Final Predictions: The Virginia House of Delegates

This coming Tuesday, there are a whopping 25 primaries stocked with Republican and Democratic candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates (7 and 18, respectively). 17 of these are primaries against incumbents, 3 of which are Republican and 14 are Democratic. 8 competitive districts have primaries: 31, 50, 51, 66, 68, 72, 83 and 84.

Safe Incumbents

The first races we will recapitulate are the races where the incumbent Delegate is all but guaranteed to sweep their primary. First, the Democrats.

In the Richmond area, Delegate Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond City) and Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico) have primary opponents who likely won’t amass even a fraction of the vote. The real spectacle in both contests is to see who goes home with the bigger margin of victory – the largest primary win will assuredly be in one of these two districts, but it’s hard to say which. Bragging rights await the victor, whomever they may be.

In Northern Virginia, Delegates Kathleen Murphy (D-Fairfax) and Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) also face primaries. Plum’s opponent effectively abandoned their campaign some time ago and Murphy’s opponent is running to her left in a center-left district. Both will win handily.

The final Democratic incumbent who is guaranteed to win their primary is Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk). Jones has filed to run for both Attorney General as well as his Delegate seat. While he is a heavy underdog for Attorney General, he is guaranteed to keep his seat in the House of Delegates.

Now, onto the Republicans.

There are two Republican incumbents who are facing a primary, out in the western part of the Commonwealth: Delegate Ronnie Campbell (R-Rockbridge) and Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford). Both of them will easily dispatch their challengers, whose campaigns have fallen flat.

All of these are in the “Solid [incumbent]” territory.

Barely Vulnerable Incumbents

There are two incumbents who are not necessarily guaranteed to win re-election, but still remain the favorites. Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) is facing a candidate running to his left, and Delegate Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) is facing a primary from an opponent whose campaign has failed to give a reason to fire her from the House of Delegates. Neither challengers’ campaigns have enough momentum to unroot these deep-seated incumbents, but there is a non-zero chance that they could prove us wrong.

Both of these are in the “Very Likely [incumbent]” territory.

Somewhat Vulnerable Incumbents

Three incumbents (all of whom are Democrats) are likely to win their primaries, but there are still opportunities for their challengers to pull off upsets.

Delegate Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) is facing a primary from Levar Stoney ally Kyle Elliott (D-Richmond), who has built a solid campaign. However, Elliott hasn’t provided the impetus necessary to remove Adams from her post. Adams has also outraised and outspent Elliott in a district whose demographics work in her favor. However, an Elliott upset shouldn’t be ruled out entirely. Should Adams lose her primary, the loss of incumbency may make the seat more competitive depending on who the Republicans nominate, as well as whether the House Republican Caucus decides to target this seat or not. It’s a Likely Democrat district now, but it could turn into a Lean Democrat race if Adams loses and the Virginia GOP bankrolls their nominee over the summer months.

After withdrawing from the Lieutenant Governor’s race, Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) returned home to campaign for her seat in a four-way primary. Given the split field and her incumbency advantage, she should be the favorite in this contest. The only candidate she has to watch out for in this crowded primary is Rod Hall, who would have won this primary if Guzman stayed in the Lieutenant Governor’s race and didn’t double-file for her seat. This is a Lean Democrat district, but if Guzman wins her primary, we’re moving it to Likely Democrat.

In this section we also have Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), who has double-filed for Governor and Delegate. Carter will assuredly come in last place in the gubernatorial contest, likely not even winning his own district in his statewide bid. However, it’s not all bad news for Carter– he is likely to hold onto his seat in the House. He faces two opponents, but only one has built a serious campaign: Michelle Maldonado. While Maldonado doesn’t have as impressive an operation as Carter’s primary challenger in 2019 (who nearly unseated him), if the voters in this district do not want Carter as Governor and do not split their tickets for him, he is in serious trouble. This is a Likely Democrat district.

All of these are in the “Likely [incumbent]” territory.

Incumbents in Danger

Two incumbents are favored in their primaries in our ratings, but are at serious risk of losing their seats. Delegate Candi King (D-Prince William) won a special election to replace Jennifer Carroll Foy, who resigned her seat so she could fundraise for her gubernatorial bid during the legislative session. Now, King is facing a primary from Pamela Montgomery. Montgomery’s campaign is one of the top investments from Clean Virginia, funded by philanthropist Michael Bills. As a result, King, who lacks an incumbency advantage, has been outraised and outspent in her primary. However, King has name recognition as a result of her husband’s previous runs for the district in 2015 and 2017. This one’s a difficult call either way, but we’re predicting that King wins. Still, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Montgomery emerges victorious given the campaign she’s run.

The other incumbent who is at serious risk is Ibraheem Samirah (D-Fairfax). Like King, Samirah has been outraised and outspent in his campaign and lacks an incumbency advantage. However, with the community endorsements Samirah has received in a district where the demographics work in his favor, we think he wins. Also like King, an upset by his challenger (Irene Shin) wouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

HD-02 is Tilt Candi King, while HD-86 is Lean Samirah.

