What to Know in Washington: Virginia Race Hints at 2022 Midterms

Democratic control is on the line in Virginia and New Jersey, as the only two U.S. states holding gubernatorial races this year offer the first major electoral tests of Joe Biden’s presidency. On Capitol Hill, Democrats will continue negotiations on Biden’s economic agenda as they work to set votes as soon as this week.

Here’s what Bloomberg Government is tracking today.

Congress Agenda:

  • On the Hill, the House is in at noon to consider seven largely bipartisan measures under expedited procedure.
  • The Senate starts at 10 a.m. and continues work on five of Biden’s agency nominations.
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings and markups.

Biden’s Schedule:

  • The president continues his trip to Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 climate summit.
  • Biden will participate at 7:15 a.m. Washington time in a meeting on the Build Back Better World initiative.
  • He’ll deliver remarks at 9 a.m. on the global methane pledge, followed by remarks at 10:30 a.m. at an event on clean technology development.
  • Biden will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m. before departing Scotland at around 6 p.m. to return to Washington.

Virginia Election Offers Hint of 2022 Fight to Control Congress

Virginia’s gubernatorial contest today between Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin will offer the clearest picture yet of how much momentum Republicans have heading into 2022 elections that will decide control of Congress, while Biden struggles to advance his agenda in Washington.

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Glenn Youngkin speaking last night in Leesburg, Va.

Polls show the Virginia contest essentially deadlocked as Democrat McAuliffe’s lead during the summer evaporated along with Biden’s approval ratings. In the final weeks of the campaign, Republican Youngkin, the former co-chief executive officer of the Carlyle Group, has capitalized on voter frustration with national Democrats and local education issues.

Virginia, a state Biden won by 10 percentage points a year ago, is a bellwether for the congressional midterms. A McAuliffe loss would be the biggest omen for Democratic prospects to hold onto their slim majority in Congress.

Longtime Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson said that Virginia is often an “early-warning system” for the party in power as to how it may do in the midterms, especially because of the diversity of the state, which includes rural, suburban and urban areas; military, agriculture and tech workers; and White, Hispanic and Black voters. “Virginia allows you for a dry run of the arguments you’re going to make in the midterms,” Ferguson said. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith.

A Youngkin win would embolden Republicans, who need a net gain of five seats to win control of the U.S. House and one seat to capture the Senate. But even a narrow McAuliffe victory could presage political headwinds for Democrats next year, especially if Biden’s approval rating remains below 50%, Greg Giroux reports.

  • Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an elections forecaster, yesterday changed its rating for the Virginia governor race to “Leans Republican” from “Leans Democratic,” which the race had been listed as since March.
  • Donald Trump held a tele-rally for Youngkin last night without the candidate, who has been walking a fine line between accepting the endorsements of the former president and not fully embracing him, Mark Niquette reports. Trump held a 10-minute call with former White House Senior Adviser Mercedes Schlapp urging his supporters to vote for Youngkin on Tuesday, saying “our relationship is great” and “this is your chance to break the grip the radical left has over the commonwealth.”
  • Youngkin used his final campaign rally to reiterate attacks against McAuliffe on education. “We decide that we’re going to take the power of our children’s education,” he told a crowd of several thousand in Loudoun County, a Washington suburb. His audience responded with loud cheers when he promised to “end critical race theory,” even though that is not taught in Virginia’s public schools. Read more from Emma Kinery.
Terry McAuliffe following remarks last night in Fairfax, Va.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Virginia election is one of several taking place across the U.S. today. In New York City’s mayoral race, Eric Adams, a Democrat and the Brooklyn borough president, is heavily favored against Republican Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels anti-crime group. In Seattle, Lorena Gonzalez faces Bruce Harrell in the city’s mayoral race. And in Boston, polls show Michelle Wu with a wide lead over Annissa Essaibi George. No matter who wins, the city will have its first female mayor of color.

