Virginia Republicans face friendly fire over Medicaid votes
By Keya Vakil
May 3, 2019

A handful of Virginia Republicans are facing backlash over their votes to expand Medicaid coverage to up to 400,000 Virginians.

Del. Chris Peace (R-Hanover) is facing a bitter challenge from a far-right Republican, as are Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Shenandoah) and Del. Bob Thomas (R-Fredericksburg).

Their challengers and some conservative activists are none too pleased that they helped expand Medicaid and are eager to hold them accountable.

A quick primer on how we got here: In 2017, Republicans campaigned against expansion while Democrats pushed for it. On election day, voters made clear where they stood, handing Republicans a decisive loss at the ballot box.

Republicans lost 15 seats in the House of Delegates and many Virginia Republicans realized that Medicaid expansion was likely to happen with or without them, so they got on board. In return for their votes, Democrats relented on adding conservative measures, such as a work requirement, to the bill.

Another reason that roughly two dozen Republicans got on board is that Medicaid expansion is incredibly popular across the state. According to a 2018 report from Data for Progress and Indivisible, likely voters in every single House of Delegates and state Senate district in Virginia supported Medicaid expansion by an overwhelming margin and Medicaid expansion is popular even in conservative districts. Excluding those who say they “don’t know,” the median Republican-held House of Delegates district features 60% support for expansion, while the median Republican-controlled State Senate district sees 60% support.

Despite the backlash from some voters and conservative activists, a plurality of voters in Peace, Thomas and Hanger’s districts all support Medicaid expansion.

It remains to be seen if that’s enough for them to hold their seats, or whether the few, but loud voices of the anti-Medicaid expansion crowd will win out.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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