Underdog Incumbents

One incumbent who is a heavy underdog in his own re-election bid is Delegate Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) who has put the “camp” in “campaign” with his bizarre media tactics (in a recent video-slash-informal advert, he declares his fondness for the Roanoke Days Inn). His bid for Lieutenant Governor is wholly fueled by a chimeric belief that he can actually win, while in the process burning hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money. He has consistently lacked support in his own district and now faces a formidable challenger in the form of the Vice Mayor of Alexandria, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. Bennett-Parker has run a solid campaign and will likely dispatch Levine from his own seat, if not banish him from the realm of politics entirely. Levine took a gamble in his Lieutenant Governor bid and will lose everything as a result. As they say, the House (of Delegates) always wins.

We have two more incumbents that are slated to lose their primaries in our ratings, one Republican and one Democrat. However, we’d like to preface this by stating that these were difficult picks and a victory from either (or both) incumbent(s) is hardly out of the question.

First up is Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin). Poindexter is being primaried by Wren Williams, who has run an aggressive campaign operation. Poindexter has been outraised and outspent in his first ever primary; Williams has run circles around him. We’re picking Williams to unseat Poindexter.

Second is Steve Heretick (D-Portsmouth). Heretick first came into office in 2015 after defeating an incumbent Democrat himself, who he outraised and outspent. Now, 6 years later, Heretick finds himself being outraised and outspent in a district that incorporates territory that he has no experience representing (redistricting occurred in 25/100 districts in the Virginia House of Delegates, Heretick’s being one of them). Nadarius Clark has run a tenacious campaign to Heretick’s left, but the presence of a third candidate, Dante Walston, may split the anti-Heretick vote. Still, we are going to pick Clark over Heretick, but this is a very hard choice.

HD-45 is Likely Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, HD-09 is Tilt Williams, HD-79 is Tilt Clark.

Non-Incumbent Contests

The final 8 primaries are in districts where there is no incumbent. Six of these are in competitive districts while the other two are Solid Republican, so we will begin with those first.

In District 7, print shop owner and former Congressional candidate Derek Kitts is running against Tara Orlando, who has outraised him. Neither candidate has run an outstanding campaign, and while Orlando has outspent Kitts, we’re picking him to win given his name recognition and connections in Christiansburg. Tilt Kitts.

In the Northern Neck Peninsula, there is a three-way primary in District 99. Linwood Blizzard leads the field in fundraising. Blizzard has also run the best campaign of the three and should be able to court the heavily African-American Democratic primary electorate here. Lean Blizzard.

Now, onto the competitive districts. 

District 51 is an open seat due to Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) making a bid for Lieutenant Governor and not double-filing for her district. Democrats have a solid recruit in Briana Sewell, who will face either Jeff Dove or Tim Cox in the general election. We’re picking Dove to win this race due to his name recognition in a previous run for VA-11 in 2018, as well as his slight fundraising advantage over Cox. Lean Dove. Likely Democrat in the general.

Going down to the Richmond area in another open seat is District 66 in Chesterfield and Colonial Heights. Republicans have a great candidate in Mike Cherry, who will face either Katie Sponsler or Linnard Harris. Sponsler should win this handily given that she’s the only one who’s run a serious campaign, as well as her previous run in District 66 in 2017. Very Likely Sponsler. Tilt Republican in the general.

As Democrats duke it out in their primary for District 68, Republicans also have a primary between Mark Earley Jr., son of former Attorney General Mark Earley, and perennial candidate Mike Dickinson. This district has lots of old money, moderate Republican voters who will quite likely pick Earley over Dickinson, who is far right. Very Likely Earley. Likely Democrat in the general.

Republicans have two no-name candidates in District 72 who have run even in fundraising with each other. Christopher Holmes has run a better campaign than Tom Gardner, so we do think that he ends up winning. But, given that neither have run strong operations, plenty of Republican primary voters are going to go into the polls blind, so Gardner may be able to win. Still, we see the race as Lean Holmes. Likely Democrat in the general.

In the Virginia Beach area, Chris Stolle will probably win the three-way Republican primary for his old seat in District 83. An upset by Tim Anderson may be possible, but local operatives believe that Stolle will win, and we’re inclined to agree: it’s a risk to bet against a Stolle in Virginia Beach. Lean Stolle. Tilt Republican in the general, but only if Stolle wins. Toss-Up if he loses the primary.

Finally, a couple of miles away from District 83 is District 84, where two Democrats are vying to unseat Glenn Davis (R). School Board member Kim Melnyk has taken fire from Tracie Liguid for previously donating to Republican candidates. Liguid, who is Filipino-American, has an advantage in a district where the Democratic primary electorate is ethnically diverse, but Melnyk has a name recognition advantage. This could go either way, but given Melynk’s name recognition and slight fundraising advantage, we’re going to pick her. This was one of the toughest decisions in our primary predictions. Tilt Melnyk. Lean Republican in the General.