Before I begin, I want to let the readers know we have a live model on election night down to the precinct level for Virginia this year, designed by Jack Kersting. Make sure you spend your election night with us, here’s the link to our results page!
Our Work, and why you should spend Election Night with us
This is my fourth time predicting state legislative elections here in Virginia, and my sixth year in a row predicting state legislative elections in general. It’s no secret that Virginia elections are my bread and butter, and I’ve felt confident throughout the year on how well my predictions will fare. In 2017, my first year, I got 96/100 House seats right, in 2019 I got 99/100 House seats and 38/40 Senate seats right, and in 2021 I circled back to getting another 96/100 seats right in the House. This year, I think that at least 97 of these ratings for the House and 38 for the Senate will have determined the winner.
Our team’s been working hard at this. Our editor, Allie Geier, has fine-tuned the article you’re reading. Our GIS team, Aidan Howard and cinyc9, have crunched data from 2019 to 2022 down to the precinct level. Jackson Martin, our Chief Oddsmaker, has set up our Bang for Your Buck model helping subscribers to our Substack figure out where they should be spending their money this year in Virginia. Jack Kersting, our Data Visualist and Oddsmaker, has set up a magnificent forecast page and a results page for tomorrow night featuring a model which indicates the candidate favored to win each district, as well as each chamber, based on the precinct results we’ll be gathering. Chris Leonchik, our campaign finance analyst, has crunched the campaign finance numbers where needed. Last but not least, our intern, Elliot Li, has been taking care of miscellaneous tasks and keeping us up to date.
I’ve personally been keeping in touch with both sides of the aisle for the past three months, gleaning whatever insider data I can to help our forecasts, managing our team, modeling the several possibilities for this year’s elections results, and planning our election night operation, which I do hope you’ll turn to tomorrow night as your go-to source for the Virginia elections: we’ll have 2022 precinct results and live odds of who’s favored to win on our results pages, which other sites won’t to my knowledge, and we are hoping to be as fast as possible while still making safe race calls without retractions. We’ll also be making race calls for state legislative races in New Jersey and Mississippi, as well as the gubernatorial races in Mississippi and Kentucky.
Again, you can find the results page here, designed by Jack in the midnight hour. You should also follow my Twitter (not calling it that other thing), as I’ll be tracking turnout throughout the day tomorrow before the polls close, and I’ll be letting people know what direction the tide may turn. Will it be another return of a red wave, or will Democrats in Virginia halt Youngkin in his tracks? Tune in tomorrow to find out. I’ll also be tweeting out our race calls, which you can also find on the results page.
Two years ago, Virginia redistricting caused an earthquake across the Commonwealth. After a redistricting commission composed of Virginia legislators and citizens failed to come up with a map proposal they could agree upon, the Supreme Court chose two special masters, one nominated by Republicans and the other by Democrats, to draw the new state legislative and congressional districts for Virginia. As a result of these maps, which did not take into account where incumbents live (you must live within a Virginia state legislative district to run for it), as well as retirements in the legislature, there are tons of open seats. At least 33 out of the 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates will have a new Delegate, as will 11 out of the 40 seats in the Virginia State Senate. However, this number is likely going to be higher as I’m picking some incumbents to lose re-election this year.
Glenn Youngkin, a potential future presidential contender, has been laser-focused on creating the first Republican trifecta in Virginia since the 2011 elections. After national Republicans were embarrassed at the polls in 2022 due to a post-Roe revolt by voters across the country, Virginia Republicans are hoping to be the first exception to Republicans facing the electoral issues at hand for them: losing persuadable voters, failing to turn out the conservative base in off-year elections, and getting obliterated on the issue of abortion access.
Governor Youngkin would ideally like to see a 15-week abortion ban come to his desk, should Republicans win both the House and the Senate. Currently, Virginia allows abortion up to 26 weeks, and Virginia Democrats hope to keep the current law in place. Governor Youngkin’s PAC, Spirit of Virginia, has been blasting the airwaves with ads characterizing Democrats as “extreme” on the issue of abortion, even playing this famous 2019 clip of Delegate Kathy Tran (D) which also was the first domino to fall in the Northam-Fairfax-Herring scandals of February 2019.
In my view, this was probably a mistake by Spirit of Virginia. This was a strategy that failed national Republicans in 2022, making abortion even more salient in the process. It comes as no surprise; this strategy coming from the cadre behind what is, in my view, the most cringeworthy ad of this year’s elections. Who else bu Senator Siobhan Dunnavant coming in hot with the “it’s not a ban” ad, where she characterizes her position in changing Virginia law as “adding limitations,”. Among the Governor’s team’s findings is that the word “ban” scares off the voters they desperately need this year in the suburbs. There is also that fear that a candidate may be taken out of context if they say on camera “I support an abortion ban after 15 weeks,” where attack ads could cut to the chase without those pesky final three words.
Here’s the thing though: in my view, it doesn’t matter what you call it. Ban, limit, whatever. Time and time again polling has shown that a majority of Virginians are opposed to changing the law in Virginia to ban abortion after 15 weeks, even with exceptions. Some Republicans have been smart enough to dismiss this position, such as Delegate Kim Taylor of the must-win 82nd House of Delegates District, a nailbiter race in Southside. Republicans have a duty to the base in trying to add more limitations on abortion access, but the base isn’t going to decide a lot of these races. It’s mostly the suburbs in the urban crescent that have the competitive seats in the Virginia legislature this year.
Privately, the Republican campaign world is divided on the issue. Most Republican consultants and campaign staff with whom I have spoken are furious with Spirit of Virginia’s latest ad push, and see themselves as underdogs going into Election Day, though they feel somewhat better now about their odds than they did a few weeks ago. But most of those close to Youngkin, including those working at Spirit of Virginia and Republican leadership, for the most part believe that they will be victorious on election day– partly thanks to the ad push. In my view, Republican leadership and Youngkin’s allies are still living in a 2021 bubble, and the consultants and campaign staff are more cognizant of how to handle abortion messaging.
The bottom line: Republicans would not have won in 2021 if Roe v. Wade was overturned that year. Glenn Youngkin famously slammed Terry McAuliffe in one of the 2021 gubernatorial debates: “My opponent wants to be the abortion governor. And I want to be the jobs governor.” Abortion was not *the* issue no matter how many times McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for Governor that year, would try and try to make it. You can’t get voters to see down the pike and vote on a future issue (Roe v. Wade would be overturned months later, so it’s not like he didn’t have a point), you can only get them to vote on the issues at hand. Now that abortion is an issue at hand, it is unlikely that Virginia Republicans will win either the House of Delegates or State Senate on election night. They seem better positioned than they were in 2019, however, and could win a majority in one or both chambers if they pull off some upsets.
