Moving on with DDHQ’s detailed look at competitive Virginia legislative races this fall, here are seats 68, 13, 21, 26, and 40:
68th District TOSS-UP
District Description: District 68 is based in the Richmond area. Roughly half its votes come from suburban Chesterfield County. Henrico County makes up about 45%, with the city of Richmond, proper, taking the balance.
Race Summary: Would you be surprised to find out that the district that swung hardest to Clinton wasn’t in Northern Virginia, but was a district in the Richmond area that contained a good chunk of Chesterfield County, the Republican southside of RVA? Because I sure was.
In 2012, President Obama lost this seat by 11%, but Secretary Clinton flipped it, winning it by 10%. Clinton was able to manage swing because Chesterfield is full of moderate-Republicans – Trump underperformed, only won the county by 2%.
Manoli Loupassi (R), the incumbent, doesn’t seem to be especially unpopular. If you drive down the parts of Monument Avenue that are in the 68th, you will see yard signs for Loupassi. But there are also plenty of signs on Monument Avenue for his opponent, Dr. Dawn Adams (D), a nurse practitioner.
Loupassi didn’t really face a challenge from his previous opponent, Bill Grogan, who ran as an Independent in 2013, and a Democrat in 2015. Grogan seemed to have lacked the campaign strength to make a light-red district flip blue. Dr. Adams, however, is a fitting candidate to go up against Loupassi. Recognizing the importance of the moderate GOP contingent here, she too, is running to the center; contrast this with a wide field of progressives running against Republican incumbents this year.
While being heavily outraised by her opponent at the moment, Dr. Adams still has the astounding swing in 2016. The frustrated moderate-Republicans in Northern Virginia aren’t that different from the ones in the Capital Region, meaning that Dr. Adams may be able to court those voters toward voting for a Democrat as well. Loupassi still has the advantage of the incumbency however. It’s hard to say who will be the victor of this race, but it will definitely be closer than ever before, likely to be a ~5% victory margin.
13th District LEAN DEMOCRAT
District Description: HD13 arcs through suburban Prince William County, and takes in the independent city of Manssas Park. Generally, Democratic strength comes from Manassas Park, and decreases as one gets further into Prince William County.
Race Summary: Danica Roem (D) is hands-down the most recognizable story for any of the Virginia House of Delegates races, and she’s not oblivious as to why. Roem, a transgender woman, is running to be the first openly-transgender individual ever elected to a state legislature in U.S. History, against an opponent who still opposes same-sex marriage and introduced a North Carolinian-esque “bathroom bill” recently in the General Assembly (which was defeated).
This seat was almost put in the Likely Democrat column, but Bob Marshall (R), the incumbent, has held the seat since the early 1990’s, giving him a strong incumbency advantage. However, in 2013, he only won re-election by 3%. With the same turnout predicted this year as it was in 2013, if not higher, it’s not looking good for Marshall.
Roem is also destroying Marshall in fundraising, and is expected to continue to do so. The VA GOP hasn’t really poured much money into saving Marshall, seeing as, according to sources, he’s considered the Ted Cruz of the General Assembly.
While this would seem like a race heavily centered around LGBT rights, Roem doesn’t seem to be focusing on that. Her #1 priority is fixing the traffic in the district. Not to say that she isn’t concerned about the stances of her opponent on LGBT issues, of course.
It just doesn’t seem likely that Marshall, despite his two-decade old incumbency advantage, will be able to be re-elected in a year where Democrats are motivated and favored, more so than they were in 2013, when he barely held on. Roem is an extremely strong candidate – add that on top to a district that voted for Secretary Clinton by 14 points, a lack of support from the state party, and a year where Democrats are favored to gain seats, and you, too, will see why we don’t see a general advantage for Marshall.
21st District TILT REPUBLICAN
District Description: Like many districts there, HD21 is a rather compact seat that is entirely contained within Virginia Beach City. Democrats do better in the northern precincts, while the GOP is stronger in the south.
Race Summary: Virginia Beach is an area that leans towards Republicans, but thanks to statewide candidates like Warner and Northam, and a decent candidate for Delegate, this seat may follow a coattail effect for the down-ballot race.
While the Democratic statewide candidates had pretty decent margins in this district in 2013, with McAullife carrying it by 4%, Northam by 11%, and Herring only losing it by <1%, Ron Villanueva (R), the incumbent delegate, won re-election by 9%.
