The House of Delegates in Virginia has been one of the most competitive legislative bodies over the last six years. A near 50-50 tie in 2017, a small Democratic majority in 2019, and a new, smaller GOP majority from 2021 on. Redistricting means the old lines are done and dusted though, and battles must be fought in all new seats.
To start out, Democrats have 45 seats rated as Safe Democratic, while Republicans have 37 as Safe Republican. As usual, there will be some very interesting primaries on both sides for these seats. That is an article for another time, but keep your eye on mid-June for some of these potential races. They’ll be very interesting to watch.
There are two seats for the Democrats I’m starting at Likely Democratic, both in the Hampton Roads area.
- HD-84 (Nadarius Clark, Democrat) – Clark moves to this Suffolk, Franklin City, Isle of Wright based seat from his current Portsmouth and Norfolk based seat. It takes him out of a primary, but does place him in a much more competitive seat. It is McAuliffe won, but only by two points, leaving the door slightly open for Republicans. What cannot happen for Democrats is a drop in black turnout to sub-2021 levels. If that happens, Republican numbers in the Isle of Wright precincts and some of the Suffolk areas will be too much for a Democrat. The likelihood that happens is slim, but on a better-than-expected night for the GOP, this is one of the few McAuliffe won seats I could see flipping. Clark himself faces a primary challenger from local Michelle Joyce, while former GOP candidate Mike Dillender is the favorite in his primary against Rod Thompson.
- HD-94 (Open, Democratic) – This newly drawn seat on the outer regions of Norfolk takes in all of the few GOP-leaning precincts in the city. This McAuliffe+4 seat gets there thanks to the inclusion of the very blue-leaning Titustown precinct, giving Democrats most of their edge. 2019 HD-100 nominee Phil Hernandez is the likely Democratic nominee here. He faces nominal opposition from local Mike Pudhorodsky in the primary. The GOP so far has a three-way race of all political newcomers so far. None have yet to distinguish themselves in terms of fundraising. Hernandez is on track to win a seat this time around, but its not impossible to see a GOP victory here on Democrats worst possible night.
- HD-30 (Dave LaRock, Republican) – Current incumbent Dave LaRock is moving out of this seat and into the open SD-01 primary. That leaves Geary Higgins and Caleb Max to duel it out for the GOP nomination. This is a very narrow Biden seat from 2020, but it swung back very heavily for Youngkin in 2021. Hung Cao won this seat by six points in 2022 in his race, so Biden’s small margin is still the high point for Democrats. Max and Higgins are prior losers in either general or primary elections. Max lost the 10th district primary in 2022, while Higgins lost in the old 13th Senate district to John Bell in 2019. Higgins is the early favorite with his money and ties to party members in the district. Democrats do not have a great bench in this area, and so far only have Max Sawicky, an area professor, as their choice right now.
- HD-41 (Open) – The new competitive seat in southwest Virginia is wide open – no incumbent resides here. This very narrow Trump seat (he won it by around a point in 2020) was won by 13 points by Glenn Youngkin in 2021. Based around parts of Blacksburg and Christiansburg and then some rural parts of Roanoke County, this seat is just GOP-leaning enough to give it the Likely Republican rating. Lowell Bowman and Chris Obenshain are competing for the GOP nod. Lily Franklin and James Harder, the 2015 nominee against Joseph Yost in the old HD-12, are competing for the Democratic nod.
- HD-64 (Open) – The new “Middle Stafford” seat is another very narrow Trump seat that went hard for Youngkin. Considering the numbers, you could make an argument for it being a Safe seat in 2023. However, the only GOP candidate here so far is Paul Milde. Milde has made a name for himself by underperforming and blowing winnable races. He primaried a more moderate GOP delegate in the old 28th in 2019 and proceeded to lose that general. He then lost his supervisor seat narrowly in 2022, again underperforming expectations. It should be pretty hard for him to blow this race. But I’m hedging here until an environment becomes more clear.