Abortion isn’t the only issue at hand in this year’s state legislative elections. Education was a key issue that Republicans won in 2021, but a recent poll by the Washington Post showed that likely voters trust Democrats more on the issue now, and they’re going on the offensive characterizing Republicans as “book-banners.” Republicans are more trusted on taking care of crime, and though this hasn’t been a crucial issue, some Republican campaigns are pushing attack ads against Democrats as soft on crime. However, this isn’t a concern that most of the voters in competitive districts care about that much: this isn’t New York in 2022, it’s Virginia in 2023.
Not only are Democrats, in my view, winning on the issues in Virginia this year compared to flailing on that front in 2021, but the environment also should be pretty friendly to Democrats. State legislative special election results are usually a pretty good indicator of where the environment seems to be. In 2021, most special elections swung to the right. In 2022, that continued up until Dobbs was overturned, then results started swinging toward the Democrats. And that swing average has remained virtually unchanged this year.
Public polling on the Virginia General Assembly races has shown Democrats leading the generic ballot by usually a point or two, though the special election results are much more consistently predictive than polling is.
Something also worth mentioning is the differences in the early vote data for the state legislative districts so far, and how there may be polling discrepancies for the General Assembly races on a statewide generic ballot. The heavily Democratic districts in the General Assembly are seeing a much lower rate of turnout than the Republican ones this year: urban areas simply aren’t coming out for this election as much as the rural Republican bastions are.
However, neither of those constituencies matter much this year. Most of the competitive races are in the suburbs, and while Republicans were able to persuade enough suburban voters to join their camp in 2021, that wasn’t the case in 2022, and based on the state legislative special elections that seems to still be an area that Republicans have not been able to overcome.
With what data I’ve seen privately on both sides of the aisle as well as conversations I’ve had with those on the ground, I think most of the competitive races should end up having at least a 3 point swing to the Democrats from Youngkin’s 2021 margins in the districts. There could be a few where Republicans could actually outrun Youngkin though despite a Democratic-tilting environment
So with all of this being said, where are things expected to land in the State Senate and the House of Delegates? Well, let’s dive in.
Outside of Youngkin’s circle, I’m hard pressed to name a Republican insider that hasn’t said something to the effect of “The Senate is gone.” This is similar to what happened in 2019 as well, which I’ll get into when I review what should likely be the majority-maker in the chamber, SD-31. Our final forecast for the State Senate is Lean Democratic, with Democrats favored in 21 seats out of 40 and Republicans favored in 19 out of 40. There’s a 71% chance of a Democratic majority in the State Senate, and a 29% chance of a Republican majority. Should the chamber be tied, Republicans win a majority with Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears (R) breaking the tie.
Again, I think that at least 38 of the ratings in our forecast will correctly predict the ultimate winner of the election. I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever if two of these districts in the Tilt Republican column, SD-24 and SD-27, went the other way. I have confidence that Democrats will hold the State Senate, seeing as a lot would have to go right for Republicans to win a majority by winning one of the three competitive seats Democrats are favored in: SD-16, SD-30, and SD-31.
There are just six districts in the chamber this year that are competitive, though the map provides Democrats with more opportunities in the future to expand their majority in 2027 should they be successful in continuing to halt Youngkin’s agenda in its tracks.
Something worth mentioning here: the popular vote for the State Senate races could be a prime example of what I was referring to earlier in that the statewide environment could be Republican-leaning. There are 2 uncontested seats held by Democrats and 3 uncontested seats held by Republicans, and 1 Democratic seat where the only opposition is a third party candidate. It’ll be pretty amusing to see some Republicans online say something along the lines of “The State Senate is gerrymandered toward Democrats! Look at the popular vote!” should Republicans win the popular vote for the State Senate overall but fail to flip the chamber.
With that, let’s look at the State Senate, district-by-district.
Senate District 4
2020: Trump +0.2, 2021: Youngkin +10.3, 2022: US House Republicans +7.6
Republican incumbent Dave Suetterlein once enjoyed the privilege of not having to work much to win a spot in the Virginia Senate. His previous district was blood red, containing many rural parts of Southwest Virginia as well as the Roanoke suburbs. But now Suetterlein actually has to earn his spot in the Senate this year as District 4 is competitive, and should he win re-election, he’ll have to do the same in 2027.
Most of the district is new to Suetterlein, containing Roanoke City and County as well as Christiansburg and neighborhoods just outside of the Blacksburg town limits. His opponent is Roanoke City Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd, who’s running an unusual campaign. Boyd has run on eliminating the car tax, which was Jim Gilmore’s signature policy proposal when he ran for Governor in 1997. She also wants to “deliver income tax relief” according to her website, an oddity compared to other Democratic campaigns this year.
It’s an uphill climb for a Democrat to win the 4th Senate district this year: Suetterlein is still liked in the parts of the district he’s represented, he’s outspending White-Boyd in ads and mail, and the Senate Democratic caucus hasn’t invested much here. If there’s an upset here, it’s because Suetterlein simply didn’t know how to win a competitive district, and that there’s an enormous blue wave.
Final Prediction: Lean Republican.
Senate District 16
2020: Biden +16.9, 2021: McAuliffe +5.6, 2022: US House Democrats +10.1
The west end of Henrico County in suburban Richmond has been a point of pain for Republicans since Donald Trump ran for President. In the 2017 blue wave, Republicans lost all three competitive House of Delegates seats with chunks of the west end, electing Glen Allen High School teacher Schuyler VanValkenburg (D), Randolph Macon professor Debra Rodman (D), and nurse practitioner Dawn Adams (D) to the chamber. VanValkenburg, who was drawn out of his toilet seat-shaped House district, is now running for a promotion to the Senate against incumbent Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R).
VanValkenburg has been somewhat of a “golden boy” of the Henrico Democrats since 2017. Adams and Rodman didn’t get much attention from the House Democratic caucus in 2017 as they were running against popular Republican incumbents, while VanValkenburg was running in an open seat. But it ended up being Rodman who was recruited by the Senate Democrats to run against Dunnavant in 2019, with the goal of trying to replicate the success Abigail Spanberger had in the west end of Henrico in 2018 in her victory against then-incumbent Congressman Dave Brat (R).
VanValkenburg ran for re-election and Rodman fell just short of beating Dunnavant, though she carried the Henrico portion of the district while performing poorly in my former home of rural Hanover County. Dunnavant’s victory would be the only break that Henrico Republicans would catch from the state legislative level and upward: the west end shifted sharply leftward in 2020, and even in the red wave in 2021, Republicans were unable to find any success in Henrico. In 2022, the area continued to drift left.
I find it hard to imagine how Dunnavant can win re-election. Dunnavant doesn’t have Hanover County to save her this time, VanValkenburg is running a stronger campaign than Rodman’s, and abortion is an inescapable issue that Dunnavant is floundering on. Even if Dunnavant turned back the clock to 2019, she’d lose the new district due to its partisan lean.
Republicans have most likely burned a lot of money on this race and may have been better off if Dunnavant didn’t seek re-election so they didn’t have to spend millions in yet another Henrico County race that probably will not go their way. Depending on the results of other Senate districts, that money could have been used to put Republicans ahead in other competitive races they could have won instead.
