We’re nearly there, with just a mere fortnight (that’s two weeks) to go until Election Night 2023.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of the top contests to watch on November 7th is the battle for the majorities in both chambers of the Virginia legislature. In the State Senate, Republicans need to flip just two seats to capture control, while in the House of Delegates, flipping three seats will hand the majority back to the Democrats.
For Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia GOP, such a scenario represents a golden opportunity to win a trifecta in a state so blue that it hasn’t voted for a Republican Presidential nominee since George W. Bush in 2004.
Despite that recent history, though, President Biden’s approval ratings in Old Dominion are underwater. In fact, an October Washington Post-Schar School poll found just 43% of Virginians approve of the President’s job performance compared to 55% who disapprove.
Meanwhile, Gov. Youngkin remains relatively popular, with that same survey showing that 54% approve of the Governor’s job performance while just 38% disapprove. Since Youngkin is unable to run for reelection – and he’s (probably) not running for President next year – he’s putting all that political capital into this effort to ensure a GOP legislature for his last two years.
Nevertheless, Republicans are still fighting on Democratic turf. For instance, that WaPo poll still had the Dems maintaining a narrow edge, 47% to 45%, on the generic House ballot.
One possible explanation for this is that, despite the efforts of Gov. Youngkin and other Republicans, Virginia voters still favor Democrats on social issues. Take education, the top issue for voters in this poll, where Democrats still hold a six-point advantage, 47% to 41%. On top of that, VA Dems also enjoy wide leads on abortion, 51% 34%, and Transgender issues, 50% to 33%.
Such numbers suggest that proposals like Gov. Youngkin’s proposed 15-week abortion ban may be counter-productive, and undercuts the narrative that Youngkin’s 2021 victory was fueled by voters’ discontent with Democratic education policies.
Conversely, Republicans hold significant leads on two major issues, posting a 49% to 37% advantage on the economy and a 49% to 36% lead on crime. As a result, if the GOP falls short on Nov. 7th, expect plenty of recriminations over not exploiting these issues instead.
Alright, with the stage set, let’s finish up by taking a look at those districts that are bound to decide the majorities in these two chambers.
Del. Tara Durant, running in the Fredericksburg-based 27th district race, is likely the best hope for Republicans of the two. She’s running against Democratic nominee and Marine Joel Griffin in a contest that could be impacted by a pair of independent candidates.
Meanwhile, Democrats are hopeful about their nominee Russett Perry in the 31st district, part of increasingly blue Loudoun County. They’re also confident that Del. Danica Roem can earn a promotion next door in the 30th district. Roem’s name may be familiar because in 2017 she became the first openly transgender elected official in U.S. history.
Downstate, the moderate GOP Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant is trying to hold on in the suburban Richmond 16th district against Democratic nominee Schuyler VanValkenburg. On the other hand, Democratic incumbent Sen. Monty Mason must defend the Biden-Youngkin 24th district in Newport News against Republican ex-Sheriff Danny Diggs.
Finally, there’s the open race in the tidewater 17th district between two State House Delegates: Democratic nominee Del. Clinton Jenkins and Republican nominee Del. Emily Brewer.
House of Delegates
Once again, Northern Virginia is host to a pair of Biden-Youngkin seats to watch in the 21st and 22nd district. In the former, Democratic nominee Josh Thomas is hopeful he can ride to victory off Republican nominee Josh Stirrup’s anti-abortion comments. In the latter, lawyer and Democrat Travis Nembhard is taking on Republican ex-Manassas Councilman Ian Lovejoy.
Down in Fredericksburg’s open 65th district, former Democratic House Delegate Josh Cole is attempting a comeback against Republican Police Captain Lee Peters.
The most high-profile race, however, is in the open 57th district outside Richmond. Democratic nominee Susanna Gibson became national news when the Washington Post revealed that she filmed online sex videos with her husband. Gibson is running against Republican David Owen, and her electoral fate is bound to be a top topic on Wednesday morning.
Back in Tidewater there’s a trio of races to watch, starting in the 82nd district where Republican nominee Kim Taylor faces Democratic nominee Kim Adams. The GOP is particularly enthusiastic about their nominee in the 89th district Baxter Ennis, as he crushed Democratic opponent Karen Jenkins in the money race. Lastly, in Virginia Beach’s 97th district Democratic nominee Michael Feggans is depending on his pro-choice message to carry him in this blue area over Republican nominee Karen Greenhalgh.
Polls close in Virginia at 7:00, so we should know most of the results early in the night. Make sure to follow all these races and more on November 7th at Decision Desk HQ, and look out for my day-after recap of Election 2023!