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The next Virginia Senate could be one of its most diverse


Voters across Virginia will head to the polls this November to elect members of the General Assembly. And, they'll have a much more diverse slate of candidates this year.

This election will feature a record number of female candidates and a record number of Black candidates for the state Senate – 28 female candidates and 17 Black candidates.

Jennifer Victor at George Mason University says the parties have a different approach to identity politics.

“Democrats are using it as a way to say, 'We represent everybody, and we're here for diversity. And we're going to run candidates that look like the population in lots of different ways,'" Victor says. "Republicans are using it as a way to motivate conservative voters who have concerns about how race is taught in schools or access to healthcare in different ways."

J. Miles Coleman at the University of Virginia points out that the Legislative Black Caucus was opposed to the Redistricting Commission, in part because members were worried about minority representation.

"One of the reservations that some of the Democrats had on it was would these maps be adequate for minority representation," Coleman says. "I think you could still maybe debate the merits of that, but we could still have an increase in the number of non-white elected officials in the legislature regardless."

The Senate is expected to have a record number of Black senators after the election. And if Democrats regain control of the House, Virginia would likely have its first ever Black Speaker of the House.

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.