Should Dunnavant lose, there’s no end in sight to the Henrico headache Republicans have had for 6 years now. They’re likely going to win HD-57 (more on that below) and probably lose it in 2025 or 2027, and Rob Wittman’s congressional district is going to become more competitive as Henrico gets bluer. To put it plainly, there will be only more pain to come for Republicans here for the rest of the decade. Should VanValkenburg win tomorrow, it will be the last truly competitive race he runs should he want to stay in the Senate. Dunnavant’s political career may not be over though as one could argue she’d make a formidable successor to Wittman should he not seek re-election, or she could also be a viable statewide candidate for Republicans in 2025.
Final Prediction: Lean Democrat.
Senate District 17
2020: Biden +7.0, 2021: Youngkin +5.0, 2022: US House Democrats +0.01
In 2019, I had one district on my radar that fell off of most which I told people was my “sleeper pick” for the year, located in Southside Virginia, where District 17 is. That district was the old HD-75, when Democrat Roz Tyler was running for re-election against her first Republican opponent since 2013, Otto Waschmann. I had this race as my sleeper pick that year because if there’s one thing Virginia Democrats are terrible at, it’s trying to win a race in Southside.
This part of Virginia is only getting redder and redder and Black voters, part of the Democratic base, are difficult to turn out since Virginia Democrats don’t know how to organize in rural areas. To add insult to injury, their nominee here, Delegate Clint Jenkins, is one of the worst campaigners on the Democratic side in the General Assembly. He’s terrible at spending his campaign funds efficiently and hasn’t run in a highly competitive district like this one before as his previous two races in the House of Delegates were in a pretty Democratic-leaning district. Democrats seem to be doing well at getting out the rural Black vote here, but they’re underperforming in urban black turnout in Emporia, Franklin, and Suffolk. Jenkins also probably underperforms what he needs in Suffolk in terms of margin of victory. Folks in Suffolk have noted to me that Black businesses, especially the barbershops, have not put up signs for Jenkins this time around, though they have for HD-84 Democratic nominee Nadarius Clark.
Jenkins has also been under fire by a series of effective attack ads by his Republican opponent, Delegate Emily Brewer, being labeled as a domestic abuser as he was charged with domestic abuse and assault in the 2000s, though the charges were dismissed.
In 2021, Brewer outran Youngkin by 1.2% in her old House district while Jenkins ran behind McAuliffe by 1.0%. With their previous electoral performances, my skepticism on urban black turnout, and the attack ads by Brewer, Republicans are definitely moderate favorites in the district. If Brewer loses, it’s a pretty big upset by Jenkins.
Final Prediction: Lean Republican.
Senate District 24
2020: Biden +8.8, 2021: Youngkin +3.5, 2022: US House Democrats +1.1
Disclaimer: I should note that I am a personal fan of Monty Mason, the incumbent Democratic Senator here. Many of the Nuttycombes hail from Newport News, the city where I was born. Mason represents the former home of my grandparents that our large clan would gather to every Christmas. Unfortunately both of them, Charles Wallace Nuttycombe Sr., who I am named after, and my grandmother, Elizabeth West Nuttycombe, have passed away. Gramma Nuttycombe passed away earlier this year, and Pops passed away at the end of 2020. At the 2021 session of the General Assembly, a bill was introduced to honor my grandfather, who was a legendary track and field coach, with Mason being one of three cosponsors alongside Delegate Mike Mullin (D) and Delegate Shelly Simonds (D). As a result, I personally would like to see Senator Mason win re-election.
However, I do my best to try and make sure my personal stakes, biases and opinions don’t get in the way of what I predict, especially in general elections. This year, I think this will be a prime example of that commitment: I think Monty Mason is probably going to lose re-election. It’s a tough pick as this is a 50/50 district, and Monty Mason has been an incumbent in most of the new district’s territory, whether it be his time in the House of Delegates or more recently in the State Senate. I’d feel a little safer picking a winner here if Mason had an opponent in 2019 so we could see how he would have performed in the post-Trump electorate in an off-year election, but he was left uncontested, so this prediction is -somewhat- a shot in the dark.
One issue for Mason is that he has two demographics that prove to be difficult in turning out for these off-off year elections: Black voters, which make up 29% of the district’s voting age population, and students at William & Mary and Christopher Newport University, which have thousands of students (upwards of ~14,000) living in the 24th Senate District. Mason hasn’t had to worry about trying to turn out either of these demographic groups since his 2015 re-election campaign to the House of Delegates, and I find it unlikely that he’ll be able to turn out enough of them to win outright. Mason is also sharing a ticket with the particularly electorally weak Jessica Anderson (D) in Williamsburg and has no ticketmate in HD-69, so he has basically been running the only competent operation in the northern parts of the district.
On the student front, Mason has clear issues with the demographic. This year, there are 713 fewer active registered voters in the city of Williamsburg than there were in 2022 as of November 1st, and 92 fewer active registered voters for the campus precinct of Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Given how close this seat was in 2022, that does not bode well for Mason’s chances.
Perhaps an even more important issue for Mason’s chances is a secretly-recorded moment from earlier in the year that gives his Republican opponent, former York County & Poquoson City Sheriff Danny Diggs (R), an opening to turn back the clock to the red-wave year of 2021. In the recording, taken after a meet and greet at Christopher Newport University, Mason attacks legislation that went into effect this year that made it a requirement under Virginia law for porn sites to verify that viewers are 18 years or older.
Diggs’ campaign has successfully used this recording to his advantage, with attack ads that are reportedly working according to conversations I’ve had with both sides of the aisle in the district. This district is an oddity in that it should, in a post-Roe world with a Democratic incumbent, be a narrow win for the Democrats. But with Diggs’s popularity amongst the Republican base and Mason’s favorability taking a toll as a result of the recording and the ads that have come with it, I believe we’ll see a narrow win for Danny Diggs here. Remember, it was this kind of messaging that won Virginia for the Republicans in 2021: the voters that made-or-break the winner of the elections that year were persuadable voters, many of whom were receptive to this messaging. Should Diggs lose, the takeaway is that Senator Mason was carried by a Democrat-leaning environment and his unquantifiable incumbency advantage.
Final Prediction: Tilt Republican.
Senate District 27
2020: Biden +5.8, 2021: Youngkin +8.3, 2022: US House Democrats +2.6
Tara Durant (R), the Republican nominee for the I-95 corridor-based District 27, was able to bridge the divide between the center-right and far-right in her old House of Delegates district when she ran against then-incumbent Delegate Josh Cole (D). But she’s failed to do that this year, and it could very well cost her a winnable race.
Her Republican primary opponent from June, Matt Strickland, announced in September that he hopes Republicans will write-in his name this November, and he’s been seen at early voting locations with volunteers to get Republicans to do just that. Strickland, the more conservative candidate in the June primary, said the Republican establishment put their thumbs on the scale in the primary.