- HD-66, Incumbent Bobby Orrock (R): I went back and forth on whether to rate this seat as Lean or Likely. This is mostly composed of Orrock’s old 54th district, and he was one of the better ticket splitters in 2021. He ran four points ahead of Glenn Youngkin, thanks to a stronger than average performance in Caroline County. I decided to not hedge, due to Orrock’s incumbency and strength in Caroline county. Another seat that may be more interesting in two years, but just isn’t there yet.
- HD-69 (Mike Mullin, Democrat – FLIP) – Redistricting always gets somebody, and for Democrats one of them is Delegate Mike Mullin. Mullin’s seat has transformed from a seat that favored Democrats to one that favors Republicans. This seat takes in much less of Newport News and dropped deep blue Williamsburg in favor of more of York County and two very Republican precincts from Gloucester County. This ends up becoming another one of those narrow Trump seats, and it’s hard to see Mullin pulling out a victory here, but not impossible. York County Supervisor Chad Green is the only GOP candidate so far, and is expected to make it past primary season unopposed.
- HD-71 (Amanda Batten, Republican) – Redistricting was not the kindest to Batten. Her New Kent/James City seat was redistricted to include deep blue Williamsburg City. That also meant taking on much less of deep red New Kent. However, the way the seat is drawn, it’s not enough to put her in serious danger this year. The seat did vote for Joe Biden by around three points, but that was thanks to heavy turnout in Williamsburg that won’t translate in an off-off year. This is not an impossible flip, and the Democratic nominee should be competitive here. But competitiveness does not equal likelihood of victory.
- HD-75 (Carrie Coyner, Republican) – This seat around Hopewell is an interesting one. It should be closer to a tossup, but the GOP has their biggest overperformer in this seat. Carrie Coyner has continually overperformed the partisan baseline in her races, and there’s not any sign that will change this cycle. No Democrat has filed here yet, and this is a seat where Democrats have continually struggled to get quality nominees. It’s not impossible to see a scenario where Coyner loses, but this is a seat closer to Safe Republican than Leans Republican.
- HD-86 (A.C. Cordoza, Republican) – Cordoza pulled off the biggest upset in 2021, when he beat Martha Mugler in the old HD-91. Cordoza won by under 100 votes, but we expect him to have an easier time this year. The seat shifted right in redistricting, going from a Biden+9 to Biden+3 seat using 2020 numbers. It dropped some bluer areas of Hampton City for more favorable territory in York County, and Youngkin won this seat by nine himself. No Democrat has filed here yet, and I’m told it’s very unlikely that Mugler seeks a rematch. Without her, its very hard to see Democrats knocking out Cordoza this time around.
- HD-22 (Open) – This seat represents Republicans best opportunity at having a NOVA area seat that isn’t in Western Loudoun. After redistricting made Prince William County much more compact, that made the GOP-leaning areas stand out more. This is one of two of those seats. This one, based in central PWC, has a more GOP lean than the Northern seat. More about that one later, but this seat voted for Biden by around four points and Youngkin by eight. Hung Cao also beat Jennifer Wexton by three here in 2022. Without any GOP incumbent, I’m hedging early and putting this only at Leans Republican. But the GOP snagged a decent recruit in Ian Lovejoy here, while Democrats have yet to see a candidate file. That will/should change, but it does show an issue for Democrats in a seat like this is still the lack of a real bench. Much of the local officials here are still GOP connected, which provides an issue for Democrats.
- HD-89 (Open) – This seat, based in Chesapeake and Suffolk cities, is setting up one of the more intriguing GOP primaries this cycle. But before we get to that, this Biden+3, Youngkin+8 seat has been one of the swingiest in the state under the new lines. The only losing candidate it has voted for since 2016 was Trump in 2016. It narrowly went against Jill Vogel in 2017, and Ralph Northam won decisively. However, Youngkin’s strong margin of victory here, and Republican House candidates combining for the majority of the vote here in 2020, has me putting this at Leans Republican. Republicans are set to choose between three candidates, with Chesapeake City council members Don Carey and Baxter Ennis being the big players. Suffolk City School Board member Karen Jenkins is so far the only Democrat to file here.
