In the Commonwealth of Virginia, 2023 is a midterm year, with control of the legislature up for grabs two years into Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s term.
At this moment, Democrats hold a narrow 22-17-1 majority in the State Senate while Republicans enjoy a slim 50-46 majority in the House of Delegates. As a result, each chamber could conceivably flip either way in November.
For Democrats, unified legislative control would strengthen their hand against Gov. Youngkin and set them up for the 2025 Gubernatorial race. As for the GOP, total victory would give them a rare trifecta of control in a blue state, and give them two years to implement a conservative agenda.
Whatever the results, these elections will become a critical piece of Glenn Youngkin’s legacy, as Virginia is the only state where a Governor faces a strict non-consecutive term limit. In fact, these races are so crucial that he reportedly chose to forgo a 2024 Presidential campaign to instead focus on flipping the Senate and holding the House.
Although rumors still persist that if Virginia Republicans do in fact emerge victorious in November, then Youngkin would have the perfect rationale to launch a late entry into the GOP Presidential primary. After all, given Donald Trump’s two (or more) upcoming trials, and Ron DeSantis’ own difficulties on the campaign trail, a narrow path could conceivably still exist for the Virginia Governor.
So just how realistic is a GOP State Senate majority? Well, our sister site Elections Daily posted their own ratings for each of the 40 Senate contests. With both parties projected to flip one seat each, Democrats would hold 20 seats, Republicans would have 16 seats, and 4 toss-ups seats would remain. If those ratings held, the GOP would need to sweep all four toss-up seats to force a tie broken by the Republican Lt. Governor.
One of those seats – the newly created 17th district to be exact – is home to one of the more intriguing Republican primaries, as House Delegate Emily Brewer is being challenged by former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler. It appears that Brewer’s forces attempted to have the nomination decided by a convention rather than a primary, a viable strategy in Virginia that allowed Youngkin to avoid a potentially damaging primary in 2021. A Richmond Circuit Court Judge, however, issued an order for a primary contest to take place instead, working to the advantage of the more famous and cash-flush Sadler.
Speaking of contentious Republican primaries, it would be hard to top the one in the state’s 12th district, involving incumbent Senator Amanda Chase. Upon her arrival in 2016, Chase brought nothing but headaches for her fellow GOP Senators, nor did she ever seem to care much for her colleagues either. Eventually Chase left the Republican caucus, while the entire Senate body censured her for praising the January 6th insurrectionists.
A self-described “Trump in heels”, Chase is also dealing with multiple primary challenges, coming from former Congressional candidate Tina Ramierez and ex-State Senator Glen Sturtevant. Despite the fact that Chase is the incumbent, Ramierez and Sturtevant are attacking each other as they both seek to be seen as a viable conservative alternative to Chase. As a result, it’s possible that Chase could emerge with the win, a reality that could certainly complicate a closely divided Senate.
Over on the Democratic side, the top primary to watch will likely be in the 13th district, where scandal-plagued incumbent Sen. Joe Morrissey is trying to hold onto power. Morrissey’s been a thorn in the side of the party for a decade now with a long list of outrages including: having his law license revoked twice, allegedly abusing his ex-wife and his 2013 conviction for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 17 year-old.
Nevertheless, Morrissey managed to pull off a shocking upset in 2019 when he won this Senate seat. Now, the Democratic Party is rallying behind former House Delegate Lashrecse Aird, who is aiming to outflank Morrissey with a strong pro-choice platform and the support of groups like EMILY’s List and NOW. Suffice to say, another Morrissey victory would be deeply embarrassing for Virginia Democrats.
Of course, these races are just a sample of the primaries that will be held on June 20th in the commonwealth of Virginia. So make sure to visit Decision Desk HQ on Election Night for up-to-the-minute results, and stay tuned for my day-after recap of the contests and what they’ll set up for November. See you then!