The 2020 elections have finally ended, with Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff giving Democrats the majority in the United States Senate. A majority with two seats gained in Georgia and none gained in North Carolina or Maine. Who could have guessed. We don’t take breaks here at Elections Daily, though. We are already prepared to start discussing what’s going on in Virginia and New Jersey in 2021.
Harrison Lavelle and his team will have New Jersey ratings for you next week. This week though, my team of myself, Dawson Weinhold, and Ethan Chen have our ratings ready for Virginia. In 2021, Virginia will elect a new Governor and Lieutenant Governor – and maybe a new Attorney General. All 100 seats in the states House of Delegates are also up. We have ratings for all of these races.
Statewide Race Ratings
We are starting off all three of the statewide races at Leans Democratic. While we do expect there to be a Republican-favored atmosphere currently in 2021, the Virginia of today is not what it used to be. The state now clearly has a blue sheen, as indicated by the double-digit victories of both Joe Biden and Mark Warner. These races all start at only Lean, however, due in part uncertainty in all three of them.
Terry McAuliffe and Kirk Cox start off as favorites for the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively. Neither has a totally clear path, though. McAuliffe has to go against more progressive challengers in Delegates Jennifer Carroll-Foy and Lee Carter, as well as more establishment-leaning Senator Jennifer McClellan. Kirk Cox as of now has to go against firebrand, conspiracy theorist Senator Amanda Chase, but probably faces a stronger challenge at the GOP convention in businessman Pete Snyder. Snyder has not yet announced, but has left the Virginia 30 Day fund day to day operations. It is possible to see this race moved to a Tossup, as Cox is seemingly a good candidate. However, McAuliffe has the advantage as a popular former Governor, which is why we feel confident rating this race as Lean Democratic to start.
If Amanda Chase were to be nominated at the GOP convention, this race would be immediately moved to Safe Democratic. Chase is a conspiracy theorist whose appeals to far-right policies fit nowhere. This is especially true in a well-educated state like Virginia. The only person we would change our rating for if they were to get the Democratic nomination, then, is Delegate Lee Carter. While Carter is certainly nowhere close to the loon Chase is, he does have elements of his character that could hurt him in a general election. Carter is notoriously online and combative, and that personality could end up hurting him, especially against someone more mild mannered like Cox if he got that far.
The only real wild card on either side is Pete Snyder. When he announces his run for governor like we expect him to, he will be the only major candidate on either side to not be a current elected official. Snyder is certainly not far-right, and his work done for small businesses with the Virginia 30 day fund due to the pandemic could make him an appealing figure. He also has the personal capital to help him maneuver a convention.
We again start off this race with a Leans Democratic rating. We would generally never expect to have to use the term “clown car primary” for a statewide race. However, it feels appropriate to use that term for the Democratic primary for the Lieutenant Governor’s race in Virginia. This is not because the candidates are loons, but rather due to the large amount of serious candidates who have entered.
The Republican side is much clearer. The race is pretty clearly between former Delegate Tim Hugo and Delegate Glenn Davis. Two non-serious candidates are also in the race, but both have made little to no noise. Both Davis and Hugo should be considered good candidates for the Virginia GOP statewide. Neither have made appeals to the far-right and both have solid credentials. Davis is a well liked, more moderate delegate than the average GOP Delegate from Virginia Beach. Hugo is slightly more conservative, but has a good near 20-year record as a NOVA-area Delegate. Both have the capability to be strong nominees and will cause a closely contested race at the Republican convention.
The Democratic primary for this race is much messier. Four state delegates, a Norfolk City Councilwoman, and a NAACP President are the major candidates. Add in two more less serious candidates and you have one fun primary. None of these candidates are particularly controversial, but Delegate Mark Levine would be the most progressive statewide candidate in Virginia history if he were to win the primary. That could cause Democrats some trouble, but more establishment-friendly Delegates Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzmán are the clear favorites. This has the possibility to be a very close primary, though, and we do not expect the eventual Democratic nominee to get above 35% of the vote at this time.
The races on both sides are pretty simple as they have the smallest fields as of now. Only two candidates are on each side. The GOP side is again, the least complicated. Unless Jill Vogel were to decide to hop in to this race, Delegate Jason Miyares from Virginia Beach is a clear and obvious favorite. His only opponent is currently Chuck Smith. Smith has endorsed Amanda Chase for Governor, if you wonder where his campaign is going. Miyares is a heavy favorite, and we expect him to be the nominee.
The Democratic primary also only has two candidates but is far more interesting. Incumbent Mark Herring is running for a generally unprecedented third term after aborting a run for Governor. He is experiencing a challenge from his left, though, in Delegate Jay Jones. Jones, a delegate from Norfolk, is running a very progressive campaign and is the most likely progressive to make the statewide ticket. A race between him and Miyares would be interesting and would test how blue Virginia is as a state. If there was a race statewide we would move to Tossup first, we feel it is this one. It is also the one we could move more in favor of Democrats if Mark Herring is renominated and the environment does not look terrible for Democrats. As of now, it lies at Leans Democratic.