A 9% victory doesn’t make it a solid seat, though. If anything, it definitely reflects the Virginia Beach area politically. Villanueva is a fairly strong incumbent, but 2017 has not been a good year for him. He only won the Republican primary for his seat by 17%, being one of only two Republican incumbents facing a primary challenge. Since that primary, a scandal concerning defense contractors has smeared Villanueva’s local image.
This definitely helps Kelly Fowler (D), the Democratic nominee. Still, Villanueva has heavily outraised her, and it seems that this advantage won’t be shrinking before election day. But there is a clear anti-Villanueva undercurrent, as shown by his underwhelming primary win. Add a small, local scandal on top of this, and this seat moves further toward the chances of a Democratic pickup.
Fowler is a candidate with decent strength, seeming to have a campaign operation on part with Villanueva’s, but her fundraising has not been as robust. The anti-Villanueva mood still may be able to flip this seat for Democrats. We’re predicting that the winner will be elected by <5%, and at the moment, we feel that that the incumbent will end up on the right side.
26th District LIKELY REPUBLICAN
District Description: In the Shenandoah Valley, HD26 takes in all of the city of Harrisonburg, and roughly half of Rockingham County. Harrisonburg contains James Madison University, and is mildly blue. However, its more than drowned out by heavily Republican Rockingham County, which is among the most historically GOP counties in the state.
Race Summary: This election is all up to the James Madison University Dukes, which could pose a challenge for Brent Finnegan (D), the Democratic nominee. College students often forgo changing their voter registration to their college address, as opposed their home address. Knowing this, Finnegan has sent text messages to virtually every JMU student trying to get them to re-register.
Tony Wilt (R), the incumbent Delegate, was first elected in 2010 in a special election (which he won handily). Since then, Wilt hasn’t had any opponents. It’s thus hard to quantify his popularity, but since the seat leans Republican, he’s likely favored.
If one only looks at the statewide margins in 2013 for this district, they’d say it’s pretty safe. The statewide candidate average for HD-26 was 60% GOP and 40% Democrat. But in 2016, the district swung a few points to the left from its 2012 margin, with Trump winning the district by 8%. Another hope that Democrats can look at for this district is the 2017 primary result: 55% of voters cast a Democratic ballot, while 45% cast a Republican ballot.
Still, primaries have a significantly lower turnout than the actual election. More Republicans in those light-red precincts will likely turn out for the general election, since Shenandoah Valley doesn’t really have any objections to Trump like moderate Republicans in other part of the state may.
Finnegan was a good recruit with a decent campaign, but it doesn’t seem strong enough to take on a 7-year incumbent. He’s being heavily outraised by Wilt, and will need to ride the coattails of a blue tsunami in order to flip this seat blue.
40th District LEAN REPUBLICAN
District Description: District 40 runs along the southwestern edge of Fairfax County, in northern Virginia. At its western edge, it contains a scattering of precincts from Prince William County, as well. Democrats do best in the city of Centreville which is, well, in the center of the district. Some of the Fairfax precincts here are the most GOP-leaning in the county.
Race Summary: Donte Tanner (D), the Democratic nominee for this district, has more of an uphill battle than some of his other fellow Northern Virginia Democratic nominees will face. Tanner, a small business owner with a military background, is going up against Tim Hugo (R), who is not only the incumbent of this district, but is also the head of the House Republican Caucus.
You’d probably guess that Hugo would certainly have the fundraising advantage in this race…and you’d be absolutely right. Hugo has raised a staggering $600K as of the end of August. However, since he is the head of the House Republican Caucus, some of this haul went to other candidates.
Tanner’s fundraising efforts are not a disappointment, though. He actually outraised Hugo in the last filing period by $16K. Likewise, half of Tanner’s total amount of money raised throughout his campaign was in those two months (July and August), and it’s likely that Tanner’s fundraising efforts will get even stronger as election day approaches.
In 2013, Hugo won re-election by 20%, but Secretary Clinton won it by 8% in 2016. Hugo may face the same dilemma that Gillespie will have to overcome this November: convincing the moderate-Republicans in Northern Virginia to turn out for him. Not only that, but Tanner’s military background will make him a candidate that can possibly woo over those moderate-Republicans to voting for a Democrat this November.
However, Tim Hugo will still be one tough incumbent to unseat. Donte Tanner has many obstacles to overcome, but as we draw closer to election day, he seems to be jumping over one hurdle at a time. For now though, we predict that Hugo will win re-election by a margin of less than 10%, half of the margin he won by in 2013. This gives Tanner plenty of room to narrow it down, and, with a strong night for Democrats, flip the seat blue.