What Does the VA HD-02 Special Mean for the November Elections?

Though the Georgia Runoffs may have garnered the most attention last night, there was an important special election here in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the 2nd district of the Virginia House of Delegates, which was called for after Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D) resigned her seat so that she could focus on her run for Governor.

Hillary Clinton carried this seat in 2016 by ~20% after Central Absentee County votes are reallocated, and Joe Biden carried it by ~30% in 2020. The seat was notoriously highly competitive in the first half of the 2010’s, with it having razor-thin margins in 2013 and 2015.

Candi King (D), wife of former House of Delegates Josh King (D), won the seat by a slim margin of 3.09%. This was a major underperformance, as many here in the Commonwealth expected. Carroll Foy won re-election in this seat in 2019 by 21.83%.

Given the result of this special election we have decided to move the seat rightward in our ratings, going from Very Likely Democratic to Likely Democratic. It’s even more of an uphill battle for Republicans to flip this in November, when turnout will be vastly higher, but given the results of this special they have a shot at the seat if enough goes right for them. Keep in mind though that this rating will only hold for HD-02 if the current map for the House of Delegates is used this year due to Census delays.

While the special election result was closer to its earlier ones before Jennifer Carroll Foy flipped the seat by an overwhelming margin in 2017, it’s not so much that the voters who were Republicans that are now Democrats have gone back to old habits: it was a simple matter of a lack of Democratic turnout; about half of the votes cast in 2019 were cast in this special election. Democrats got enough of their base out to vote in Prince William County to hold the seat.

Democrats in Virginia shouldn’t disregard this result though: it shows that they are going to have to work especially hard this year to get their base out to vote. About four years ago, a special election in HD-85 in Virginia Beach to replace Scott Taylor (R) was barely held by the Republicans, and the result was a harbinger of what was to come in November statewide. It’s possible this special election could be the same type of harbinger.