CHRISTIANSBURG — The stark black-and-white sign stands out, even amid the campaign cavalcade of color that, along with the changing leaves, marks October in Virginia.
It’s not the absence of the traditional red or blue that grabs the eye so much as the wording: “Elect Dr. Mark J. Matney — Trump Republican for Commissioner of Revenue.”
Since Donald Trump spiked margins for Republicans three years ago, the Queens, New York-born mogul and media personality has reshaped the GOP in his image. It’s no different in Southwest Virginia, where Trump consistently won three-quarters of the vote or more. In Washington County, 74.7% of voters cast a ballot for Trump — and it’s not even in the top 10 Trumpiest localities in the region.
The partisan entrenchment at the federal and state levels is part of a larger realignment that’s played out over decades, but which accelerated with the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president. Rural parts of the state swung hard toward Republicans, pushing out longtime Democrats like U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, who represented southwestern Virginia’s 9th district in Congress for 28 years.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.