In the primary, Durant performed well in her home of Stafford County, carrying it by 18 points, and also carried the city of Fredericksburg by an even wider 42 points. Strickland, a Spotsylvania County native, narrowly lost the Spotsy portion of the district by less than half a percentage point. Durant was able to unite Stafford Republicans in 2021, but Spotsylvania is new territory to her, and write-in votes for Strickland there may very well cost her the race.
In addition to an assault on her right flank, Durant was caught in an audio recording last month where she indicated that she may be open to voting for an abortion ban beyond 15 weeks. The day after that story came out, the Huffington Post wrote a story saying Durant exaggerated what had happened to her as she was driving through a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020.
On the Democratic side, after a similarly close Democratic primary also occurring in June, there is more unity compared to their Republican counterparts. Joel Griffin, the Democratic nominee, has the support of his primary opponent, Ben Litchfield, even with the Democratic establishment weighing in against him during the primary.
However, they do have a splinter to worry about in the candidacy of Stafford Board of Supervisors member Monica Gary, a left-leaning Independent candidate who will appear on the ballot. Gary was approached by Senate Democrats to run for the seat against Litchfield, and she declined. Out of frustration with the Democratic establishment’s efforts to meddle in the primary, she decided to run as an Independent. Once she declined, they reportedly approached Griffin to run, which he obliged. Those I’ve talked to in the district are particularly worried that progressive University of Mary Washington students and faculty will cost them the race by voting for Gary over Griffin.
Republicans were happy that Gary made the ballot, given her left-leaning ideology and the fracture amongst high propensity progressives. However, her candidacy may very well attract more Republican voters than Democratic ones. Democrats still aren’t as divided as the Republicans are in the district as Durant has reportedly had difficulties bringing in the far-right Republicans into supporting her campaign. Given that Gary actually appears on the ballot, I think there’s a good argument to make that Durant-skeptical conservatives would be more enticed to vote for an Independent that’s right there, already on the ballot, rather than doing a write-in for Strickland.
Griffin has outraised and outspent Durant throughout the campaign. However, this district is still an uphill climb for a Democrat: even Abigail Spanberger only won the district by about 3 points, and Griffin is no Spanberger. This area is trending toward the Democrats, but it’s still pretty friendly to Republicans down ballot. Not only did Youngkin carry it by 8 points in his 2021 bid for Governor but in 2019, Republican candidates for the House of Delegates carried it by 4 points, and their Senate candidates carried it by 6 points.
This is a really tough pick, quite frankly. With the far-right going after her and the negative press she received last week, it’s feasible to see Durant as an underdog at this point. But I think with the down ballot lean of the district, Durant has a slim victory. If she loses, it’s quite possible that it was thanks to the far-right. Virginia Republicans managed to defeat them in the primaries for competitive districts this year, but the far-right could come back in the general election this year as Jack’s smirking revenge.
Final Prediction: Tilt Republican.
Senate District 30
2020: Biden ~18 (exact # unknown due to data error by Prince William County registrar), 2021: McAuliffe +4.6, 2022: US House Democrats +6.3
Northern Virginia Republicans have received a lot of bad press this cycle, and that includes the Republican nominee in SD-30, Bill Woolf. Woolf, a former Fairfax County detective, has been running on his record as a whistleblower in a sex-trafficking operation. But the Washington Post has reported on Woolf exaggerating his story back in late September.
Woolf faces Democratic nominee Delegate Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman elected to a state legislature. Roem’s always been a fierce campaigner and has been pretty popular in Gainesville, the most important part of this Prince William County-based district.
Republicans haven’t invested much in this race up until recently when Spirit of Virginia sent half a million dollars to Woolf. This is likely because they must have seen some sort of encouraging data, whether it be the early vote here looking pretty good for Republicans, or internal polling. It could also be because they don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket: they need to win one Democratic-leaning competitive district, and they’ve mostly been playing for 16 and 31 in the Senate so far.
I think that Roem should be a pretty heavy favorite in the race though, the electoral data is pretty good for Democrats and Woolf’s September exposé has thrown a wrench in his chances. It’s a definitive upset if Woolf pulls off a win here, and it’s going to be because of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors’ decision last year to build a data center in the rural crescent, which I’ll dive more into in the House of Delegates section.
Final Prediction: Very Likely Democrat.
Senate District 31
2020: Biden +13.1, 2021: Youngkin +0.01, 2022: US House Democrats +5.6
Republicans’ hopes of a trifecta probably hinge on Senate District 31. It is the closest seat in the Senate and is the 20th district that voted for Youngkin out of the 40 seats in the chamber. Russet Perry (D), a former CIA officer and Loudoun County prosecutor, is running against Babyscripts founder Juan Pablo Segura (R), who is also the son of billionaire Enrique Segura.
Segura had a head start in money throughout most of the campaign but Perry has caught up since the June primary, even outraising Segura since the Summer. It was a Toss-Up throughout most of the year but this race began slipping away from Republicans once Perry became the nominee. She is proving to be a very good fit for the district and is expected to win, and when you have the Washington Post noting Perry’s CIA background and calling Segura a “doughnut mogul,” it’s pretty hard to see Segura come out on top. Even worse for Republicans is that they’ve been getting destroyed in the early vote here, running far behind Republicans’ early vote performances in other competitive districts.
History rhymes: in 2019, when the State Senate was last up, the deciding seat for the majority was the equivalent to District 31 in the old District 13, another Loudoun County-based seat. It was expected that Democrats would have a pretty easy time winning the open seat then, and there’s another expectation they’ll have an easy time winning this open seat now. It’d be a massive upset if Segura pulled off a win here, even with all of the support he’s received from the Republican party.
Final Prediction: Likely Democrat.
House of Delegates
Republicans I’ve talked to are more bullish on the House of Delegates than the State Senate, and there’s merit to that feeling as the chamber will almost certainly be decided in 7 “Tilt” seats. If they win all 4 of the Tilt Republican seats in our forecast and also 2 of the 3 Tilt Democratic seats, they’ll defy the odds and win a majority.
Our final forecast for the House of Delegates is that the chamber is Lean Democratic, with Democrats favored in 51 seats out of 100 and Republicans favored in 49 seats out of 100. There’s a 61% chance of a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates, a 31% chance of a Republican majority, and a 8% chance of a tied House of Delegates. Should a tie happen, a power-sharing agreement would occur between both parties. The last time this happened was after the 1997 elections when Jim Gilmore (R) was elected Governor by a landslide.
I think should everything go the way I expect it to, at least 97 of these ratings will correctly predict the winner, but I also feel pretty good about a 98. If 99 of them are correctly predicted I’ll be pretty damn happy, and if I get every damn district right I’m opening a bottle of incredible scotch to celebrate, as I’ve been working for a 100/100 for 6 years now. Fingers, toes, eyes, legs crossed. Hell, maybe I’ll open it for a simple 99/100.
Alright, now let’s look at all 15 competitive races in the House of Delegates. This section is a little more niche but I hope y’all appreciate it.
