The power and importance of the Black vote was on display Election Day, as heavy turnout swept Democrats into office—from gubernatorial races to municipal contests. While official turnout figures were not immediately available based on race, Black voters were a key to the Democrats’ successful night.
All eyes were on the Virginia gubernatorial race, in which many analysts said the Black vote would be pivotal to victory for the Democrats. According to The Washington Post, turnout in Virginia was the highest in 20 years for a gubernatorial race that ended in triumph for the Democratic governor-elect Ralph Northam.
The Trump effect—the president’s embrace of White nationalists and attack on President Obama’s legacy—likely compelled more Black voters to the polls. In 2016, Black voter turnout declined for the first time in 20 years for a presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. Low turnout last year was a contributing factor to Trump’s victory, after two presidential races when Black voters rallied behind Obama.
High turnout in the 2017 election was a key to Democrat Justin Fairfax winning Virginia’s lieutenant gubernatorial race—making him only the second African American to win a statewide office in Virginia, since L. Douglas Wilder won that same post before going on to become governor. Fairfax beat Republican Jill Vogel who embraced Trump’s positions in her campaign.
Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Melvin Carter won the mayoral race, beating out a field of 10 candidates to become the city’s first Black mayor.