- HD-58 (Rodney Willett, Democratic) – Again, one I could go Likely Democratic on, but I’m hedging here for two reasons. One, Willett’s old seat actually was more left-leaning than this version. His old seat voted for McAuliffe by eight, while the new one voted for McAuliffe by five. You may ask then why I even have this at Leans, considering it’s a McAuliffe seat. Well, Willett underperformed McAuliffe’s margin by three in 2021. Willett only won by five, and while I can’t say that was all on him, it should be a concern. Especially in an off-year cycle where Republicans will be targeting Western Henrico hard. Willett is still a favorite, but this is the one McAuliffe seat that is the most competitive in my eyes
- HD-21 (Open) – This is the other competitive Prince William seat, this one based in the northern part of the county. It had some of the biggest swings between 2020 and 2021, going from Biden+27 to Youngkin+2. It stayed much closer to purple in 2022, with Jennifer Wexton winning this seat by under two points. This is one of the more crucial seats, and if Republicans end up winning this seat, that probably means they’ve won at least 50 seats. However, to choose a candidate, they’ll have to get through a primary first. Former Gainesville district Supervisor John Stirrup and Businessman Josh Quill are competing for the GOP nod here. Democrats seem to have united behind attorney Josh Thomas as their choice at this moment.
- HD-57 (Open) – Another new seat, this one is based in western Henrico and a small part of eastern Goochland County. This makes for an interesting swing seat. Trump in 2020 and Corey Stewart are the only two statewide Republican campaigns to lose this seat since 2016. However, Youngkin did only one point better here than Gillespie did in 2017, which shows how quick this seat has moved left. It combined to vote for Democratic candidates in 2022 as well. It’s an interesting one to watch, but Republicans have united behind a solid candidate in David Owen, a lifelong local of the area and former President of the Home Building Association of Virginia. Democrats seem set to see a primary between Nurse Practitioner Susanna Gibson and Bob Shippee. All three candidates have already raised six figures, so expect this to be a cost heavy race as well.
- HD-65 (Tara Durant, Republican) – Incumbent Delegate Tara Durant is the incumbent here, but she’s targeting the open 27th Senate district instead of running for re-election. This district holds the entire city of Fredericksburg, lower Stafford, and a small part of Northwest Spotsylvania County. Former Delegate of the 28th district Josh Cole is the undisputed Democrat for this seat. No Republican is yet to file, making it the only competitive seat where a Republican is yet to do so. This is an area and seat that has been trending towards Democrats rapidly, but saw Youngkin win it by three in 2021. What will give Republicans pause and concern however is the fact Abigail Spanberger won this seat by nine, the most Democratic-leaning of the tossups using 2022 numbers.
- HD-82 (Kim Taylor, Republican) – This may just be the most interesting district of the new maps – a Biden+10, Youngkin+2 seat in Southside Virginia, it’s one of the few seats trending to the right since 2016. Trump lost it by 14 in 2016, and it really has only trended rightwards since then. This is in part due to rapid rightward trends in Dinwiddie and tiny Surry County. Deep blue Petersburg City has also bled parts of its black population in the last decade, slowly depleting a crucial Democratic voting block. Incumbent Kim Taylor will be in for a tough fight, as she’ll face one of Victor McKenzie, who seems to have the Democratic establishment behind him, or Kimberly Adams, who’s taking more progressive stances.
- HD-97 (Karen Greenhalgh, Republican) – The majority-decider in 2021 will likely take on the same role in 2023. Greenhalgh narrowly beat Alex Askew in the old 85th district and will likely have another tight battle on her hands. This Biden+12, Youngkin+2 seat in Virginia Beach already has its matchup between Greenhalgh and Michael Feggans, an Air Force Veteran and Tech entrepreneur. Elaine Luria won this seat by five in her race against Jen Kiggans in November, so Greenhalgh has an uphill climb. However, these off-off year elections always create weird turnout situations, and it will be interesting to see how this race develops. I will say that if Greenhalgh survives, it probably means the GOP has held on to the House of Delegates. This is the race to watch again, and it would be no surprise if it was the closest once again.