The 2017 Wave Continues for Democrats

Brian Stryker
3 min readNov 13, 2017

Last week Democrats had a great result in Virginia, a state that was ripe with pickup opportunities based on our previous analysis of special election results. To put it in context, in the elections preceding the great Democratic waves of 2006 and 2008, Republicans never took anywhere near last week’s hit (pending recounts):

· 2005 election: net 3 Dem pickups, final margin 40 D / 57 R

· 2007 election: net 4 Dem pickups, final margin 44 D / 54 R

· 2017 election: net 15 Dem pickups, final margin 49 D / 51 R

Special elections, an update

Democrats also had a great night across the board, winning gubernatorial, county executive and municipal races across America. Democrats specifically continued a trend in special and off-year legislative elections, as the party:

  1. Won Washington’s 45th State Senate district by 11 points, flipping state (and the West Coast outside Alaska) to total Democratic control.
  2. Won Michigan’s 109th House District in the Upper Peninsula (Obama +8, Trump +4) by 14 points
  3. Won Georgia House seats HD117 (Trump +3) and HD 119 (Trump +8) by 6 points and 14 points respectively, breaking the GOP supermajority in the Georgia House of Representatives (Zac and I have been believers for years in Democratic opportunities in Georgia)
  4. Picked up a net 3 legislative seats in already-blue New Jersey, with a dominant 18-point victory for the Democratic Senate President in an Obama/Trump district in a $20 million race. NJ now joins WA as a state where Democrats fully control state government.

All of these results portend great things for Democrats across the board consistent with our earlier writing on special elections.

A Look at Virginia Results

Virginia is specifically useful for gauging the Trump backlash. The Virginia delegates’ campaign arm smartly focused heavily on GOP-held districts won by Hillary Clinton, as the state had 17 of those seats up for election. Democrats went 14–3 in them and trail in one more by 12 votes (pending a recount):

That is a sea change from 2015, when Democrats of course went 0–17 in those districts. The margins should terrify Republicans too, including:

  1. The thumping their incumbents took in HD32 (20-point loss) and HD67 (26-point loss)
  2. The beating they took in the HD2 (20-point loss) and HD42 (11-point loss), both open seats which are becoming more common for them at the federal level. 21 Congressional Republicans have retired including Frank LoBiondo (NJ) and Ted Poe (TX) on Nov 7, hours before the 2017 wave hit.
  3. The three GOP holds were by less than 5 points, leaving them susceptible in 2019 to a minor shift in the environment (or a recount).

What it Could Mean for 2018

Federally, there are 23 Congressional districts won by Clinton and held by Republicans. Three Republicans in them are already not running for re-election (Dave Reichert, Martha McSally, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) — Reichert and Ros-Lehtinen to leave elected life, and McSally to run for also-retiring Republican Jeff Flake’s seat. If Democrats replicated their Virginia performance in Congressional races next year and went 20–3 in those 23 districts — similar to the 14–3 result in Virginia — they would only need 4 additional seats to take the US House.

Additionally there is only one Virginia House district that flipped from Obama (2012) to Trump (2016), the House Speaker’s seat (HD28). In that seat, Democrats are only 47 votes short of victory and facing a re-count. Democrats also won and Obama/Trump open seat in Michigan and picked up two Trump-held seats in Georgia, so this was not solely a good night in Clinton Country.

There are far more Congressional Republicans in Obama/Trump districts (12) including retiring New Jerseyan Frank LoBiondo. Democrats would take the House by winning just a third of these on top of Clinton/GOP districts, many of which look very similar to Michigan’s HD109 where Democrats romped on Tuesday. An upcoming special election in Northern/Western Wisconsin’s SD10 will be another good test of how deep this rural Midwestern wave reaches, given it’s a district where Obama narrowly lost but Trump cruised to victory.

There is no doubt the results of 2017 on November 7 and prior to it indicate the House is in play, much less numerous state legislatures around the country.



Brian Stryker

Democratic pollster at ALG Research, founder of ALG Chicago office. All opinions are my own and should be yours too.