Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to choose nominees for this November’s state elections, when all 40 seats in the state Senate and all 100 in the House of Delegates will be up. Republicans hold just a 21-19 majority in the Senate and an equally thin 51-49 edge in the House, so Old Dominion Democrats have the chance to take control of both chambers of the legislature while also holding the governorship for the first time since early 1994.
Democrats got a major boost in this quest when federal judges struck down the House map for discriminating against black voters and redrew part of it ahead of this year’s elections. The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on a GOP appeal seeking to displace the new map, but it’s very unlikely that it’ll interfere now that the primaries have passed.
However, Virginia Democrats still have plenty of obstacles ahead of them this fall, especially given the cavalcade of misery surrounding Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who’ve steadfastly refused to resign in the face of separate scandals that broke in February. Democrats also need to defend some key House seats in order to take control of the chamber. Still, 2019 gives Democrats their best chance in a generation to finally win the legislature.
Below is a look at the Senate and House battlegrounds for this November. Daily Kos Elections previously crunched the numbers for the 2016 presidential election for every district in the Virginia legislature (using the new lines for lower chamber).
Now, for the first time, we have results of the 2017 gubernatorial election, where Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie 55-45, calculated for each district in the Senate and the House. Particularly worrisome for Republicans is the fact that Northam almost universally performed better than Hillary Clinton, exceeding her margins in 85 House districts and 35 Senate seats—and almost all of the seats where he did not are uncompetitive.
We’ll start with the Senate, where members are elected to four-year terms. Democrats only need to flip one seat to force a 20-20 tie, which Fairfax would be able to break in Team Blue’s favor. However, there are a few reasons why Democrats will want to win more than just a single seat to feel secure when back in power.
While the Senate won’t be up again until 2023, the lieutenant governor’s office is on the ballot again in 2021, so a GOP win there would flip a tied Senate back to them. Democrats also won’t be comfortable staking their majority on Fairfax, whom two women have accused of sexually assaulting them.
In addition, the party’s ranks next year will include the notorious Joe Morrissey, a former state delegate who unseated Sen. Rosalyn Dance in Tuesday’s primary for a safely blue Richmond seat, despite having multiple ugly scandals to his name. The Morrissey saga exploded in 2014, when he resigned from office after pleading guilty to having sex with an underage girl whom he later married. However, Morrissey decided to seek his old seat in a 2015 special election as an independent and won.
Morrissey rejoined the Democratic Party that year to challenge Dance in the primary, but after failing to make the ballot, he launched an independent bid that fall that he later aborted (due to health reasons, he said). Morrissey is a Democrat again, but he said after his Tuesday primary win that he’d been receiving calls from both parties to caucus with both of them. Given all that’s transpired with him over the last few years, Team Blue can hardly afford to rely on him to secure a Senate majority.
The good news for Democrats, though, is that Republicans aren’t making a serious effort to win any of the 19 Democratic-held seats. That means the GOP can’t afford to lose a single member if it wants to remain in the majority—without having to rely on Morrissey. And that will be a tall order, as Hillary Clinton carried 23 seats in the Senate.
Democrats, by contrast, have several viable targets, especially since four of those Clinton districts are held by Republicans. One good pickup opportunity is Northern Virginia's SD-13, where notorious GOP Sen. Dick Black is retiring. This seat, like many well-educated suburban areas, moved hard against Trump: While Mitt Romney carried the district 51-48, Clinton took it 51-43. A year later, as our new data shows, Northam won here by an even wider 55-44 margin. Democrats are fielding Del. John Bell, while the GOP nominated Loudoun County Supervisor Geary Higgins, a far-right extremist endorsed by Black whose biggest issue is Trump’s border “wall.”
Another race to watch is SD-10 in the Richmond area, where Republican Sen. Glen Sturtevant is seeking a second term. This seat moved from 50-48 Obama to 53-40 Clinton, and Northam carried it 57-42. The Democratic nominee is community college administrator Ghazala Hashmi, who would be the first Muslim woman to serve in the Senate.
Republicans have two more Clinton seats to defend. Republican Sen. Frank Wagner is retiring from SD-07 in Hampton Roads, which backed Clinton 47.1-46.9 and Northam 53-45, respectively. The GOP nominee is Navy veteran Jen Kiggans, while Democrats are running Del. Cheryl Turpin, who won a very competitive House race in a district Trump carried two years ago. (That seat has since been modified by the court and would have gone for Clinton.)
Finally, one Republican incumbent is getting targeted for the first time. SD-12 in suburban Richmond backed Romney by a strong 55-44 margin, and Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant won a 2015 open seat race with 58% of the vote. However, Clinton carried her seat 48-45 the following year and Northam took it 52-47, so Dunnavant is in for a considerably tougher race this time against Del. Debra Rodman, who ousted a Republican incumbent in 2017.
We’ll turn next to the House, where the members are running for two-year terms and where GOP prospects to hold on are better than they are in the upper chamber, despite the new map. To begin with, Democrats need to flip two seats to take control rather than just one: If there’s a 50-50 tie, the two parties would need to come up with some sort of power-sharing agreement, which was last necessary in 1998. And unlike in the Senate, Team Red has some Democratic seats it’s eyeing as pickup opportunities.
Still, Republicans will need a lot to go right. Under the new lines, Clinton carried 56 of the 100 seats (compared to 51 under the old map), while Northam carried an additional four districts. Republicans are defending seven Clinton seats and 11 Northam seats, while Democrats don’t currently hold any Trump (or Gillespie) turf.
