What Does a Localized Blue Wave Tell Us About 2019 Local Elections?

The hope of a “blue wave” in VA-05 tantalized many locals this past fall.  For those on the ground on Charlottesville and Albemarle, it seemed as if Leslie Cockburn had real momentum and could topple Republican Denver Riggleman despite the heavily gerrymandered district.  That did not happen.  However, the results indicate that the local “pulse” felt by many was spot on.

At first glance, the results show a very clear picture.  Every single local precinct saw an increase in democratic voting for this congressional election (compared to 2016).  Four of the six local precincts that voted for Tom Garrett, voted for Leslie Cockburn, leaving only Scottsville and Monticello as voting Republican in the 2018 congressional race.  The precinct minimum increase in Democratic votes was Agnor-Hurt at 7.59% and the maximum increase was in Veneble (27.09%).  Precincts surrounding the university showed the large increase in support, generally.  However, the dramatic increase within Hollymead is worth noting as well (from a mere 4.85% win for Dittmar to a 22.88% win for Cockburn).  I used a % increase instead of total votes, in part, because 2016 was a presidential election and 2018 was a midterm election.  To give a sense of the raw vote increase, see below the three precincts with the largest increase in Democratic voters (by %) calculated the increase in raw votes compared to the last VA-05 midterm election.  You’ll note that its a lot of votes in terms of local elections but a drop in the bucket within the larger congressional district.





The interactive map below allows you to view all local precincts and the change in Democrat voting between 2016 and 2018.  We’ve excluded those precincts that changed in Albemarle for the 2018 election.

Can this “localized wave” tell us anything about the 2019 local elections?  Will these trends hold for the 2019 local elections?  With both the House of Delegates and City Council/Board of Supervisors having primaries coming up, what impact will this local wave have?  Can university-centered turnout increases be maintained?  Can those precincts, relatively small in size, begin to wield more influence?

Technical notes: Election data comes from the Virginia Department of Elections.  Precinct boundary shapefiles come from each locality directly, Charlottesville on its open data portal and Albemarle on its website.  Maps were created with ARCGIS Online after using R to merge data files with precinct .shp files.

Boundary note: As noted above, I chose to remove Albemarle precincts that were either new or modified to avoid apples/oranges comparisons.

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