Over the 20th century, Virginia shifted from a largely rural, politically Southern and conservative state to a more urbanized, pluralistic, and politically moderate environment. Up until the 1970s, Virginia was a racially divided single-party state dominated by the Byrd Organization. The legacy of slavery in the state effectively disfranchised African Americans until after passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. Enfranchisement and immigration of other groups, especially Hispanics, have placed growing importance on minority voting, while voters that identify as "white working-class" declined by 3% between 2008 and 2012. Regional differences play a large part in Virginia politics. Rural southern and western areas moved to support the Republican Party in response to its "southern strategy", while urban and growing suburban areas, including much of Northern Virginia, form the Democratic Party base. Democratic support also persists in union-influenced parts of Southwest Virginia, college towns such as Charlottesville and Blacksburg, and the southeastern Black Belt Region.
Political party strength in Virginia has likewise been in flux. In the 2007 state elections, Democrats regained control of the State Senate, and narrowed the Republican majority in the House of Delegates to eight seats. Yet elections in 2009 resulted in the election of Republican Robert McDonnell as governor by a 17 point margin, the election of a Republican Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, as well as Republican gains of six seats in the House of Delegates. In 2011, the Republican caucus took over two-thirds of the seats in the House of Delegates, and a majority of the Senate based on the Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling as the tie-breaker. State election seasons traditionally start with the annual Shad Planking event in Wakefield.
In federal elections since 2006, both parties have seen successes. Republican Senator George Allen lost close races in 2006, to Democrat newcomer Jim Webb, and again in 2012, to Webb's replacement, former Governor Tim Kaine. In 2008, the Democrats took both U.S. Senate seats when former Governor Mark Warner was elected to replace retiring Republican John Warner. Virginia, which has 13 electoral votes, was won by Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, after being won by Republican candidates in the previous ten presidential elections. In the 2010 elections, Republicans picked up three House seats from Democrats. Of the state's 11 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans hold eight and Democrats hold three. Virginia may be considered a "swing state" in future presidential elections.
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