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The political life


Democrat Leslie L. Byrne
Democrat Leslie L. Byrne

The dominant position of the state’s Democratic Party gradually eroded after World War II. The liberal views of national Democratic leaders alienated many conservative Virginians, who began to vote for Republicans in presidential races.

The long-entrenched Byrd organization faced mounting challenges, as well. Voters in fast-growing metropolitan areas resented the traditional leadership’s old-fashioned, rural-oriented ways, and Democratic liberals as well as Republicans worked to exploit these antagonisms. The organization’s role in “massive resistance” generated additional unrest. Encouraged by federal abolition of the poll tax, moreover, many blacks and working-class whites registered to vote during the 1960s. The result was an expanded, more diverse, and less predictable electorate. Byrd’s death in 1966 was the end of an era. Deprived of his prestige and guidance, the organization collapsed soon afterward.

These developments set the stage for intense, sustained two-party competition. Republican candidates won races for the governor’s seat and gradually added members to the legislature. They also displayed considerable strength in elections for Congress.

Another noteworthy feature of recent Virginia politics has been the increased prominence of blacks. In 1977, for example, a black majority took charge of Richmond’s city council, which then elected that city’s first black mayor.

In 1989 L. Douglas Wilder, a black Democrat, narrowly won election as governor. His victory over a white Republican made him the first elected black governor in U.S. history. Three years later black Democrat Robert C. Scott was elected to the House, becoming the first black to represent Virginia in Congress since 1891.

Women, too, began to exercise greater influence. Democrat Mary Sue Terry won the race for state attorney general in 1989 but was defeated by a Republican in the contest for the governor’s seat four years later. In 1992 Democrat Leslie L. Byrne captured a House seat, marking yet another break with Virginia’s male-dominated political tradition. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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