House District 21
2020: Biden ~12 (exact # unknown due to data error by Prince William County registrar), 2021: Youngkin +1.8, 2022: US House Democrats +1.9
Former Prince William County Supervisor John Stirrup (R), the Republican nominee here, is a relic of the past. He represented Gainesville when he was on the Board of Supervisors but was last elected in 2007. In 2011, he opted out of re-election to run for the State Senate but lost the Republican primary to arch-conservative Dick Black, who would go on to serve two terms in the chamber.
Stirrup’s Democratic opponent, former marine Josh Thomas, has had only a slight financial advantage during the campaign, but Stirrup has bigger concerns to worry about. In August, the Washington Post published audio recordings where Stirrup said earlier this year that he would be in favor of a total abortion ban. Democrats disguised as prospective Republican primary voters secretly recorded Stirrup at the beginning of the Summer answering their questions on abortion. That’s a near-death sentence in a district that voted for Biden by double digits and barely voted for Youngkin. Thomas’s campaign knows this and has used the recording to his advantage in attack ads.
Republicans feel that local outrage against the Prince William County government, which is controlled by Democrats, will help get Stirrup over the finish line despite the recording. Last year, the Prince William County Board of supervisors approved a data center project that would take 2,100 acres of rural land to build a data center. Early voting here does seem to be better for Republicans than other competitive districts, a potential sign of Republican voter enthusiasm.
However, in 2022, this project was approved about a week before Election Day and yet this district voted for Jennifer Wexton (D) for the United States House of Representatives by about 2 points. There’s a credible argument to be made that this is a House of Delegates race and therefore it’s more likely to affect the outcome as it involves more local politics, however voters don’t usually consider something that occurred last year as a factor in their vote. Both Republican and Democratic campaigns in Prince William have heard that on the doors people are still angry about the data centers, but I think the persuasion electorate, which will decide the winner here, doesn’t have it as high on their priority list. Democrats are still on the defense on this issue however, with Thomas coming out against data centers.
Another advantage Thomas also has is that he is also sharing a ticket with Danica Roem, who is running for a promotion to the State Senate and is expected to win her race by several points. She should have coattails long enough that will help pull Thomas over the finish line in addition to all of the other advantages he enjoys.
This one’s a tough pick quite frankly. In Republicans favor, they have the early vote data and the potential for the data centers to affect a local race. But I think Democrats have more going for them here: Thomas is a younger candidate with a military background running against a has-been, his campaign has had a slight financial advantage over his opponent’s, Stirrup has taken the worst stance on abortion for any Republican running in a competitive House of Delegates race (though this stance was taken in secret and he still has been campaigning for a 15-week limitation), and he’s sharing a ticket with a Democratic State Senate candidate who probably carries his district by a few points.
I think this is going to end up being a narrow victory for the Democrats, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it went the other way given the early voter turnout in the district.
Final Prediction: Tilt Democrat.
House District 22
2020: Biden +5.5, 2021: Youngkin +5.7, 2022: US House Republicans +2.8
Next door to the Stirrup-Thomas race is HD-22, a seat that’s rapidly trending leftward but still has Republican tendencies down ballot. Whether or not those habits are strong enough to work against the trends here remains to be seen, though the data center project is also reportedly providing Republicans with a boost here as well. Throughout the year, I have seen former Manassas City Councilman Ian Lovejoy (R) as a slight favorite over his opponent, attorney Travis Nembard (R).
But given the trends in the district as well as what I’ve seen in the State Senate race here indicated Danica Roem could have a margin of victory high enough in Gainesville and Linton Hall that this was going to be closer to a 50-50 race in terms of who is favored to win, so it was moved to the Toss-Up column last month. There isn’t much ticket-splitting between State Senate and House of Delegate races in Virginia: it’ll be a rarity where there’s a 5 point difference between each level of the General Assembly in areas with both a contested House and Senate seat.
Lovejoy has outraised Nembard during the campaign but has been outspent on TV ads by Nembard. All in all I’d say Lovejoy’s ran a stronger campaign than Nembard, though that’s not to say Nembard has run a particularly weak one. This one’s a tough pick, especially since the environment on the ground has been shifting toward the Democrats in recent weeks, but I’m going to pick Lovejoy as a very slight favorite to win. It would not surprise me much if he lost, but it’d still be an upset by Nembard.
Final Prediction: Tilt Republican.
House District 30
2020: Biden +0.2, 2021: Youngkin +13.5, 2022: US House Republicans +5.8
You’d think that this would be an easy district for the Republicans to win given the electoral data here: even Biden won it by less than a point, and Youngkin won it by about 14 points. This rural, wealthy district in western Loudoun and northern Fauquier however features unique candidate quality dynamics closer to 2020 than 2021, or even 2022 when VA-10 Republican nominee Hung Cao carried the district by 6.
Former Loudoun County Board of Supervisors member Geary Higgins, to put it quite frankly, is the worst candidate that Republicans have in any competitive race in Virginia this year. He was at the January 6th insurrection, though he did not go inside the Capitol Building. The only election he has won is the one solidly Republican district on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and he was the loser in the 2019 State Senate 13 race, getting trounced by John Bell.
Conversely, the best Democratic recruit in any competitive district in the House of Delegates is Democratic nominee Rob Banse, a former pastor at a church in Fauquier. He’s also got what I believe to be the most charming ad of the cycle. On the ad front entirely, Banse has also easily outspent Higgins on the airwaves.
In 2021 and 2022, Republicans won this district by the margins they did because they had run strong candidates, and the Democratic candidates arguably fell asleep at the wheel during the campaign. The 2020 presidential election was the only time this decade that a Democrat has won HD-30, and that was with similar candidate dynamics to this year: a flawed Republican candidate and a strong Democratic one.
This is one of my sleeper picks for the year. Banse is sharing a ticket mostly with Russet Perry, who is also a strong candidate. However unless Perry exceeds my expectations in terms of her margin of victory, and Banse is running ahead of her margins in HD-30 enough, the math is still difficult for Banse to be favored. This should be a close race though and is one to watch.
Final Prediction: Tilt Republican.
House District 41
2020: Trump +0.8, 2021: Youngkin +11, 2022: US House Republicans +7.7
I do want to note that my home of Blacksburg was botched in the redistricting process. The town of Blacksburg has been drawn into a House seat that contains rural parts of Montgomery County and Roanoke County, and is separated from its nearby communities of interest in the northern half of Christiansburg and the town of Radford. Radford is another college town that Blacksburg was drawn with in the 2010s House of Delegates map, uniting the New River Valley and college students at Virginia Tech and Radford University. A better district could have been possible but the special masters didn’t take into consideration the widespread input from Virginians on keeping Blacksburg and Radford together. While the state legislative maps overall are fair on a statewide level, this seat is quite frankly a Republican gerrymander.
Now that I’ve aired my grievances, let’s look at the race itself. Lily Franklin (D) is the former Chief of Staff for Roanoke Delegate Sam Rasoul (D), and is running an underdog campaign against Montgomery County prosecutor Chris Obenshain (R), cousin of Shenandoah Valley Senator Mark Obenshain (R).
