Democrats seized control of the Virginia legislature in this week’s election, likely smoothing a path toward full participation in a regional carbon-trading market and giving the state a chance to lead the south on climate policy.

In a light, off-year election nationally, Virginia’s legislative races stood out. Both the Virginia House and Senate flipped from Republican control to Democrat. That new Democratic legislature will now be pressed to back an aggressive carbon reduction goal—100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050—and environmental advocates said they expect the new majority might be willing to go along.

“The legislature now has a mandate to act on climate change and clean energy,” said Lee Francis, deputy director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. That group, through its political action committee, said it spent $1.5 million on ads and organizing to flip both houses.

Elsewhere, Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, one of the nation’s loudest and most strident pro-coal and anti-climate science political figures, appeared to narrowly lose to Democrat Andy Beshear. In a state with deep social and historical connections to coal, Beshear had steered clear of anything related to nationally prominent Democrats’ calls for moving the United States toward a carbon-free economy by mid-century.

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