Metro Weekly

Virginia Election: Key Races That Could Flip the House and Impact LGBTQ Rights

A look at some of the commonwealth's more competitive Election Day contests -- and their potential impact on LGBTQ issues

A voting sign on Election Day – Photo: justgrimes / Flickr

As Nov. 5 approaches, Virginia voters (and those of us on the borders in D.C. and Maryland) are being bombarded with political ads encouraging people to head to the polls and support candidates for Senate, the House of Delegates, county boards of supervisors, school board members, and a number of other local races. It can be overwhelming to those who aren’t political junkies glued to every single machination of lawmakers in Richmond.

In short, this year’s biggest prize is control of the Virginia General Assembly. Republicans have held control for the better part of the last two decades, and Democrats are eager to take it back.

Winning control of the Assembly would allow Democrats to legislate on issues they’ve long advocated for, including gun reform, increased funding for transportation, action to combat climate change and deal with sea-level rise, and protecting LGBTQ residents from discrimination.

RelatedIn Virginia’s elections, LGBTQ rights are at stake

Retaining control of either chamber would allow Republicans to keep at bay — at least for another two years — the demands of a Virginia electorate that has significantly changed the Old Dominion’s character, including its “Southern” identity, and is facilitating the commonwealth’s rapid (and ongoing) political evolution from swing state into a Democratic stronghold.

For the past two years, Virginia Republicans have enjoyed a two-seat edge in both chambers, allowing them to set the legislative agenda and block any bills they oppose or deem controversial. Nowhere has this been more obvious in the House of Delegates, where Republicans have stacked subcommittees in a way designed to bottle up any bills proposed by Democratic legislators — essentially shutting them out of consideration by the full House.

For LGBTQ Virginians, Republican control has meant that the House of Delegates has served as a political graveyard for further equality and protection. Even in cases where they Republican-led Senate has taken action on LGBTQ-related issues, the House has kowtowed to the whims of conservative special interest groups like the Family Foundation of Virginia and the Virginia Catholic Conference and blocked anything tangentially related to LGBTQ rights.

In recent years, Republicans have defeated bills to protect youth from being forcibly subjected to conversion therapy, add nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people into law, bar insurance companies from discriminating against transgender individuals, and even to require local jurisdictions to report anti-LGBTQ hate crimes to the Virginia State Police (even though they are already reporting such statistics to the FBI).

RelatedVirginia Election: 8 Senate Races to Watch

Most jarringly, less than a decade ago, a significant number of Virginia Republican lawmakers even refused to confirm an otherwise qualified judicial candidate, simply because he was openly gay — and then proceeded to attack other Republicans who had voted for confirmation in subsequent election cycles. Because the nomination was taken up in 2012 and subsequently in 2013, there were two votes taken. Of the 51 Republicans in the House, 29, or more than half the current GOP caucus, either abstained; made themselves “absent” for 23 seconds while the vote was considered, only to return and vote on other nominees; or voted at least once against that nominee, Tracy Thorne-Begland. Only one currently serving Republican, Del. Terry Kilgore (Gate City), voted “yes” to confirm the judge both times.

With that in mind, we now turn our attention to the competitive races this fall. While all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for reelection this year, a much smaller number are considered potentially competitive. Follow us as we go through the districts, the personalities, and the electoral wrangling in the lead-up to Election Day.

Tier 1: Most in danger of flipping

1. House District 94

Del. David Yancey (R-Newport News) literally won this seat by chance, when, following multiple recounts and invalidated ballots, he and challenger Shelly Simonds ended up with the same number of votes. The Virginia Board of Elections was forced to draw a name from a bowl, with Yancey being the beneficiary. The district has been significantly redrawn following a court-ordered redistricting, making Yancey’s district the most Democratic-leaning district currently held by a Republican. Simonds, whose supporters believe she was cheated out of the seat due to the invalidated ballots, is back for a rematch.

Yancey, an urban Republican, has generally bucked his party when it comes to social issues, but Simonds is running a campaign to appeal to the Democratic base voters by focusing on gun reform, increased education funding, and defending and expanding access to health care. Also on the ballot is Libertarian Michael Bartley, whose presence could determine which candidate wins, depending on who his supporters’ second choice would be.