In New Jersey, incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) faces Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli. While polls show Murphy well ahead, both political parties are also looking to the Garden State for clues to be gleaned for 2022. And Biden also waded into a special congressional election in Ohio on Monday, backing Democrat Allison Russo over Mike Carey, a Republican endorsed by former President Trump in a district that favors Republicans.

Read more:

Election Day to Determine Three House Seats: Voters in two Ohio congressional districts and one Florida district head to the polls today to fill vacancies in the House, Giroux reports.

  • In the 11th District, a Black-majority Democratic bastion in and around Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown is overwhelmingly favored to replace Marcia Fudge, who’s now Biden’s housing secretary. In a first, Brown would become the third consecutive Black woman to represent the district, following Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D) and Fudge.
  • In the 15th District, a Republican-leaning area of south-central Ohio, Republican Mike Carey is favored against Democratic state Rep. Allison Russo. Carey, a coal industry lobbyist, ran as an ally of former president Trump.
  • And in Florida’s 20th District, a Black-majority swath of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, the winner of an 11-candidate Democratic primary will be a shoo-in to win the Jan. 11 special election and succeed the late Alcee Hastings (D). Democratic candidates include health-care executive Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Broward County commissioners Barbara Sharief and Dale Holness, state Sen. Perry Thurston, and state Reps. Omari Hardy and Bobby DuBose.

Pelosi Presses for Vote on Biden Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) aims to push forward with plans to vote this week on the two bills that comprise President Joe Biden’s economic agenda despite moderates echoing Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) complaint about not knowing the full cost and economic impact.

None of the centrist Democrats have yet threatened to block a vote on a $1.75 trillion tax and spending plan that forms the biggest parts of Biden’s agenda. Yet it was another indication that Pelosi, Biden and other Democratic leaders haven’t fully sealed the deal to get the measure passed.

Pelosi is focused on the House voting on the tax and spending proposal and a separate $550 billion public works measure before she attends the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said yesterday. Pelosi’s office has not announced when she is traveling to the summit, which lasts until Nov. 12. “We’re on course to pass our bill,” Pelosi said last night of the larger package, which includes climate and social spending paid for by tax increases. Read more from Erik Wasson and Emily Wilkins.

Democrats Ready Latest Immigration Plan: House Democrats are exploring a narrowed immigration proposal that would offer protections to farmworkers and “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. as children, though the plan’s prospects in the Senate remain to be seen. The approach would tighten an existing proposal—already informally rejected by the Senate’s top rules interpreter—to update the federal immigration registry law to offer a path to citizenship for people who arrived in the U.S. before 2010. House Democrats last week included the registry plan in draft text of their social spending and tax package. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

More in Policy & Politics

Democrats Ready Latest Immigration Plan: House Democrats are exploring a narrowed immigration proposal that would offer protections to farmworkers and “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. as children, though the plan’s prospects in the Senate remain to be seen. The approach would tighten an existing proposal—already informally rejected by the Senate’s top rules interpreter—to update the federal immigration registry law to offer a path to citizenship for people who arrived in the U.S. before 2010. House Democrats last week included the registry plan in draft text of their sweeping social spending and tax package (H.R. 5376). Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

LGBT Confirmation Gives Biden Second Circuit Flip: The Senate confirmed Beth Robinson to the New York-based federal appeals court, marking an LGBT first and giving the court a majority of Democratic appointees. The Senate voted 51-45 yesterday to confirm Robinson to a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. That makes her the first openly LGBT woman to serve as a federal appellate judge, according to the White House. Robinson already made history as the first openly LGBT Vermont Supreme Court justice, where she served since 2011. Read more from Madison Alder.

Census Accuracy in 2020 ‘on Par’ With Previous Counts: Even before the pandemic, the 2020 U.S. census faced a mountain of challenges. The underfunded project deployed brand-new technology for collecting questionnaires and processing data, which were never fully tested. Trump’s White House attempted to tack on a question about citizenship—a partisan maneuver that may have helped undermine trust in the count. One leading statistician said the census was being “sabotaged.” And social scientists warned of a decennial doomsday: a severe 2020 undercount of Black and Latino populations.

