You see the title, but what’s important are the districts that cause this event to happen. Virginia’s election is at an end, and what happens when the votes are counted will cause a massive effect on how the next two years go in the Commonwealth. We will start in the Senate and then end at the House.
Republicans get close, but no cigar in the State Senate, Unable to Break NOVA Wall
- SD-24 (Tossup to Leans Republican): Potentially ballsy considering where it seems like the momentum’s going? Yes, but there’s good reason for it. This, along with the already Leans Republican SD-17, were one of two Senate districts that were separated by less than a point in 2022. While this district swings much less than SD-17, thanks to more consistently and more solid Democrat-favored parts of this district, I believe that Democrats are behind in turnout here.
It is hard to calculate the early vote in Virginia, with no party registration. But there are tells in the amount of early vote the House districts inside the Senate district have. The Democratic leaning HD-70 has the most voters inside the district. But compared to HD-69, which is more Republican leaning, it has significantly less early voters. That means, that in theory, Democrats need stronger turnout on Election Day than Republicans do, and I question if they can do that. Virginia Republicans are looking to do much better win the early vote. And that very well could cut into their Election Day margin.
But don’t be fooled- Election Day is still the day for Republican voters. And with the early vote numbers in HD-70, Democrats are likely going to have to hope the turnout there is good on Election Day among their voters. That doesn’t mean they can’t have it, but this has not always been the case, especially in races in Hampton Roads, where Democrats have historically struggled to turn out in off-off year elections such as this one. Truthfully, I don’t think their turnout efforts will be enough on election day. I see Danny Diggs narrowly taking down incumbent Democrat Monty Mason by a single point, and taking this seat for Republicans.
- SD-31 (Tossup to Leans Democratic): This has been the race, right? The race that will decide the State Senate. The race that has seen fundraising and money spent that rivals a close congressional campaign. It all makes sense in NOVA, though. Loudoun County is once again at the center of Virginia’s political universe, with its swing towards Glenn Youngkin the precipice for his eventual victory in 2021. And the victory that I believe is coming for Russet Perry here that will tell the story of Election Night 2023.
The fact is, numbers don’t lie, and the numbers here were always going to be a big lift for Republican Juan Pablo Segura. This was a seat that, yes Glenn Youngkin won in 2021. But, it voted to the left of the state as a whole still, only voting for Youngkin by a single percentage point while he was winning the state by two. That makes it different to the other competitive State Senate races, which all voted for Youngkin by more than his final statewide margin. Let’s also look at the early vote in two House seats that are almost all encased in SD-31. HD-30, the more Republican-leaning seat in Western Loudoun and northern Fauquier County and HD-29, the more Democratic-leaning seat based around Leesburg and to its east. Unlike in SD-24, the gap in early votes here is much less.
That means Democrats, again in theory, have less to worry about in turning out Election Day voters to match Republican Election Day turnout. Plus, the Democratic base here is focused more on well educated White and Asian populations, which I expect Perry to do well with, specifically around Leesburg and the “arm” portion of this seat that extends to the border with Fairfax. I do expect Segura to do better than Hung Cao here, but it won’t come close to Youngkin’s. I believe Perry wins by 3.5 points over Segura, securing the majority in the State Senate for Democrats in Virginia.
Non-Tossup Changes in the State House
- HD-75 (Safe Republican to Likely Republican): One of two shifts I’m making in the House that doesn’t affect our toss-ups, I’m putting this Hopewell/Chesterfield seat on the board. Incumbent Republican Carrie Coyner has been one of the strongest GOP performers since first running in 2019 because of a strong moderate brand she built for herself.
Even with the district becoming much bluer since 2016, Democrats did not make a big effort to target her in 2021. This has mainly been because of issues with off off year election turnout in Hopewell, the Democratic-leaning city. But, Democrats have thrown a lot of late money at Democrat Stephen Miller-Pitts, which is a big change from their actions in this seat the last two cycles.
Will it pay off? I still don’t believe so, as the money may have come in a bit too late to have its full effects (Miller-Pitts didn’t start receiving big sums of money until Mid-October), but the seat has warranted enough attention to be put on the board. It would still be a surprise if Miller-Pitts knocked off Coyner, but not unbelievable at this point.
- HD-86 (Likely Republican to Safe Republican): The other shift is moving a seat off the board. Is this another risk? Possibly, but again I feel as though it makes sense. Democrat Jarris Taylor received no direct money from Democrats at all in October, and while incumbent Republican AC Cordoza got some mailers paid for by the VA GOP, he also did not receive any direct money to spend on ads or similar items.
This Poquoson/York/Hampton seat produced a big surprise in 2021 when it elected Cordoza, but this seat did become more Republican leaning in redistricting, and Taylor has less money and visibility than even Cordoza did in 2021. I believe this seat is much less likely to flip than the others we have in the Likely category, and thus gets moved off the board at the end of the cycle.