This should be an easy layup for Democrats, but Yancey is a good campaigner, and Democrats’ decision not to “nationalize” the races for General Assembly by tying vulnerable Republicans to President Trump (though some individual candidates have) could leave some Democratic voters uninspired and sitting on the sidelines come Election Day.

2. House District 91

Another district affected by the court-ordered redistricting, House District 91 changed from a solidly Republican district to one that favors Democrats after it took on significant portions of the city of Hampton.

The incumbent, Del. Gordon Helsel (R-Poquoson) is retiring, leaving it to Democrat Martha Mugler and Republican Colleen Holcomb to battle it out for the seat. Mugler is largely styling herself as a moderate, while Holcomb is the vice president of government relations at the conservative Eagle Forum — which takes hard-line stances on political and social issues of the day, including fierce opposition to LGBTQ rights.

This is another seat that looks good on paper for Democrats, but low turnout, due to the lack of statewide offices on the ballot, coupled with an insufficiently activated Democratic base, could result in a narrow edge for Republicans.

3. House District 85

Left open by Cheryl Turpin, a Democrat who is pursuing the District 7 Senate seat, this district was actually won by President Trump in 2016. Turpin put together an impressive campaign to win just a year later, but District 85 is about as evenly matched as any other in the state when it comes down to sheer partisanship.

Democrats have nominated Alex Askew, a former legislative aide, while Republicans are running Rocky Holcomb, a Virginia Beach sheriff’s deputy and the former delegate whom Turpin unseated two years ago. This is going to be the hardest seat for Democrats to hold onto, as even a slight decrease in turnout from two years ago could force this to flip.

Both candidates have largely avoided mentioning social issues, though Holcomb’s support of LGBTQ equality during his one term in office was lackluster.

4. House District 73

Call this the battle of the Virginia blue-bloods. Both Democrat Rodney Willett and Republican Mary Margaret Kastelberg (neé Smithers) are from Old Virginia families, and represent one of the state’s more affluent districts.

Kastelberg has earned headlines for bucking her party and supporting a “red-flag” bill that would allow gun confiscation in some cases where a person is mentally ill or incompetent, but Democrats are skeptical that she’ll stand against Republican House leaders — who are donating heavily to her campaign — should she be elected.

Both candidates issue standard party-line, boilerplate promises of issues that they’ll pursue in Richmond, in what promises to be an election dependent on turning out their parties’ respective bases. On paper, the district favors Democrats, but incumbent Del. Debra Rodman is running for the Senate, meaning this is as close to a toss-up as one can get.

5. House District 72

Much like neighboring District 73, District 72, in Western Henrico County, was represented in the General Assembly by Republicans for decades, until Democrats pulled off the upset in an open seat race two years ago.

VanValkenburg, a history and civics high school teacher, and Vandergriff, a community activist who unsuccessfully ran for the Henrico County School Board more than a decade ago, are both prioritizing education in their campaigns, and seeking to portray themselves as even-keeled, nonpartisan public servants.

However, Vandergriff is also adopting a page from the national GOP by accusing VanValkenburg of being a closet socialist in the mold of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. VanValkenburg has generally been friendly to LGBTQ interests, whereas Vandergriff’s position on equality issues is a question mark.

6. House District 68

Dawn Adams, the first out lesbian to serve in the General Assembly, was elected in a Republican-leaning district that favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. However, even though this mixed urban/suburban district remained unchanged under the new redistricting map, it contains the type of voters — white, affluent, with higher levels of educational attainment — who are souring on the Republican Party across the nation, and swung hard to the left in 2017, with Adams winning by a few hundred votes.

Based on the partisan lean of her district alone, Adams should not be the second-most vulnerable incumbent Democrat — after all, there are Democrats in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Southwest Virginia who represent much more conservative districts. But the first-term delegate managed to get mired in a controversy in which a former aide claims Adams made her do work for Adams’ health consulting firm in addition to her legislative duties. The aide, Maureen Hains, claims Adams shared unencrypted private patient health information with her as part of that work, and, in a bizarre twist, has accused Adams of hacking into her email and deleting files related to her work for the consulting business. Adams has denied the accusations made against her, but Republicans have pounced, accusing her of unethical behavior.

The GOP candidate, Garrison Coward, is head of a data analytics firm and a former aide to U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.). He is also one of two African-American Republican House nominees running this cycle, and has previously said that Republicans should move away from “identity politics.”