Franklin’s been running the best Democratic operation in Blacksburg since Democrat Chris Hurst ran for re-election in 2019 for the House of Delegates. The bar is low, since there wasn’t much work put in by Democrats in 2021 in Blacksburg other than money being thrown at Hurst’s re-election efforts, which failed spectacularly. On Election Day Eve, he and his girlfriend at the time were caught by the Radford Sheriff’s department stealing his Republican opponent’s yard signs. As a result, I have something called the “Chris Hurst rule” – hours earlier, I had moved the race from Toss-Up to Tilt Republican for my final 2021 election predictions at noon. Once the story broke a few hours later, I moved it further right to Lean Republican. So the Chris Hurst rule is basically that nothing’s certainly final here, any of these predictions, until the polls open. If a last minute story breaks that I think could affect the race, I’ll change the rating.
Let’s get back to 2023. Virginia Tech Democrats have been rejuvenated thanks to their energetic President, Russell Swartz. What I’ve seen from them is a night-and-day comparison with Virginia Tech Democrats in 2021, which basically didn’t exist as they couldn’t recover fast enough from COVID turning classes virtual, even with in-person classes returning that Fall semester. Even with their allies at NextGen assisting them this year though, they haven’t registered enough students at Virginia Tech for this race to be in their favor.
Because Blacksburg is a college town, you usually see a massive decrease in registered voters during the Summer after thousands of students have graduated and left the town. Hurst’s 2017 and 2019 campaign strategy to counteract this was to make sure they didn’t go into Election Day with a voter registration deficit and registered around 2,000 Virginia Tech students in September and October. That didn’t happen this year: there are only 1,179 more active registered voters in Blacksburg than there were in August according to the September and October voter registration statistics from the Montgomery County registrar.
Not only were the voter registration boosts not high enough, Democrats are in their worst deficit in Blacksburg, ever. In 2019, when this district voted for Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates by 3 points, there were 20,965 active registered voters in Blacksburg by November 1st. Now, there are just 17,495. There are even fewer registered voters now than there were in 2022 when the district voted for Morgan Griffith by nearly 8 points, a year when Blacksburg had 18,228 active registrants.
The Democratic organizations here planned a robust same-day voter registration operation and made massive efforts to get students who live on campus to come and vote at Squires Student Center. If they get a couple hundred of new registrants on Election Day, then they could pull off a win. We won’t know the results of the provisional votes on election night, but will know how many there are, so depending on what Obenshain’s margin is on election night this race may not be able to be called until a week from now when we apparently learn the results of them. The Franklin campaign has at least been making a pretty visible effort in getting out the early vote, with a 16% increase in early voting from 2022 in Montgomery County.
Franklin’s been outraising and outspending Obenshain, and in my opinion is a slightly stronger candidate for her party than Obenshain is for his. But the math in front of her is extremely difficult for her to overcome. I think her campaign’s efforts on persuasion could pay off, particularly in Roanoke County, but voter registration efforts in this district are much more important than for persuasion. Should she win, it may be because of an incredibly successful persuasion campaign that would make her one of, if not the best-performing candidate in the Commonwealth on persuasion, as well as an impressive same-day registration operation.
Final Prediction: Lean Republican.
House District 57
2020: Biden +5.4, 2021: Youngkin +3.6, 2022: US House Democrats +0.01
A part of my job is calling balls and strikes, pissing off both sides in the process. Some partisans online have been berating my forecasts and takes on the environment, and this is one of those races where I’ve pissed off Democrats, outside of Virginia. Some of the replies to that tweet I’ve linked are gold to me, quite honestly. The fact that there are some on the left that believe that when the Washington Post story dropped, it might help Democrat Susanna Gibson’s campaign in what was a Toss-Up race because of a backlash against (possibly) a violation of Virginia law on revenge porn. A very sad coping effort.
It’s pretty much common sense that something like this was going to end up hurting Gibson’s chances of winning, it was just a matter of how much. What I will say came as a surprise is how much attention this story would grab nationally, resulting in over 80% of likely voters hearing of the story according to a leaked poll by the House Republican caucus. Usually, stories of any kind on state legislative candidates aren’t well-known by voters, but the situation is unique so it makes sense.
Gibson’s quite likely going to lose tomorrow unless, by the grace of God himself, she is pulled over the finish line by an electoral environment that’s even more favorable to Democrats than what I think they’ll end up getting. She’s also likely going to underperform Terry McAuliffe’s performance in the district, possibly losing by double digits (though I don’t think that’s probably the case).
Late last month, the Republican Party of Virginia sent out mailers with a screenshot of Gibson’s livestream and quotes from them, enclosed in an envelope with a “WARNING: Explicit Material Enclosed, 18+ ONLY” label. This in my view could be a mistake by the RPV, and to my knowledge Owen’s campaign was not aware of and did not consent to these mailers being sent out either. Sending explicit material to thousands of likely voters, with many family households in the district, could create a backlash against Owen.
Owen has been winning persuadable voters, according to data I’ve been privy to. But these mailers could enrage enough of those persuadable voters to either sit out the House of Delegates race here, or to flip the switch and vote for Gibson. I don’t think that family households with persuadable voters would be happy to receive this mail that their child could have, or has, opened.
Owen should still be favored in this district, though the race has been shifting toward Gibson the last couple of weeks. I am not sure if the race has shifted more toward her since the mailers though, so there’s some uncertainty here. If Owen wins, it’s an unearned victory given the circumstances (I think if the story had never dropped on Gibson she would have won), but a win’s a win. This leftward-trending district is a tough hold for Republicans going forward though, as soon as 2025 if/when Abigail Spanberger becomes the Democratic nominee for Governor.
Final Prediction: Lean Republican.
House District 58
2020: Biden +16.1, 2021: McAuliffe +4.0, 2022: US House Democrats +7.2
Rodney Willett (D) has always been a force to be reckoned with in Henrico. He beat a strong Republican opponent two times in 2019 and 2021, and even won by more the second time despite a much tougher statewide environment for Democrats. Redistricting’s been kind to him as he’s been placed in a similar district to the one he ran in (though a tad bit more favorable to Republicans) and faces meek opposition from fitness instructor Riley Shaia (R).
Shaia’s campaign has even cut a longshot attack ad trying to tie Willett to Susanna Gibson. This sort of thing isn’t going to work though, even VanValkenburg isn’t going to be “guilty by association.” When there’s a damaged candidate like Gibson, the effect doesn’t bleed over to nearby state legislative races or even for a district like the race for State Senate that shares overlapping territory.
I think Willett’s in the same boat as VanValkenburg in that this will probably be the last competitive race he has to run. The trends in Henrico, Willett’s incumbency advantage, and his likability are going to make it pretty much near-impossible to dislodge him from his spot in the House of Delegates going forward if he comes out on top Tuesday.
Final Prediction: Very Likely Democrat.