But a new simulation conducted by the Urban Institute suggests that the worst predictions might have been too gloomy. Their model shows an overall undercount of 0.5% of the U.S. population. That would make the 2020 census less accurate on net than 2010’s count—and in some places, far less accurate. But the model does not line up with last year’s worst-case scenarios. Read more from Kriston Capps.

Judicial Campaign Missteps Flagged: Judicial candidates running more organized and aggressive races are discovering that tactics or behind-the-scenes maneuvering that wouldn’t raise eyebrows in a city council or mayoral run can trigger professional sanctions. Courts and bar associations are responding against attorney candidates and sitting judges if they step out of line in their campaigns, a growing number of which are fueled by piles of outside money that raise other ethical red flags. Read more from Melissa Heelan.

Around the Administration

Biden Unveils Multipronged Assault on Potent Methane: The Biden administration is launching an assault on methane today, advancing initiatives across government—and the globe—to keep the potent heat-trapping gas from escaping landfills, oil wells and farms. Measures being announced today seek to deploy at least five Cabinet-level agencies. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency is releasing a long-awaited plan to require leaks in oil and gas wells to be plugged. The Agriculture Department will announce a program encouraging farmers to sell methane. Pipeline regulators will expand their oversight of natural gas lines.

And Biden, who is in Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nations COP26 conference on climate change, will also announce that more than 90 nations have signed a joint U.S.-European Union pledge to collectively reduce global methane emissions 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. Brazil, a major source of methane emissions, announced yesterday that it was joining the pact. In Scotland yesterday, Biden called methane cuts the “most effective strategy we have to slow global warming in the near term.” Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

More Developments From COP26:

  • One hundred countries, representing 85% of the world’s forests, gave themselves nine years to reverse deforestation, in a major new commitment at the United Nations climate change talks today. Brazil, Russia, Canada, Colombia and Indonesia will be among the nations committing to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 at the third day of COP26. The inclusion of Brazil, home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest, is crucial to the initiative. Jessica Shankleman has more.
  • Biden and the leaders of the European Commission, Canada, the U.K., and Japan are expected to meet with representatives from developing countries later today to discuss the “Build Back Better World” infrastructure initiative designed to counter China’s Belt and Road program. The leaders will hear from countries including India, the Congo, Nigeria and Barbados as they craft the program, which is intended to provide a contrast to Chinese infrastructure funding that lacks environmental protections and can leave poor nations heavily indebted, a senior U.S. official said. Read more.
  • Bloomberg News is following major updates from Glasgow here

Court Arguments to Start on ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy: The Department of Homeland Security will make its case to abandon the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” border policy before a panel of conservative judges as oral arguments are scheduled to begin today. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit yesterday declined to immediately decide the government’s request to scrap an injunction that requires DHS to restart the policy.

Days before the argument date, DHS unveiled a new termination memo that attempts to address many of the district court’s concerns by considering a broad range of impacts of the program and its proposed cancellation. The agency asked the Fifth Circuit to cancel arguments, dissolve the injunction, and send the dispute back to district court in light of the new memo. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

State’s Cyber Diplomacy Bureau Props Up Anti-Hacking Alliances: The State Department’s new bureau focused on cyberspace is expected to elevate the issue’s place in international affairs as the U.S. looks to join forces with other nations to stem a rising tide of hacks. The Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy will likely play a role in the White House’s enlistment of other countries to counter increasingly common and costly ransomware attacks, former U.S. officials say. Read more from Andrea Vittorio.

U.S. Nuclear Sub Struck Uncharted Sea Mountain, Report Says: The American nuclear submarine damaged last month in the South China Sea hit an uncharted seamountain, USNI News reported, an explanation that would ease concerns that it had collided with a foreign vessel in the contested waterway. An investigation into the Oct. 2 collision involving the USS Connecticut found the submarine had struck a previously unknown submerged feature, the U.S. Naval Institute said. Read more from Patrick McHale.

With assistance from Greg Giroux

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com