Yesterday, the two special masters appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court, released their versions of the state’s new maps for the next decade. A first look showed me that these were good. A much deeper look however showed me that they were, well, good.
Yeah, these guys did a good job, especially with the congressional map, which may have been the toughest task. I’ll be mainly focusing on those maps for this article.
We have three, well more like three-and-a-half seats, based around the NOVA area in Virginia. Three of these districts are Safe Democratic. There’s the super safe 8th and 11th districts, with the 8th based around Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County. The 11th, which used to be parts of Fairfax and Prince William, is now all Fairfax. Both these seats went for both Terry McAuliffe and Joe Biden by wide margins.
The newly numbered 7th, based in Prince William, Stafford, Fredericksburg City and slivers of Fairfax and Spotsylvania counties is also a Safe Democratic seat under this map, but isn’t quite as dominated by Democrats as the other two seats. This was a Biden+21 seat in 2020, but it likely swung decently in 2021 towards Glenn Youngkin. This is based on a massive swing in Stafford County, which went from Biden +3 to Youngkin +11. Prince William also swung seven points to the right, while Manassas City swung 14 points right. This still puts this seat at probably around McAuliffe+9-12, still safe for Democrats, but with a much higher floor for Republicans.
The new 10th district is probably the most interesting seat on this map from what we expected. This seat goes from Loudoun County all the way down to northern Abelmare County, just outside Charlottesville. The seat also takes in all of Fauquier, Rappahannock, Culpepper, Madison, Orange and Greene counties. The rest of Spotslyvania is then the final piece of this district. This district was around Biden+9, which should be on the edge of being a Likely/Safe Democratic seat. But, 2022 is going to be a different year, and this seat has factors where it can swing towards the GOP and be a contender for a flip.
Some calculations have show Youngkin winning this seat by four. If the atmosphere for Democrats is as bad as it is now, this seat could definitely flip. Jennifer Wexton is in no way a bad candidate for this seat, and her Loudoun base will help. But Republicans aren’t totally berefit of strong candidates here. Jill Vogel, who was the closest Republican on the 2017 ballot as the LG candidate and State senator from the area could see a promotion here. This becomes especially true as a VogelForCongress.com IP was recently registered.
Other GOP candidates will line up here, too. 2020 candidate Aliscia Andrews has hinted at a run on Twitter, already attacking State Senator Bryce Reeves, who immediately announced he’s running for the 10th after the map came out (reminder – these seats are not yet final). Neither Reeves or Andrews would be particularly strong in my eyes. It also remains to be seen if Reeves will get institutional support. Words used to describe Reeves from some I’ve talked to cannot be written out in a serious analysis piece.
The Safe Republican Seats
Four of these seats are now Safe Republican seats. There’s the expected seats in Ben Cline’s valley seat and Morgan Griffith’s southwest seat. Both are the expected deep red seats with pretty limited changes, though Clines’s seat is now much narrower and more concise along Virginia’s Western border.
However, the other two Republicans were shored up compared to 2020. Bob Good’s VA-05 got three points redder than the old seat, and Rob Wittman’s VA-01 got five points redder. Both cut some blue areas out; Wittman specifically lost Stafford and parts of Prince William, trading those in for the near entirety of the Eastern Shore now and Richmond suburbs in Hannover and the Western Henrico suburbs. Trump won both these seats by just over nine points, meaning that even in a politically neutral environment, it’s pretty unlikely to see either of these two fall.
This is especially a breath of relief for Wittman, who’s district was shooting left. Good may actually end up a bit disappointed, as he had hoped for a more solidly red south central district, and kept Charlottesville and a solid chunk of Ablemarle County.
The VRA Seats
These two seats didn’t change all that much from their current configuration, but there are some key changes. The fourth took in the entirety of Brunswick County, and took in a good chunk of Eastern Chesterfield County now. The seat also drops Suffolk and its parts of Chesapeake County.
The third lost Isle of Wright County and Franklin city, while gaining a bit more of Chesapeake and gaining the entirety of the city of Norfolk. This doesn’t change the seat much, as with the 4th, as both are still massively Safe Democratic seats for ages to come. Both Don McEachin and Bobby Scott will have these seats as long as they want them. Not much to analyze here unless a primary challenge comes for either of these men.
The True Swing Seat
Now we get to the crown jewel of the congressional map. The second district, held by Democrat Elaine Luria, moved from a Biden+5 to a Biden+1.8 seat under these lines. This immediately makes it by far the swingiest and most competitive seat on the map. Early calculations have Youngkin winning this seat by double-digits in his recent victory this November.
I do not expect Luria to lose that badly, especially as an incumbent. But it does show warning signs. Virginia Beach, while trending left, is certainly still a swingy area, especially with its large military presence in the area from the Navy having multiple bases in the area. The areas of Chesapeake it takes in are red areas, and the seat also takes in all of red Isle of Wright County and some red parts of Southhampton County, while also adding in Suffolk and Franklin cities.
This seat will be the one to watch in 2022, and is arguably the best chance and the most likely seat for Republicans to flip in 2022 in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The GOP already has a solid candidate in state senator Jen Kiggans running, and as long as the local party voters don’t lose their collective minds, she will be the nominee here. And will make it an incredibly tough race for Luria to run, arguably her toughest, even more so than her run against embattled former Rep. Scott Taylor in 2018.
This and in some ways the 10th will be the seats to watch. If of course these are the seats passed. We are still a long way from completion in Virginia, but this was a big step towards having districts for the next decade.