In April, Daily Kos Elections issued an analysis comparing the old map to this new one. We also put together a chart that compares the 2016 presidential results in each redrawn seat under the new map and the old map. Overall, the news is very bad for Republicans: Of the nine altered GOP seats, fully eight became bluer, and four even flipped from Trump to Clinton.
The bluest GOP-held seat is a familiar one” Del. David Yancey’s HD-94 in Newport News. Under the old map, Yancey infamously won re-election in 2017 in a tie-breaker that should have never happened in the first place. Shelly Simonds, the Democrat who got the raw deal two years ago, is running again, and her prospects look much brighter in large part thanks to redistricting. While Clinton won the old version of this seat 50-44, the new one backed her 56-39; Northam also won the new 94th 60-40.
Two other Republicans are defending seats that Clinton won by double digits. Del. Chris Jones saw his Hampton Roads HD-76 transform in redistricting from a 52-44 Trump seat to a 56-40 Clinton district, and Northam also carried the new seat 60-39. The Democratic nominee is real estate agent Clint Jenkins, but he faces a big cash disadvantage against Jones, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Jones has outraised Jenkins $498,000 to $14,000.
Over in HD-40 in Northern Virginia, Republican Del. Tim Hugo is running for a seat that backed Clinton 53-42. Hugo pulled off a tight 50.2-49.8 win in 2017 even as Northam was winning 55-44 here, but luckily for him, redistricting didn’t touch his district. The Democratic nominee this time is Army veteran Dan Helmer, who unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination in the 10th Congressional District last year and made waves with a karaoke-themed ad called “Helmer Zone.”
Four other Republicans are running in Clinton seats, but none are as blue as this trio. Over in Hampton Roads’ HD-83, Del. Chris Stolle is seeking re-election in a district that redistricting changed from 51-44 Trump to 50-45 Clinton; Northam also won the new seat 55-44. Stolle’s opponent is former Virginia Beach School Board member Nancy Guy. The GOP is also attempting to hold the open HD-91, another redrawn seat that went from 51-44 Trump to 50-45 Clinton and backed Northam 55-44. Republicans are fielding attorney Colleen Holmes Holcomb, while Democrats nominated Hampton School Board member Martha Mugler.
Another vulnerable Republican is none other than House Speaker Kirk Cox, whose HD-66 in the Richmond area moved from 59-37 Trump to 50-46 Clinton under the new map and supported Northam 52-47. Cox’s foe is small business owner Sheila Bynum-Coleman, who ran for the House under the old map in 2017 and lost to GOP Del. Riley Ingram 52-48. The powerful speaker unsurprisingly has had no trouble bringing in cash, and he’s outraised Bynum-Coleman $711,000 to $61,000.
The final GOP-held Clinton district is HD-100, a Hampton Roads seat that was not impacted by redistricting. Clinton carried the 100th 49-46 and GOP Del. Bob Bloxom won re-election in 2017 by a 52-48 margin as Northam taking his seat 53-46. The Democratic nominee is attorney Phil Hernandez.
There are a few other seats, none of which were affected by redistricting, that are worth keeping an eye on as possible Democratic pickups. HD-28, an open seat in Stafford County, backed Trump 48-47 but favored Northam 51-48. The GOP candidate is former Stafford County Supervisor Paul Milde, who unseated Del. Bob Thomas in Tuesday’s primary by running to the incumbent’s right, while Democrats are running 2017 nominee Josh Cole. Two years ago, Thomas beat Cole 50.2-49.8 here.
Another Trump/Northam seat is HD-27 in the Richmond suburbs. Trump won 48-46 here while GOP Del. Roxann Robinson won re-election in 2017 against Democrat Larry Barnett 50.2-49.8 as Northam carried her district 51-48. Barnett is running again.
One further Democratic target is HD-84 in Virginia Beach, which went from 49-45 Trump to 52-47 Northam. Republican Del. Glenn Davis held on 52-48 two years ago, and he now faces a challenge from teacher Karen Mallard. Mallard ran an underfunded primary campaign last year for the 2nd Congressional District, but her new race looks to be off to a better start, as Davis has amassed only a modest $109,000 to $74,000 fundraising lead.
As we noted above, Republicans do have some viable pickup opportunities of their own. Their best target looks to be HD-85, a Virginia Beach seat that Turpin is leaving to run for the Senate; Clinton won just 48-46 here, though Northam pulled off a stronger 55-44 win (and as we noted above, the seat, which voted for Trump under the old version of the map, became bluer in redistricting). The Democrats are fielding former legislative staffer Alex Askew, while the GOP has nominated former Del. Rocky Holcomb, whom Turpin unseated two years ago.
Team Blue also needs to fight to hold HD-10, a 50-44 Clinton seat in Northern Virginia. Democrat Wendy Gooditis unseated Republican Randy Minchew 52-48 while Northam was carrying the seat 54-45, and Minchew is back for a rematch. Democrats are also on the defensive in the open HD-73, which Rodman has left to run for the Senate. This district is located in the Richmond suburbs and backed Clinton and Northam 51-43 and 53-45, respectively. Democrats are running technology consultant Rodney Willett, while the GOP has turned to investment manager Mary Margaret Kastelberg.
Virginia’s elections this year are going to be the hottest legislative contests in the country, so we’ll be following developments closely. To keep up with all of our coverage, please subscribe to our newsletter, This Week in Statehouse Action.
P.S. For the rest of our presidential results by legislative district, you can find our master list of states here, and you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.