7. House District 76

On paper, this is the second-most Democratic district held by a Republican, and the district was significantly changed in the court-ordered redistricting, becoming 27 points more Democratic, and increasing the African-American population of the district from 26% to 45%. Democrats almost missed out on an opportunity here, as their candidate, Clint Jenkins, made a late decision to run. That said, Chris Jones, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is a charismatic candidate and strong campaigner with deep ties to the local community, and may be one of the hardest incumbents to dislodge, despite his district’s Democratic lean.

While Jones largely avoids social issues, he has previously voted against protecting state employees from discrimination. He was legitimately away from the floor for the first vote to confirm Tracy Thorne-Begland in 2012, and ultimately voted to confirm the judge in 2013. Because he does not chair a committee that typically deals with LGBTQ legislation and Republicans have managed to bottle up most pro-equality bills, it’s hard to gauge exactly where Jones stands on those issues.

However, he is also considered one of Speaker Cox’s most loyal lieutenants and, as a committee chairman, is expected to enforce discipline among rank-and-file members — something that drives Democrats mad.

Tier 2: Highly competitive seats

1. House District 12

This semi-rural district should probably be at the top of vulnerable Democratic-held seats, just based on the party’s near-implosion in Southwest Virginia. But Democrats believe Hurst, who was first elected in 2017, is running an excellent campaign and don’t view Hite as a strong candidate, particularly compared to former Del. Joseph Yost, the Republican Hurst unseated.

That said, in an off-off year election when voter turnout is expected to drop, there’s very little margin for error. Democrats are narrowly favored on paper, but Republican voters are historically more reliable in making it to the polls on Election Day. This may end up being closer than many political observers expect, especially if Republicans are going to nationalize the race by tying Hurst to national Democrats who are unpopular with rural voters.

Hite’s stance on LGBTQ equality is unknown, though the “Issues” section on his campaign currently lists a number of standard conservative GOP talking points.

2. House District 10

A mixed suburban/rural district in Northern Virginia, District 10 narrowly favors Democrats on paper, but low overall turnout could favor Republicans. This year’s contest is a rematch from two years ago, when freshman Wendy Gooditis (D-Boyce) unseated former Del. Randy Minchew (R-Leesburg).

The key for Gooditis to hold on will be ensuring that Democrats, particularly in the eastern portion of the district, come out to vote. On paper, this should be a toss-up, but many political observers believe Gooditis is running a good campaign.

When it comes to LGBTQ issues, Minchew generally wavered between apathetic to hostile when he was in the General Assembly, earning praise from the anti-LGBTQ Family Foundation over the years.

3. House District 21

Kelly Convirs-Fowler became one of the stars of the Democratic freshman class elected in 2017, winning in what is the most Democratic district in Republican-leaning Virginia Beach. That said, this race is close to a tossup, with maybe a narrow edge to the incumbent. Fowler has been vocal about supporting Democratic priorities, including nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians (something also supported by the Republican she defeated, former Del. Ron Villanueva).

Shannon Kane, a member of the Virginia Beach City Council, has largely run a standard Republican campaign focused on turning out base voters. But she has recently gotten unflattering attention for mailers — which some have called “racist” — attacking Fowler, who is part-Latina, of being “weak” on illegal immigration and putting her photo in a lineup alongside members of the violent MS-13 gang.

Kane also ran an ad attempting to link Fowler to the ongoing scandal involving accusations of sexual assault lodged against Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. In the ad, Kane accuses Fowler, a sexual assault survivor herself, of being “silent”, even though Fowler called for Fairfax to resign.

Political analyst Dr. Quientin Kidd, of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, recently told WTKR that the ad is intended to depress turnout among women who were energized by the #MeToo movement and would typically tend to be more supportive of Fowler, but are disgusted or disheartened by the accusations against Fairfax. If the ad achieves its intended aim of keeping Democratic voters at home, this is a district Republicans could easily snatch back.

4. House District 50

District 50, like the two next districts on the list (which are located on either side of the city of Manassas), is a Northern Virginia district that favors Democrats on paper but has a history of horrendous turnout in off-off years. For years, Republicans in Prince William County would seem vulnerable, but depressed turnout would result in the reelection of delegates like self-described “chief homophobe” Bob Marshall, Rich Anderson, and, in the case of this district, Jackson Miller, the former House Majority Whip. In 2017, that changed with an eight-point upset by Lee Carter, a Marine Corps veteran who moonlights as a Lyft driver to earn extra money.