House District 64
2020: Trump +0.7, 2021: Youngkin +13.8, 2022: US House Republicans +4.1
The race for HD-64 is equivalent to a ghost town. The Republican nominee is Former Stafford County Board of Supervisors member Paul Milde, an arch-conservative who defeated then-Delegate Bob Thomas (R) in a primary for the old HD-28. Milde would go on to lose the election to Joshua Cole (D), flipping the district to the Democrats. Milde was self-funding his campaign that year, and while it looks like he planned on doing that earlier this year, he’s opted out of doing so in this very conservative district.
Democratic nominee Leonard Lacey, a pastor, has also run a skeleton of a campaign. Neither party is really investing much in their candidates here, and it’s likely because they just don’t think it could be in play despite close margins in 2020 and 2022. I’d agree with that, and I’m only keeping this on the board because of the previous margins and Milde’s ideological notoriety in Stafford.
Final Prediction: Very Likely Republican.
House District 65
2020: Biden +11.7, 2021: Youngkin +2.8, 2022: US House Democrats +9.0
In 2017, I made the mistake of underestimating Joshua Cole (D), a pastor who narrowly lost the old HD-28 thanks to, in-part, split precincts. That year I had the district he ran in as Solid Republican due to Cole getting little support from the House Democratic caucus. Cole then flipped the 28th in 2019 when he beat Paul Milde while outrunning Democratic candidates for the State Senate by 4 points, and in 2021 narrowly lost to Tara Durant.
Cole’s making a comeback bid this year in District 65, an I-95 corridor seat bluer than the old HD-28. His opponent this year is Stafford Sheriff’s Department Captain and former Marine Lee Peters III. Cole has outraised and outspent Peters throughout the campaign and has been seen as a slight favorite to win this year. Cole should outrun Griffin’s performance in HD-65 given his name recognition and better candidate profile.
I’d be surprised if Peters won, especially with how much Democrats won the seat by in 2020 and 2022. If he does win then Republicans have very likely won a majority in the House of Delegates by 1 or 2 seats at least.
Final Prediction: Lean Democrat.
House District 71
2020: Biden +3.2, 2021: Youngkin +7.5, 2022: US House Republicans +4.9
HD-71 was a nail-biter back in 2019: when allocating write-in votes in New Kent County to the Republicans (this is because a Republican in the area, Chris Peace, mounted a write-in campaign which drew a lot of support), it voted for House Republican candidates by about 1 point. This was not only because of the environment but also because Democrats had a very strong House of Delegates candidate running in a large chunk of the district in James City County, pediatrician Mark Downey.
Republican incumbent Amanda Batten is running in a lot of familiar territory in HD-71, containing the city of Williamsburg and parts of James City and New Kent counties. While her new district is bluer than the one she ran in in 2019 and 2021, she’ll have an easy time winning re-election this year. This is because the Democratic nominee, Jessica Anderson, is one of the weakest Democratic recruits for the competitive races in the House of Delegates this year. Anderson has run the final stretch of the campaign without a campaign manager and could very well run behind Terry McAuliffe’s performance in the district.
Earlier this year I thought this race would be a bit more competitive thanks to Anderson using her TikTok stardom to raise an impressive amount of money, but she ended up outraised and outspent during the campaign by Batten. There will likely be a decent amount of ticket-splitting here in favor of Batten, with a visible chunk of voters choosing Batten for the House but for Democratic candidates in the Senate. Unless I’m missing something here, Batten should win comfortably. I won’t rule out an upset by Anderson given that this is a Biden district and was close in 2019, but there should be a stark difference in the results tomorrow night and those.
Final Prediction: Very Likely Republican.
House District 75
2020: Biden +5.1, 2021: Youngkin +7.5, 2022: US House Republicans +2.0
Republican incumbent Carrie Coyner is the only true moderate in the Virginia General Assembly when one measures how each member votes on liberal and conservative legislation. She’s also never had a real campaign run against her since she first ran for the House of Delegates in 2019, in what was a very similar district to HD-75, containing parts of Chesterfield and Prince George counties as well as Hopewell City.
The same has been true in 2023 as well: Democratic nominee Stephen Miller-Pitts has run a meek campaign operation this year. However, once the Susanna Gibson scandal broke, more money surfaced to be spread around in other races House Democrats were looking at potentially targeting, including HD-75. The House Democratic Caucus chose this as one of those opportunities for a last-minute play, and boy do I mean last-minute.
Democrats didn’t start sending money toward Miller-Pitts until October, and he got his first ad up on the air by the middle of the month. With the investment, private polling on their side likely shows that this could be a race that could be snatched from the Republicans, who have enjoyed being the heavy favorites in the district throughout the year.
Coyner is popular in the district however, especially in Chester, and even outran Youngkin by 5.6%. More importantly, Democrats have always had poor organization in Hopewell City outside of presidential years, losing it in the races for Governor in 2017 and 2021 despite voting for Biden by 15 points. In 2019, Coyner only lost Hopewell by 94 votes, even without being an incumbent.
If Coyner loses, it’s absolutely because of Roe being overturned and Democrats flooded their money in before it was too late. There were a few cases around the country last year on the state legislative level where you had a moderate Republican like Coyner lose re-election despite having consistent crossover appeal before Roe was overturned.
Final Prediction: Likely Republican.
House District 82
2020: Biden +10.7, 2021: Youngkin +2.2, 2022: US House Democrats +1.2
The equivalent to HD-82 was the old HD-63, which had all of Dinwiddie County and Petersburg City as well as deeply Republican parts of southern Chesterfield County. It was a seat I moved a column over toward the Democrats by the time for final predictions, from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic. That turned out to be a fatal mistake: in an upset, Kim Taylor (R) bested Delegate Laschrece Aird (D) by a narrow margin in a majority-Black seat despite receiving little support from the House Republican caucus, getting hopelessly outspent by Aird.
This was because Petersburg City had the lowest turnout of any locality in the Commonwealth, with fewer than 40% of registered voters turning out for the 2021 gubernatorial election. Even localities along the Kentucky border that have tons of voters that will only come out if Donald Trump is on the ballot had higher turnout.
In 2019, Democrats failed to prevent Joe Morrissey (D) from making a successful comeback bid to the Virginia General Assembly in a State Senate Democratic Primary against then-incumbent Rosalyn Dance in a district containing Petersburg City, where Morrissey destroyed the competition. Then in 2021, Aird and Virginia Democrats failed miserably at getting Black voters in Petersburg, the bluest locality in the Commonwealth, to simply come out and vote.
“Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me twic–y’can’t get fooled again,” as Former President Bush once said. This year, Democrats showed that they are trying to right their wrongs and not write off Petersburg again. With the full weight of the establishment backing Aird’s State Senate bid against Morrissey, they destroyed him in Petersburg. However, there were 313 fewer voters coming out for that primary than the one in 2019.
Kim Taylor is one of the few Republicans who has not adopted the unpopular 15-week abortion ban issue pushed by Governor Youngkin, and abortion also isn’t as vital of an issue in a district like this as it would be in the suburbs. She is a fierce campaigner and now has a commitment by the House Republicans that she will receive financial support through Election Day, as they almost certainly need her to win for a majority in the House of Delegates.
