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After special elections, Democrats have new reasons to celebrate

For Democrats, yesterday's congressional special election was a historic breakthrough, but it wasn't the only result that brought a smile to their faces.


Democrats were cautiously optimistic about the congressional special election in Virginia’s 4th district, and for good reason: It’s an area that’s earned a reputation as a “blue” district, and the party nominated a popular local legislator.

But as the dust clears on the race, I think it’s safe to say the results exceeded the party’s expectations. My MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained soon after the race was called:

Democrats have made history in Virginia, with Jennifer McClellan becoming the state’s first Black woman elected to Congress, NBC News projects. McClellan won her special election Tuesday against Republican Leon Benjamin, who is also Black, in Virginia’s 4th District. The vacancy was created when Rep. Don McEachin died of cancer shortly after he won a fourth term in November.

It’s always worth celebrating breakthroughs like these, and the fact that McClellan will be the first Black woman to ever represent the commonwealth in Congress is a historic development to be proud of. It’s also of interest that on Capitol Hill, the Republican majority’s margin over Democrats just got a little smaller.

But it wasn’t the only detail that brought a smile to Democrats’ faces as the results came in.

Consider the congresswoman-elect’s margin of victory: While the late Rep. McEachin routinely won this district by about 30 points, McClellan appears to be on track to win by over 45 points.

What’s more, this wasn’t the only such victory in yesterday’s races. There was also a state Senate special election in Kentucky, where Democrat Cassie Chambers Armstrong won with 77% of the vote, outpacing the party’s recent performance in the area.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Democrat Chuck Grassie won a state House special election yesterday, defeating his Republican rival by 12 points, also exceeding the party’s recent performance in the local district.

To be sure, none of these results tipped any partisan scales: Democrats are still in the minority in the U.S. House, the Kentucky state Senate, and the New Hampshire state House.

But the party defied the historical pattern and fared well in the 2022 midterm elections in the fall, and there’s nothing in this week’s results to suggest the winds have shifted in Republicans’ direction.