While the partisan lean of Carter’s district is more slanted towards Democrats than other incumbents, Republicans have attacked Carter primarily for admitting that he identifies as a Democratic socialist, and have attacked him for opposing state financial incentives to businesses seeking to expand in the area, saying he cost the region jobs.

Carter insists that the corporations don’t need the money, and that offering it will result in more people moving into the area, increasing prices for existing residents and increasing competition for a finite number of resources.

The Republican candidate is Ian Lovejoy, a Manassas City Council member, who has largely tried to cast Carter as too extreme for the district. Democrats counter that Lovejoy is vague about where he actually stands on issues like gun reform, abortion rights, and LGBTQ rights.

5. House District 13

Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person elected to the General Assembly, is another first-term lawmaker who Republicans have gone after tooth-and-nail. While Roem’s district is even more Democratic than Lee Carter’s, the Democrats in the district are typically more clustered in certain precincts that need to be canvassed carefully in order to drive turnout. Additionally, some parts of Manassas Park and suburban Manassas that Roem represents have higher levels of poverty, lower rates of home ownership, and higher numbers of transient residents — and Democrats privately fret that newer residents who have moved into the district may not be registered to vote, and some who cast votes for Roem two years ago may no longer live in the district.

Additionally, Republicans and conservative allies like the Family Foundation of Virginia have increased attacks invoking Roem’s gender identity in the closing weeks, indicating that they believe they can turn out Republican-leaning voters by reviving the culture wars — particularly when it comes to LGBTQ issues.

To assist in that effort, they’ve got the perfect candidate: Kelly McGinn, a socially conservative anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ activist and former lawyer who previously served as senior counsel for International Human Rights under Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). McGinn’s been all too eager to emphasize anti-LGBTQ issues in an attempt to gin up turnout among the district’s Republican voters.

Roem, meanwhile, has focused on her record of expanding Medicaid, fighting for school lunch recipients, and pushing for measures to decrease traffic congestion, particularly for commuters who travel along Route 28. In short, Roem is favored here, but the race could be a lot closer than expected.

RelatedDanica Roem targeted by anti-trans Facebook ad

6. House District 51

First-term Democratic lawmaker Hala Ayala is favored in this Prince William County race, which pits her against the man she unseated two years ago, former Del. Rich Anderson, who was always one of the more socially conservative Republicans from Northern Virginia.

Ayala’s district is actually less Democratic than either Carter or Roem’s, and she had a smaller margin of victory than they did two years ago, and while Republicans have campaigned heavily against her, they appear to be less zealous about doing so, at least compared to the way they’ve relished attacking Carter and Roem.

Additionally, Ayala has out-raised Anderson by a more than 5-to-1 margin, giving her plenty of cash for a last-minute campaign push. That said, most of the Democratic-leaning voters in Ayala’s district are clustered in a few precincts in the Lake Ridge and Occoquan areas, which comprise about one-third of the district’s total area. That means that Democrats have to micro-target those areas and ensure base voters turn out — which is probably why presidential candidates Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar came in to campaign on Ayala’s behalf in September and October, respectively.

For LGBTQ voters, there is no contest: Ayala has consistently spoken out in favor of LGBTQ rights, while Anderson voted twice against confirming gay judge Tracy Thorne-Begland, voted against budget amendments to protect LGBTQ state employees from discrimination, and refused to voice opposition to a measure, defeated in a subcommittee he sat on, that would have allowed state contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people — even when the rest of his fellow Republicans on the subcommittee came out publicly against the bill.

7. House District 83

This district, which was drawn to favor Republicans in 2011, was redrawn to narrowly favor Democrats after the courts found that the 2011 map had unconstitutionally gerrymandered African-American voters into as few districts as possible in order to elect Republicans in adjoining districts.

Democrats nominated Nancy Guy, a former member of the Virginia Beach School Board, ton run against Del. Chris Stolle, a member of a prominent Republican family whose brother is Virginia Beach Sheriff (and former state senator) Ken Stolle and whose sister is Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico). While Democrats should be favored if turnout is fairly robust, Stolle has longstanding ties to the Hampton Roads area and may have some appeal among wealthier, socially moderate, and fiscally conservative voters who may be worried about Democrats’ spending priorities should they take control of the General Assembly.