Our House of Delegate Ratings
All 100 seats in the states House of Delegates are up, and we’ve ranked all of them. Of those 100, we only consider 29 seats to be competitive. The uncompetitive seats are pretty evenly split. We consider 36 seats to be Safe Democratic, mostly in large cities and Northern Virginia. We also consider 35 seats to be Safe Republican, mostly within the rural southwestern and central parts of the state. Unless something major changes, we doubt any of these seats will be competitive.
Going into our Lean and Likely seats, these alone would give Democrats 50 Delegates. That would be a tied chamber and is part of the reasoning why we rate the chamber as a whole as Leans Democratic. The party’s strength in Northern Virginia gives them a clear advantage, even on this map. We also understand there might be some surprises that we see as competitive. The 2nd district and 33rd district are probably the best examples of this. We all went into this with some uncertainty. We don’t have a full grasp on what the environment will be and we want to be sure we represent that in our original rankings.
Our Toss-up Districts
We currently have eight districts rated as Tossups. Those are HD-27, HD-28, HD-31, HD-66, HD-83, HD-84, HD-85 and HD-100. Of these seats, four are held by Democrats and four are held by Republicans. Here we will delve into our reasoning for rating all of these races as toss-ups.
- HD-27: Currently held by Republican Roxanne Robinson, this district saw one of the tightest races in 2019. Robinson won re-election by only 194 votes. While a Republican-favored environment would help Robinson, she’s won re-election by less than 200 votes both of the last two cycles. Add in this seat is in the rapidly shifting Richmond suburbs and this is a pure Tossup – even in a GOP favored environment.
- HD-28: This one is currently held by Democrat Joshua Cole. Cole beat Paul Milde in 2019, who knocked out moderate incumbent Robert Thomas in a primary. This was a marginal seat, though, and a stronger Republican candidate will make this race closer. This seat depends heavily on that. Milde being the nominee again would hurt GOP chances here greatly if he were to decide to run again.
- HD-31: Currently our only Tossup seat located in NOVA, this one has the best chance of flipping to Republicans in the area currently. First, incumbent Elizabeth Guzmán is running for Lieutenant Governor. While she still can run for re-election here, there’s a good possibility she is the Democratic nominee for that race in November. Secondly, DJ Jordan is running for the GOP again. Jordan is a strong candidate who brought this seat within five points back in 2019. He is the type of candidate the GOP needs throughout the area to gain back seats: a diverse, young outsider. He would be tough to beat.
- HD-66: Kirk Cox is the incumbent here and he’s out even if he doesn’t get the gubernatorial nomination. This seat is rapidly shifting blue, but Cox did hold it by four points in 2019. We did think about putting this as Leans Democratic to start, but kept it here for now. This would be the first GOP-held seat we would move into a Democratic-favored category, though. It would also be the last we would move to GOP favored of the GOP held Tossups. Candidate quality will matter here.
- HD-83: The closest of all House races last cycle, Nancy Guy won by 18 votes in this Virginia Beach-area seat. This was another seat we considered moving to Leans Republican off the bat, but held against it. Virginia Beach is starting to get a light blue tint, and that could end up helping Guy survive. Former Delegate Chris Stolle is running again, but he will have to get through a Republican primary. If he is the nominee, this is one we could move to Leans Republican quickly.
- HD-84: Potentially our most controversial Tossup, but we think it’s for good reason. We do not know if incumbent Glenn Davis will run again, even if he does not get the GOP nomination for Lieutenant Governor. This race was only within three points last time as well. This is another seat that we will move towards the GOP if the year looks good for them. It’s one that for now though, we will keep as a Tossup.
- HD-85: This seat is very similar to HD-84, except it went by three points for Democrat Alex Askew in 2019. That margin is more than enough for us to see this as a Tossup race for now as well. Askew did beat former delegate Rocky Holcomb in this race, showing his strength as a candidate. This is one we expect to be close and is one we likely won’t make a call on until the very end.
- HD-100: Our final Tossup currently, incumbent Robert Bloxum Jr held this seat by about three points in 2019. This is another seat on Virginia’s coast that is getting more competitive as trends move. However, Bloxum is a legacy candidate. As long as he’s running, Republicans are favored in this seat. However, the trends in this seat and the 2019 margin have us rating this seat as a Tossup.
The Lone Flip
We currently have only one seat favored to flip currently in our ratings. That is the rural HD-75, currently held by Roslyn Tyler. We agree with analysts like Chaz Nuttycombe of CNalysis on this seat. It is going to be very hard for Tyler to hold this seat, even if the environment is looking okay for Democrats. We feel it’s fair to start this seat off as a Leans Republican seat.
If the House of Delegates is able to be redistricted in time for the election, we will redo these rankings. However, with the delays in our nation’s census, we do not think that is extremely likely. This is why we feel comfortable putting out these ratings now. We plan to have monthly updates as necessary, as we will start to see retirements and candidates announcing starting very soon.