I’m still a Southside-skeptic when it comes to Democratic victories. The district contains not only Petersburg and most of Dinwiddie but also rural parts of crimson red Prince George County as well as majority-Black Surry County, which also acts as a good bellwether for who wins the district in most elections. There are certainly electoral scenarios where Petersburg has pretty good turnout and Democrats also carry Surry, but Taylor’s margins in Dinwiddie and Prince George are too much to overcome. Such a GOP win formula happened in 2021 when Mark Herring lost the district but still carried Surry.
Taylor’s Democratic opponent, auditor Kimberly Pope Adams, has outraised Taylor during the campaign, though at a much smaller margin than what Taylor was outraised by in 2021. This is one of the few districts in the Commonwealth where early voting can be a good indicator of who’s favored to win though, and based on the turnout in Petersburg vs. Dinwiddie and Prince George, most signs seem to point in Taylor being a slight favorite.
This is a tough pick, but I think that despite Democrats making visible efforts to right their wrongs in Petersburg, Taylor narrowly wins. Her campaign has been smart to not adopt the 15-week abortion ban position, abortion isn’t as crucial an issue in Southside when compared to suburban districts, and the rural turnout we’re seeing across the Commonwealth, including here in the 82nd, probably negates the gains Democrats make in Petersburg. If there’s an upset here, I will not be surprised in the slightest.
Final Prediction: Tilt Republican.
House District 84
2020: Biden +16.4, 2021: McAuliffe +2.6, 2022: US House Democrats +9.1
Further down south in parts of Southside and Hampton Roads is the open HD-84. Delegate Nadarius Clark (D), one of the youngest members of the General Assembly, moved into an entirely new district to try and keep a spot in the House of Delegates. His opponent is former Navy captain Mike Dillender (R), who ran against Clint Jenkins in 2021.
This seat contains the city of Franklin, the heart of the city of Suffolk, the eastern side of Isle of Wight County as well as a tiny part of Chesapeake City. Republicans haven’t won the district since the early 2010s, even falling short in 2021. But in a racially polarized district like this, if Black turnout drops enough Dillinder could pull off an upset, so mark this as my sleeper pick for 2023.
It can be difficult to visualize how Dillinder can pull off an upset, though, given the electoral data. The fact that Dillinder has been outraised and outspent during the campaign, and that Clark should have a strong performance in Suffolk based on conversations I’ve had with those on the ground, also are not encouraging signs for a Dillinder victory. I’m expecting there to be a decent chunk of ticket-splitting in the House and Senate races here as a result of the factors in my SD-17 write-up above.
Unlike 2019 in the aforementioned Roz Tyler race, both sides know Southside is in play this year. Republicans and Democrats have funneled a lot of money into this race, but Democrats still hold a slight advantage here given the electoral dynamics and that Clark has run a stronger campaign than Dillender. Keep an eye on this one, as Dillinder has had the momentum here in the final few weeks of the campaign – an upset is very possible.
Final Prediction: Tilt Democrat.
House District 86
2020: Biden +3.2, 2021: Youngkin +8.9, 2022: US House Republicans +3.6
An upset of the same magnitude that occurred in the Aird v. Taylor race in 2021 occurred in Hampton City and Poquoson City when another seat that I had in the Likely Democratic column went in the other direction. Republican A.C. Cordoza pulled off a major upset against the popular Democratic incumbent Martha Mugler (D) as he rode Governor Youngkin’s coattails. Cordoza is an… eccentric individual to say the least, and ran a terrible campaign in 2021 but still nevertheless won on a fluke, though he still ran behind Youngkin by 3.8%, becoming the 6th-worst performing Republican candidate in the House that year.
Cordoza barely raised anything for his campaign in 2021 but has raised hundreds of thousands this cycle, even though he was drawn into a more favorable district. Ironically,d it’s Democrats this time around who have the candidate with a terrible campaign operation. Democrat Jarris Taylor is running a campaign probably about as strong as Cordoza’s in 2021, though he’s not seemingly an oddball like Cordoza.
It’d be pretty funny if there were an upset here, especially because I’m giving the same rating for this district as I did in 2021, just toward the other party. But I’m still going with Cordoza as a heavy favorite to win this year, but he’ll be in more trouble down the line should he win re-election.
Final Prediction: Likely Republican.
House District 89
2020: Biden +2.4, 2021: Youngkin +7.4, 2022: US House Republicans +0.01
Similar to HD-75, this was another district where more late money was spent after the Gibson scandal broke. Republican nominee Baxter Ennis (R) has been outraised by Karen Jenkins (D), wife of Clint Jenkins, despite having a significant advantage in the money race throughout most of the year.
This last-minute move by Democrats makes more sense than the last-minute investment against Coyner though. It was extremely close in 2020 and 2022 and Hampton Roads was a particularly strong region for Republicans in 2021, resulting in Youngkin winning the new HD-89 by 7 points. This seat contains parts of western Chesapeake City and eastern Suffolk City.
Jenkins is from Suffolk and Ennis is from Chesapeake, though Chesapeake makes up a much larger portion of the district’s population than Suffolk. Ennis is also seemingly doing better in Chesapeake than Jenkins is in Suffolk according to conversations I’ve had with those in the area, and has had a head start in campaigning.
I think that Ennis should be seen as a slight favorite going into Election Day, but I could be wrong. The last-minute investment by House Democrats and the Democratic-leaning environment I’m expecting might be enough to pull Jenkins over the finish line.
Final Prediction: Tilt Republican.
House District 97
2020: Biden +12.3, 2021: Youngkin +2.1, 2022: US House Democrats +5.2
This seat has largely been seen as the majority-maker in the House of Delegates based on previous election results, and both parties know that. This Virginia Beach seat has become the most expensive race in the House of Delegates this year and will quite likely make-or-break control of the House of Delegates.
Karen Greenhalgh (R) won in a similarly close district in 2021 despite being outspent by then-incumbent Delegate Alex Askew (D). But the new HD-97 is slightly bluer than the seat Greenhalgh won, and a slight majority of the district’s population is new territory to her. Air Force veteran Michael Feggans (D) has slightly outraised Greenhalgh during the campaign and has run an overall impressive operation, arguably better than Alex Askew’s in 2021.
I feel decently confident that Feggans should win here. Most of the district is new territory to Greenhalgh and is pretty blue compared to the old district she represented, and Feggans’ military background is a major boost in an area like Virginia Beach. It’d be a moderate upset if Greenhalgh pulled off a win, which would be due to the incumbency advantage she has in the half of the district she represents and poor minority turnout.
Final Prediction: Tilt Democrat.
Thank you to the team here at CNalysis as well as those of you who I got to speak with on both sides of the aisle to help point me in the right direction as best as you could. Even-numbered years are physically exhausting for me with the thousands of races I have to examine, and it’s nice to get to focus on the home I know and love.
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