Stolle is also one of a handful of suburban Republicans who have expressed support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people — a rarity as the GOP caucus has become more socially conservative with each passing election cycle.

8. House District 28

First-term Del. Bob Thomas, a moderate Republican, was defeated in the primary by Paul Milde, a former Stafford County Supervisor who attacked Thomas for voting to expand Medicaid. Milde has since touted his conservative bona fides as he attempts to turn out Republicans in a Republican-leaning district.

Democrats nominated Joshua Cole, a pastor and former legislative aide who currently serves as Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler’s chief of staff. Cole narrowly lost to Thomas in 2017 in a race that was marred by errors that resulted in hundreds of voters being assigned to the wrong legislative district. While it’s not certain that Democratic turnout will reach 2017 levels, the lack of an incumbent at least gives Cole a better shot at taking the seat.

UPDATE: Milde recently attacked Cole for “special restrooms for transgendered” in a mailer, paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia, alleging that the Democrat is too liberal for the district. The mailer also alleges that Democrats want to provide “sanctuary for illegal aliens,” allow “abortions in the 9th month,” institute “gun control” and force Virginians to have “government-controlled healthcare” — a sign that Milde is trying to “nationalize” the race and turn out conservative voters in Republican-leaning Stafford County.

9. House District 40

House Majority Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R-Clifton) is the lone Republican who still represents parts of Fairfax or Prince William County, both of which have shifted heavily towards Democrats in recent election cycles.

Democrats have nominated Dan Helmer, an Army Reservist, business strategist, and former Rhodes Scholar to challenge Hugo, who is running away from the national party and focusing heavily on local issues like potholes, road closures, and transportation — issues that have not only led him to develop strong ties with the community, but have played a role in his successful reelections over the past four or five cycles.

Hugo’s record on LGBTQ rights is nothing short of horrible, but he’s not as flashy or overt about his social conservatism as other Republicans running for the General Assembly this year. While the district favors Democrats, Hugo represents some of the most conservative swaths of Northern Virginia, and it’s unclear whether Democrats have put in the man-hours needed to turn out a large number of Democratic-leaning voters in a tiny handful of precincts.

10. House District 100

Rob Bloxom’s family is well known in Virginia, due to his father, Rob Bloxom, Sr., having served in the House of Delegates and as Virginia’s first Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. For generations, the Bloxom family has had roots in the rural Eastern Shore portion of this district, where almost two-thirds of the district’s voters live.

Phil Hernandez, a Norfolk resident who served as a former senior policy analyst on the United States Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, is the Democratic nominee, and established himself as a top-quality fundraiser who could make this marginally-Republican district competitive.

While Democrats are largely hemorrhaging support in rural areas across the country, the Eastern Shore has large pockets of Democratic voters (albeit conservative Democrats) that help keep this seat competitive. Bloxom has the edge on paper, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hernandez pull off the upset, particularly if Democrats in Norfolk decide to show up at the polls on Election Day.

11. House District 66

Since the new House maps were redrawn to “unpack” African-American voters from nearby Democratic vote-sinks, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox has seen his the number of African-American residents in his district nearly double, and its partisan lean shift 25 points in the Democratic direction.

Cox, whom Democrats see as their chief obstacle to getting anything accomplished in Richmond, was soon at the top of every Democrats’ target list. This year’s Democratic nominee is Sheila Bynum-Coleman, a single-family residential contractor and member of Virginia’s Board for Contractors, who previously ran in the nearby 62nd District against Del. Riley Ingram (R-Hopewell) in 2017.

Democrats have been pouring money into this race and canvassing heavily in the hope of unseating Cox, but it’s a question mark about how fruitful their efforts will end up being. Cox’s trump card could be his residence in, and ties to, the independent city of Colonial Heights, a heavily Republican bastion where nearly 1 in 5 of the district’s voters live.

While Cox is narrowly favored, should Democrats win this seat, Cox’s defeat would be touted by Democrats as a symbol of Republicans who have been punished by voters for growing out of touch with their suburban constituents on issues like health care, reproductive rights, civil rights, and gun reform — not to mention LGBTQ issues, which Cox has ensured the various Republican-controlled committees in the House of Delegates keep at bay.

Tier 3: Moderately competitive seats

1. House District 93

District 93 became more Republican after the court-ordered redistricting. However, this district still favors Democrats on paper. While it’s not as Democratic as Lee Carter and Danica Roem’s districts are, Mullin is a strong candidate running, for the third time, against Heather Cordasco, a former James City School Board Member. Mullin has the edge in money and incumbency, but the race is expected to be closer this year.

