What State Senate and House of Delegates Races Will Be the Most Noteworthy?

Oct 18, 2019

Voters will be headed to the polls next month in elections for every seat in the General Assembly.

All 100 seats in the House of Delegates will be on the ballot next month, although some of the races have little or no competition. So which ones will be important to watch on election night?

Kyle Kondik at the University of Virginia says he’ll be watching seats Democrats took from Republicans two years ago. Although the marquee race, he says, is Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox trying to keep his seat against Democratic challenger Shelia Bynum-Coleman. 

“That one sort of stands out, although I don’t think that’s a seat that could sort of make or break the majority in the House," Kondik says. "I think if Democrats are winning that seat, they may be winning a decent sized majority.”

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Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says he’ll be watching that race and another one in Hampton Roads where Republican Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones is defending his seat against Democratic challenger Clint Jenkins. He says the speaker and the appropriations chairman are in tough races, although, he adds, they have the benefit of being longtime incumbents. 

“Kirk Cox was the civics teacher that everybody knew forever and ever. Chris Jones has had the family pharmacy forever and ever," Kidd explains. "And so I think those are going to be interesting races to watch because Democrats would love to knock off those two Republican leaders.”

And here’s the wild card: a race in Culpeper, where incumbent Republican Delegate Nick Freitas won’t be on the ballot because he missed the deadline. Will he be able to overcome that obstacle and get enough people to write his name on a ballot instead of voting for Democrat Ann Ridgeway? Voters will have the final say on Election Day.

All 40 seats of the Virginia state Senate will also be on the ballot next month, but just like in the House, some seats have little or no competition. So which Senate races will be important to watch on election night?

Kyle Kondik at the University of Virginia says he’ll be watching two races in suburban Richmond, where Republican incumbents Glen Sturtevant and Siobhan Dunnavant are on the defensive trying to keep their seats.

“I do think that those two Richmond-area seats are very important," Kondik says. "The Democrats don’t really need to sweep them, but I think they probably will need to win one of the two.”

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says he’ll also be watching another Richmond-area election, where Republican incumbent Senator Amanda Chase is trying to keep her seat. 

“She’s had many other elected and other Republicans in her district speak out against her," he explains. "She’s been kicked out of the local Republican Party, and so it’s just fascinating to watch what otherwise should be a safe Republican district that looks like it’s going to be more competitive.”

Democrats need to flip only two seats to take control of the state Senate, so the stakes couldn’t be higher.

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