News & Politics

The Virginia Democratic Ticket Is All From Northern Virginia

Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala, and Mark Herring all live in the booming Washington 'burbs.

Photograph by Oleksii Liskonih, via iStock.

Besides winning their primaries last night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Hala Ayala, and Attorney General Mark Herring all have one thing in common: They live in Northern Virginia. So does Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.

Northern Virginia has not only been the engine of Virginia’s shift to a blue state, it’s also the state’s biggest economic driver. 45 percent of all personal income in Virginia was earned by Northern Virginia residents in 2018. That’s according to Jeannette Chapman, the director of the Stephen S. Fuller Institute for Research on the Washington Region’s Economic Future at George Mason University. The top of the state accounts for two-fifths of the Virginia’s economic activity, Chapman told Washingtonian last February, and its higher-paying, higher-value jobs account for an outsize portion of the state’s economic activity: Arlington and Alexandria alone account for 10 percent of Virginia’s Gross State Product, Chapman said.

McAuliffe, who lives in McLean, was previously Virginia’s governor (please read this entertaining 2016 profile of “the Macker”), and Mark Warner, who served as governor from 2002-2006 lives in Alexandria. The recent prominence of the Northern Virginia has proved to be very difficult for Virginia Republicans, whose electorate has grown more Trumpy as Northern Virginia has grown more liberal and who haven’t won a statewide office since 2009. That’s led to some conservatives calling for “Vexit,” with either parts of Northern Virginia getting the boot or parts of Virginia leaving.

After Republicans got creamed in 2019, the West Virginia Legislature invited neighboring Frederick County, Virginia, to secede and join their state. State Delegate (and Northern Virginian) Dave LaRock suggested Alexandria and Arlington be retroceded to the District of Columbia. And now-disgraced former Liberty University President Jerry Fallwell Jr. claimed that “many counties are taking a long, hard look at escaping the barbaric, totalitarian, and corrupt Democratic regime in Richmond.”

Vexit is currently a fantasy, but if the Democratic ticket prevails in November, it will be interesting to see if that talk picks up again. (If nothing else, it could be a good excuse to count car dealerships south of the Rappahannock River.)

Elsewhere in notable Northern Virginia results, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson prevailed in a rematch with his predecessor, Allison Silberberg (I wrote about their 2018 race), and state Delegate Ibraheem Samirah, known for interrupting a speech by President Trump in 2019, lost a primary race to Irene Shin.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.