2. House District 31

Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Dale City), a Peruvian-born immigrant and social worker, is another Northern Virginia first-term lawmaker elected in the “blue wave” of 2017. Like many of her Prince William colleagues, the eastern portion of Guzman’s district is heavily Democratic, while the western portion runs through strong Republican territory, requiring intense targeting of key precincts — though Democratic activists privately say that they believe Guzman is safer than her fellow freshman legislators.

She faces DJ Jordan, the former Chairman of the State Board of Social Services, and the second of two black Republicans running for the House of Delegates this year.

While Jordan’s resume is impressive, some LGBTQ people may be wary of his former position with the State Board of Social Services, which was the agency that, under Gov. Bob McDonnell, decided to allow child placement agencies that receive taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples and other prospective parents. (The General Assembly later voted to codify the board’s decision into law.)

While the “conscience clause” bill was passed prior to Jordan’s appointment by McDonell in 2013, Jordan would have been tasked with overseeing the enforcement of that rule during his four-year term.

3. House District 27

Del. Roxann Robinson is another rare Virginia House Republican with an LGBTQ-friendly record. Robinson has voted for amendments to the budget to protect LGBTQ state employees from discriminating, introduced a bill to ban housing discrimination in the commonwealth, and was instrumental in defeating a bill that would have allowed state contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Robinson’s suburban Richmond-area district was not considered by most experts to be competitive, but she had a close call on Election Night 2017 when Larry Barnett, a mental health professional with Chesterfield County Mental Health Support Services, came within 128 votes of unseating the now five-term incumbent.

The district leans Republican, and the GOP has argued publicly that if Barnett couldn’t pull of the upset in the “wave year” of 2017, he’ll fare even less well in a year when turnout is expected to be lower than two years ago.

4. House District 84

Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) falls into the same category as fellow Republicans Roxann Robinson and Chris Stolle, being generally friendly to the LGBTQ community and being more amenable to working with Democrats across the aisle. His district is even more Republican, which gives him an edge on Tuesday. But even though it leans Republican, Democrats Ralph Northam and Tim Kaine won the district in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Davis faces Karen Mallard, an elementary school reading specialist who has campaigned on greater educational funding and attacked Davis for supporting charter schools and sponsoring a bill that requires patients with serious conditions to try and fail using cheaper medications before an insurance company will cover an expensive drug prescribed by their doctor.

Davis, in a bit of political gamesmanship that shows his confidence headed into Election Day, recently listed $44,000 — what he says is the cost of negative mailers attacking him — as an “in-kind” contribution from Democrats on his official campaign records, saying the attacks have increased his name recognition and given voters a more positive impression of him.

Tier 4: “Reach” seats

1. House District 75

Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-Jarratt), a seven-term lawmaker from Southside Virginia, was one of the sitting African-American delegates whose district gained more white voters and more Republicans after the courts redrew downstate districts to “unpack” African-American voters. Her district, while still majority-African-American, is heavily rural and on the socially conservative end of the spectrum. If Democratic turnout falls back to the levels it was at in 2013 or 2015, and if rural, white, Republican-leaning voters — energized by a recent stop by Vice President Mike Pence — show up in droves to vote against Democrats, Tyler could see a tighter race than expected.

Republicans have nominated Otto Wachsmann, a pharmacist and small business owner who has significantly out-raised Tyler while attacking her on the lack of economic development in the district. He’s being assisted by independent expenditures from the Family Foundation, which is attacking Tyler on social issues, and the Women for Self-Defense PAC, which is attacking Tyler over Democrats’ calls for gun reform.

2. House District 30

Technically, Democrat Ann Ridgeway, a former juvenile probation officer and teacher, is the only candidate on the ballot in this blood-red district in rural Central Virginia. Incumbent Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) was kept off the ballot due to an error that made him miss the filing deadline. As a result, Freitas, who is thought to be planning a 2020 challenge to Democratic U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, has been forced to wage a write-in campaign.

While the overwhelmingly Republican nature of this district favors Freitas, regardless, it should be interesting to see what happens when voters see only Ridgeway’s name on the ballot. If Democrats managed to pick up this seat, it would signal a very long night for Republicans.

Read more:

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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