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A Look at Why So Many House of Delegates Members are Running for Statewide Offices


As lawmakers prepare for the upcoming General Assembly session, a huge number of House members are running for statewide office or at least considering a run.

Usually when members of the House of Delegates want to run for a statewide office, they have to give up their seats. Candidates can't run in the primary for lieutenant governor and also in the primary for a House seat. That tends to keep people out of the race. But not this cycle. Because of the delay in getting Census data and redrawing the districts, House members can run and lose in the June primary and then hold on to their seats in the House of Delegates.

"2021 is a great year to run for statewide office if you're already in the legislature," says Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington. He says delegates will get two bites at the apple, and Republicans who benefited from the old map will probably not be looking forward to whatever the new map looks like.

"Politicians who represent more suburban areas, like say [former] Speaker Cox's district in Chesterfield. That's not a particularly Republican friendly district now in terms of the way it was drawn by the courts. But it's likely to be a challenging district in 2021 as well," Farnsworth explains.

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says lots of young House Democrats are looking at the mirror and seeing statewide ambition.

"Within the Democratic Party, you're beginning to see the emergence of sort of a struggle between progressives who tend to be a little bit younger and newer to the political scene than the old guard," Kidd says.

After the June primary for statewide offices, the House primary could be in August or potentially even in 2022 depending on when the Census data is available.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.