. Roem becomes the first openly Trans lawmaker in the country, which… coming from a fairly conservative area of the state, is pretty epic. These races indicate that the Democrats are more enthusiastic about voting, are coming out more in the vote, and more importantly, winning and creating the momentum going into 2018.

Also hidden in the election results, two more GOP House Reps have announced they are retiring. This only adds to the list of other vacating GOP House members going into 2018, and generally, you don’t retire when your team is winning. I suspect that there will be more retirements between now and the end of the year.

The reaction from the Republicans has been all over the map. Donald Trump and Breitbart have both stated that the Virginia GOP candidate for Governor Ed Gillespie, a Republican moderate, did not align himself with Trump and therefore lost the race. Breitbart was quick to label Gillespie as a “Swamp Thing” and quickly blamed him and his lack of support for Trump to be the reason he lost. However, they have glossed over the massive losses in the Virginia Delegate races. Gillespie should not have depressed the GOP bote that much, and further, many Delegates lost by greater swings than Gillespie. This should be sending warning signals to the GOP in general.

In other races across the country, the same story played out: Higher turnout than 2013 and surprising victories by Democrats. In Georgia, two special elections for state seats flipped to the Democrats, both of which were fairly surprising. Pundits are wondering what this will mean for the Special election for Alabama Senate slated for December 12. While I think that Republican Roy Moore is still the Favorite for the election, it does give the Democrats some hopes of flipping Attorney General’s Jeff Sessions old seat over the Democrats during a crucial election year.

What this will do to the Tax Reform Bill currently in the House is up for debate, but as the Republican Majority heads into an election year, they may not be seeing so much of a Wave against them, but rather a Tsunami, and right now, Donald Trump looks to be an Anchor around their feet, dooming far more than they expect.

The Hillary Trail: Week 7 – Heading South

Hello again! After my last big test, I have taken the last two weeks off to recuperate as well as reassess my plans for the Hillary Trail. The good news is that I have decided to continue forward with my plans and I am super excited about the next phase of my training.

The two day test for me was a lot of fun, but it highlighted a couple of things that I have been concerned about: my general fitness. Overall, my walking and hiking is doing great, but the big unknown for me is what to do when I am carrying an extra 15kgs on my back when I am hiking. My knee acted up when I pushed myself pretty hard. That first day, I did almost 19kms, and I suspect that was the reason why I ended up with a sore knee: I decided the first time with a full pack, I was walking 30ish kms. Not a good idea.

So, for this next phase of my training, I am going to switch it up a little bit I think.

The start date for the Hillary is 8 weeks from today. (Oh god…) So, I am going to start planning this phase and make sure that by January 2nd, I am ready and able to do the entire trek.

This weekend, I plan on going South to the Hunua Ranges. This is an area south of Auckland, about the same distance for me as the Waitakere Ranges. Before I started training for the Hillary, I did the Massey Track/Cossey Gorge Track which was a lot of fun. This time, however, I will be heading slightly south of there, and I will be doing two tracks.

While not as intense as the tracks in the Waitakeres, I think this is a good start after two weeks off, and to get a fairly good feel for my knee. I suspect that I will be fine with the walk, but I don’t want to overextend myself the first time I go out after a break. There are some steep spots, which is good, and apparently, there is a slip in the road at one point, so I will need to scramble over some loose rock. That actually sounds a bit exciting. The walk should be about 10kms, but it may come out to be a bit more. It also looks like I will be crossing a stream a few times, so that sounds a bit exciting!

For this walk, I will be taking my day pack, but I may bring some stuff to give it some weight. I am doing this mostly for conditioning as I build up for the Hillary.

Beyond this weekend, I am looking at a couple of milestone events leading up to the Hillary that I want to accomplish so that I feel the most comfortable heading into the 6 day tramp.

Camping weekend number 2

The first thing I want to do is another overnight camping trip on my own. With Labour Day weekend going well, despite the knee. I want to give it another go in terms of making sure I can carry a pack for two days without hurting myself in some way. I am targeting the weekend of December 2nd to do this. And I am considering doing a camp in the Hunua Ranges. Not that I don’t love to Waitakeres, I just want to make sure I do not exhaust all the cool places before I do the Hillary. I am looking at the East Hunua Ranges, and I hope to nail down the route in the next week or two.

Tongariro Crossing

The weekend before Christmas, I am looking to do the Tongariro Crossing. A friend and his Fiance will be in the country over that time and asked me if I wanted to do it with them, and upon thinking about it, I think it would be a fantastic time. It is a 19.5km walk, and it is definitely a challenge. Doing it two days Before Christmas, and a week and a half before the Hillary is a good chance for me to give my legs and fitness a final workout. I will be carrying a day pack, given the distance, but I suspect it will be a good walk regardless. Also, seeing “Mount Doom” is kinda a bucket list item. I will not scale the mountain… this time, but I suspect that I will be making another trip there later in the summer, or maybe next summer. Hopefully, I can nail down this soon, and be able to have a great day with it.

Boxing Day Adventure

This is not set in stone, but since I will be spending the Christmas holiday in the Coromandel Penisula, I am considering doing a Boxing Day Tramp somewhere in the area. I have done some walking in the region before, but I may do something a little more challenging for Boxing Day. This is the one I am least sure about. Given that the Tongariro will only be 2-3 days before, I may be worn out. However, given that I need to do 6 straight days of walking, I need to see if I can handle big walks over a short amount of time. I need to give some thought to this before I make a decision. Luckily, it is well within my holiday period so I can decide a bit closer to the time.

And that is it. For the next 8 weeks, I look to do a lot of walking, and I am really excited about it. On Thursday, I plan to book my campsites for the Hillary and make my decision on the Hunua Ranges Camping trip. Until then, I will let you know how it goes!