Final Predictions: 2023 Virginia Primaries

We’re approaching the end of the most exciting primary season in Virginia politics during my (almost) six years of predicting state legislative elections. For those of you who have been involved with these campaigns; congratulations, you’re near the finish line! I hope your GOTV efforts are going well and you’re enjoying some of the nice summer weather we’ve been having. I hope you get to reap the benefits of your efforts with a win next week.

However, not everyone will enjoy the sweet taste of victory. Winners do, in fact, need their losers. The question of who I think will emerge victorious in each of these primaries remains, and I’m happy to let you know what the plan is this year for my final 2023 Virginia state legislative primary predictions:

Tomorrow, Friday June 16th I’ll be going over my final prediction the Virginia House GOP primaries, Saturday June 17th will have the Virginia Senate GOP primaries, Sunday June 18th is reserved for the Virginia House DEM primaries, and on Monday June 19th we’ll finish with the best for last once again, the Virginia Senate DEM primaries.

I noted with frankness before in my initial primary predictions for the Virginia House GOP contests that my confidence in these predictions is nowhere close to as confident as I am in our general election forecast. The methodology that goes into trying to predict state legislative primaries involves far more qualitative factors than our general election model, which is tremendously data-driven. Simply put, when trying to predict any sort of primary you are going to be embarrassed if you take a strictly quantitative-route for predictive modeling, just as 538 did in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

These predictions use my own personal knowledge of predictive signs of a winning campaign, analysis of campaign fundraising and spending, off-the-record conversations with Virginia politicos who have access to insider data and knowledge, past primary election data where applicable, and what can only be described in technical prognostication terms as the “vibes” of how a candidate is faring overall. While many avid readers of the works of psephologists and data scientists may prefer a detailed, quantitatively-driven model that’s proven to be accurate, it’s my personal view that it’s not feasible for primaries, especially on the state legislative level.

This is my third time predicting state legislative primaries in Virginia. In 2019, I got 32/35 primaries right on both sides (23/23 for Democratic primaries, 9/12 for Republican primaries), and in 2021 I got 22/25 primaries right (16/18 for Democratic primaries, 6/7 for Republicans). This year has more primaries than either of those years with a grand total of 45 (!) nominations for the legislature to be decided on Tuesday, 30 of which are for Democrats and 15 for Republicans. I’m omitting myself from predicting one of these contests for the aforementioned reasons in one of the initial prediction pieces.

While I’m satisfied enough with my primary prediction record in 2019 and 2021, most of the primaries in each of those years had a lack of perceived competition going into primary day; in each of these years the total amount of contests I got right fell within my range of how many I thought I’d predict correctly. This year, however, there’s certainly a non-zero chance that more than half of these predictions end up missing the mark. “Non-zero” is the keyword here, of course. I think that it’s more than likely that at least 25 of these 45 predictions will end up correctly predicting the winner, and if 35 or more of these end up correct I’ll be patting myself on the back.

As mentioned in the initial House GOP Prediction Piece, the lack of confidence in this year’s set of primary predictions range from many of these seats being open contests where there’s no incumbent, a lack of recent primary voting data, high number of candidates running in a single contest, and in some more low-key nomination contests, a lack of funding secured and spent for the campaigns.

Unlike 2019 and 2021, this year’s Virginia state legislative primary prediction contests by myself will not be public. These predictions as well as our initial ones are reserved only for the paid subscribers of the CNalysis Substack. Paid subscribers also enjoy the benefits of having access to our upcoming Bang for Your Buck model for this year’s state legislative elections in Virginia and New Jersey, which identifies what the best districts are for our subscribers to invest in. The third benefit is the exclusive datasets for state legislative districts across the country provided by our GIS team, Harvard’s VEST, and friends of CNalysis who have graciously permitted us to reformat the data they’ve sent us in our central datasheet. I’ll also likely be writing more Virginia 2023 content on the Substack for paid subscribers only, including district profiles of the competitive races in the general election.

If you’d like to read the thousands of words I’ve written for these contests, you can subscribe to our Substack here. Not only do you access all of the exclusive content on our Substack listed above, but you also support our hardworking staff and help pay us for the work we do, providing you with the content for the only site dedicated to state legislative election predictions and analysis. We’re also looking to complete some major projects that require additional financial resources, so it’s especially helpful if you buy an annual subscription for $60/year. Alternatively, you can subscribe for just $6/month.