Virginia House of Delegates Races: Part V

Continuing our look at Virginia House of Delegates races, are are seats 33, 73, 85, and 93:

33rd District LIKELY REPUBLICAN

District Description: HD33 sits in northern Virginia, cutting across tops of Loudoun, Clarke, and Frederick Counties. In the east, its takes in the area around Leesburg, as well as most rural parts of Loudoun County; west of that, the most notable community is Berryville. HD33 can be fairly monotonically red, with the western part being stronger than the east.

Race Summary:

Wait – HD33 voted for President Trump by 15%? How in the world could it be competitive!? While this northern Virginia seat is typically crimson in Presidential years, it tends to be lighter-red in Gubernatorial races.

David LaRock (R), the incumbent, was first elected in 2013 by 11%. This margin definitely does not mean that this seat will be secure this year, especially considering other seats similar to his are inclined to swing left this year.

Compared to our other “Likely Republican” seats, this district is the most vulnerable to a blue wave. This is good news for Tia Walbridge (D), LaRock’s opponent. If Democrats have a wave night (which would translate into a ~15 seats gain in the House of Delegates), LaRock may be one of the first to get swept out.

LaRock is actually being outraised, too, which doesn’t help his chances at withstanding a wave. As of August 31st, LaRock had $36K cash on hand, whereas Walbridge had $41K cash on hand. In total, Walbridge has raised $102K, and LaRock has raised $63K.

Republicans are seemingly complacent with some seats like HD33. They haven’t really focused on defending his seat as much as other Northern Virginia Republicans’, and probably won’t change their defensive plan to accommodate LaRock to protect him from a blue wave, since they don’t think it will happen. Right now, we predict that LaRock will still win re-election, since we don’t think Democrats will get a wave night. Our estimates are a 7%-11% victory for LaRock.

 

73rd District LEAN REPUBLICAN

District Description: HD73 is entirely within suburban Henrico County, and is located northwest of Richmond. Democrats do best near the Dumbarton community – closer to Richmond proper- as well as Henrico city, further west. Most other precincts have a mild Republican tilt.

Race Summary:

John O’Bannon (R) is a bulwark, and it’s going to take a wrecking ball to take him down. O’Bannon has held HD73 for 17 years, and his popular in his district; he’s also known as a strong fundraiser.

This doesn’t bode well for Debra Rodman (D), the first Democratic nominee for the 73rd District since 2009, when O’Bannon won re-election by 25%. Rodman is running a fairly decent campaign, but it doesn’t seem strong enough, at the moment, to take down the incumbent.

As of August 31st, O’Bannon had $127K cash on hand, whereas Rodman had $43K. That’s a huge disadvantage Rodman will need to overcome. Likewise, O’Bannon is known as a charismatic figure in the district, and has become entrenched. Rodman has even acknowledged this in her slogan – she characterizes O’Bannon as a “nice guy” who casts “mean votes.”

However, the trend of the district seems favorable to Democrats. Northam won this district handily in 2013, winning every single precinct and carrying it by 16%; so his coattails, should he win, don’t have to be long for Rodman to unseat O’Bannon. This seat is also one of the “Hillary 17,” with Secretary Clinton carrying it by 6%, so if the moderate Republicans in the Capital Region are turned off enough by Trump, Rodman may be able to upset O’Bannon.

This seat is definitely not safe, but it’s no slam dunk for Democrats, either. O’Bannon is one of, if not the strongest incumbents in a competitive race. Right now, we predict that O’Bannon will win by 5% – 10%; still we wouldn’t surprised if Rodman pulls out a slight win, or holds the incumbent to a closer margin.

 

85th District TOSS-UP

District Description: HD85 is entirely within Virginia Beach City. In the east, the focal point of the district is Mt. Trashmore Park, while Regent University is in the southwestern corner. These two extremes tend to vote blue, with the rest of the seat being light red; notably, there are relatively few ‘landslide’ precincts in HD85.

Race Summary:

This would be a Safe Republican seat if now-Rep. Scott Taylor (R) managed to lose his election to the House of Representatives in 2016. But Taylor won in 2016, which triggered a special election in this district on January 10, 2017.

Rocky Holcomb (R), the Republican nominee for the 85th District, would go on to keep this seat in the Republican column, winning the special election by 6%. Cheryl Turpin (D), the Democratic nominee, announced for a rematch shortly after – she’d would continue running for the 2017 general election, hoping to build on the margin she lost by. Turpin also has a knack for fundraising, compared to her opponent, outraising him by a 2:1 ratio. However, she fundraiser at a similar rate in the special election, and still came up short. The district has a strong veteran presence – indeed, Holcolomb served in the Marin Corps, and Turpin is from a military family.

The Democratic grassroots has become increasingly energized as each month goes by in the Trump era. This neutralizes Holcomb’s slight incumbency advantage, and gives Turpin hope. Overall, though, the strength of these campaigns are about equally matched: both Holcomb and Turpin have put together decent campaigns.

Still, Turpin has seemed to have plateaued, being locked in a close race with the incumbent. She hasn’t gotten as much support or attention from the party as other competitive races in the House of Delegates races, despite running in one of the more flippable districts.

At the moment, this is looking close to a pure tossup. But we can estimate that the victory margin will certainly be within 5%, and it’s quite probable that it could even be within 3%. The race’s pace doesn’t seem like it will change, so this will definitely stay as a very close.

 

93rd District LIKELY DEMOCRAT

District Description: HD93 begins in Jamestown and slithers down to the Newport News area; along the way, it includes Williamsburg. The fourth, and most GOP constituency of the seat is York County, though it only casts 10% of the district’s votes. The result is a Tidewater area seat with a fairly durable Democratic slant.

Race Summary:

In 2016, State Senator John Miller (D) of SD-01 died of a heart attack, necessitating a special election on August 1st, 2016. Then Delegate Monty Mason (D) of HD-93 would go on to win this election, therefore creating another special election, which would be held on the same day as the November Presidential election.

Mike Mullin (D), the Democratic nominee, would go on to win this second special election, beating Heather Cordasco (R) by 7%. A year later, Virginia Democrats seem more energized, and Republicans, well, less so, we predict that Mullin will win re-election.

A number of factors point to this. First, the district has multiple Democratic strongholds, such as Williamsburg and Newport News. Mullin also has demolished Cordasco on the fundraising front: on August 31st, Mullin had $151K cash on hand, and Cordasco had only $15K. Mullin is also a considerably stronger campaigner, and has recruited volunteers well. 

We just can’t see a possible path of victory for Cordasco. She’s outraised, her campaign isn’t as strong as it was in 2016, and there simply aren’t enough conservatives in the 93rd to help her win.

We rate as Likely Democrat, mostly because we predict Mullin will be around 10%-15%. There is more room for development, though; if Northam continues to rise in the polls, and Cordasco continues to underperform, this seat may move off the board, into the Safe Democratic column.