The Big Moves
- HD-21 (Tossup to Leans Democratic): This western Prince William County seat has been a main point of focus since day one of this cycle. Democrat Josh Thomas faces off against Republican John Stirrup, in a seat that went from Youngkin+3.5 to Wexton+2 in 2022. This seat will depend a lot on turnout among Republicans in the most Western precincts in this seat, while Democrats will hope to maximize their advantage in the precincts around Manassas. This seat also has the most amount of early votes among the truly competitive seats, with over 13,000 voters casting their ballot early in this district. That probably means this will be one of the last seats we know about on the night that are important to deciding the balance of power in the House.
The question in this seat is two fold: One, do Republicans have enough juice in NOVA in a seat that has only voted for Youngkin in recent years? And two, do Democrats get good enough turnout out of the strongly Hispanic and Democratic-leaning precincts outside of Manassas? My thinking is that I don’t know if either really happens. I think Thomas wins on persuasion here, even if Democrats don’t get the turnout numbers they want out of those aforementioned key precincts. I just do not feel confident enough in NOVA Republicans this year like I did in 2021. The same vibe is just not there, and I believe that in the end, it’s Thomas who pulls this one out, narrowly, by a point.
- HD-65 (Tossup to Leans Democratic): This Fredericksburg-based seat has admittedly sat in the Tossup column for too long. The bluest of the competitive seats, while Lee Peters has been surprisingly able to keep up in the fundraising game, I believe the numbers here just don’t match up towards a Republican victory in 2023. This was only a Youngkin+2 seat while he was dominating most of Stafford County, and that same environment just does not exist here in 2023.
I think Peters will do better than Yesli Vega did – I see him as a significantly better candidate than Vega, who lost this seat by nine, plus I do not see Democrat Josh Cole as nearly as strong of a candidate as Abigail Spanberger. I am personally of the belief that Cole is not a particularly strong candidate, who got elected in 2019 because Republicans drank some stupid juice and primaried Bob Thomas for Paul Milde, but the trends and current composition of this seat limit Cole’s weaknesses. He has a strong base in Fredericksburg, and early vote turnout here has been good. Cole is a clear favorite here, and I think he beats Peters by four when all the votes are counted.
- HD-82 (Tossup to Leans Republican): This one was hard for me. Turnout has been solid across the board in this very close, heavily racially polarized seat based around Petersburg, Dinwiddie, Prince George and Surry. This seat will all come down to turnout in Petersburg. If it is really good, the Democrat Kimberly Adams will win. If it middles on Election Day, then it’s probably we will see incumbent Republican Kim Taylor win. In the end, early vote turnout has been better in the much more Republican portions of the seat in Dinwiddie and Prince George counties.
Now, this could very well mean Republicans have eaten into their Election Day margins. And that could change things greatly. But this was another seat that was close in 2021, going for Youngkin by 2, and in 2022, going for former Congressman Don McEachin by 1. Unlike in NOVA, I surprisingly feel more confident in Republicans in Southside than I do closer to DC (imagine telling someone that 10 years ago). I also think incumbency plays a factor in such a close seat, and Taylor has that, unlike many other Republicans in key races. This is another one that will be very narrow, and I think Taylor only wins by around 1.5 percentage points over Adams.
- HD-97 (Tossup to Leans Republican): I know, I know. This is the weird one, right? The one I am sure to get a lot of flack for and probably deservedly so. But, I think this will end up correct. First, unlike in 2021, Karen Greenhalgh is not nearly as behind in fundraising. While she has been outspent by Democrat Michael Feggans, the gap that she faces now is nowhere close to the spending gap she faced in 2021 against former Delegate Alex Askew. Greenhalgh was outspent by 1.3 million dollars, and while she will be outspent again, that gap will be much tighter this time, which will matter.
Second, as I think I have made clear, I have not been impressed by early vote turnout in much of Hampton Roads. Unlike in other parts of the state, the early vote here has a significant decrease from 2022- around 800 less people have early voted in this district than in 2022. Combine that with likely more Republicans choosing to vote early, this is a race that will come down to who turns out on Election Day. And I don’t think that favors Democrats here. I believe Greenhalgh wins, once again, by less than a point. This race will be close, and in my opinion, the closest that we will see in the House.
My Final Thoughts
So a 21-19 Senate and a 50-50 House that would lead to possibly the nastiest power sharing agreement we will ever see in our lives. All with a Republican Governor as the executive over the entire body, and that sure sounds like a model for sound government right?
It is important for me to preface that Democrats have a much higher ceiling than Republicans do here. Republicans have three seats in our lean category in the Senate ratings, and six seats in the lean category in our House ratings. If this night is even around two points better for Democrats than I’m expecting, it could get very ugly for Republicans very fast, to the tune of a 56-44 House and a 24-16 Senate. That would end Glenn Youngkin’s presidential hopes here and now tomorrow night.
Now, I don’t think that will happen, but there’s a chance. A real honest chance. So, take my ratings as you will. Some of you may think of them as gospel, I’m sure many more of you will think of all the reasons why I’m wrong. But, as I always do, I’ve put them out there with what I believe is good reasoning. I hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage as always, and thank you for your support. I always appreciate it.