DemDaily: Countdown to Virginia. Your Guide to the Elections

October 24, 2023

Among the most significant elections of 2023 is the contest for control of the Virginia legislature, which will have major implications for reproductive rights, gun safety, tax cuts, school choice, transgender rights, climate change and more in the Old Dominion.

The results, in the leaning-blue state that flipped to the GOP with the 2021 gubernatorial election, will also be viewed as a barometer of both conservative Governor Glenn Youngkin's policies and the national political mood ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

All 140 seats in the General Assembly -- 100 in the House of Delegates and 40 in the state Senate -- are up in the November 7 election, which could see one or both chambers flip party control.

Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Virginia State Senate, 22-18, while Republicans maintain slight control in the House of Delegates, 52-48, with three GOP and two Democratic vacancies. A two-thirds majority in each house is required to override a gubernatorial veto.

Virginians are deadlocked in their preferences for the upcoming legislative elections. In a October 11-16 survey of registered voters conducted by Washington Post-Schar School Virginia, 47% preferred a generic Democrat on the House of Delegates ballot over a Republican (43%). That narrows to 47% to 45% percent, respectively, among likely voters (MOE: +/-3%).

Education polled the highest among issues of importance to Virginians, with 70% of respondents saying the issue is "very important" to their vote, followed by the economy with 68% and crime and safety with 64%. Gun policy fell sharply as a priority, with 62% of voters describing it as "very important," down from 75% in 2019.

Abortion is a flashpoint for many of the most critical races. Following the Supreme Court's June 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the issue has become a greater catalyst for voters, with 60% saying it is “very important” to their vote this year, up 14% points since 2019. Among women, who account for 53% of the voting population, that goes up to 70%.

Virginia currently allows for abortion through the second trimester, with exceptions for when the mother's life is in danger in the third trimester. Youngkin, who advocates for a 15-week ban on abortion, received the approval of a mere 37% of respondents on the issue, compared to 45% who disapprove.

Transgender issues, while ranking at just 34% on the list, overlaps with education in the minds of some voters -- with 63% in support of requiring parental notification if a student wants to go by pronouns that differ from their birth certificate. 45% support preventing transgender athletes from participating in sports teams that match their current gender identity. 52% support preventing transgender students from using bathrooms corresponding with a different gender than their birth sex. That being said, just 37% of respondents approve of Youngkin's handling of transgender issues, compared to 43% who disapprove.

A September 25-October 11 poll of likely voters conducted by Christopher Newport University's Wason Center breaks other education-related issues down further, showing a majority of respondents support the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), with 38% saying it should be taught a great deal and 31% saying a good amount.

According to the Wason poll, 84% of Virginians disagree with book banning from public school libraries based on parental objections, while 73% agree that it is important for public school libraries to have books representing different perspectives about controversial issues, even if it makes some uncomfortable.

In addition, the survey showed 58% support the retail sale of recreational marijuana and 65% support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which caps carbon dioxide emissions from power plants across 11 states, including Virginia, to combat climate change.

The 2023 elections are the first time Virginia residents cast their ballot under the new redistricting map, drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court in late 2021 following the decennial US Census conducted in 2020. The new Virginia General Assembly district boundaries shook up legislative districts and prompted the retirement of a number of veteran lawmakers in advance of the June 20, 2023 primary elections.

Races to Watch
Senate District 16: Incumbent* State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R) vs. State Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg (D). Redistricting shifted Dunnavant into a Democratic-leaning seat. District: Henrico County.

Senate District 17: State Delegate Clinton Jenkins (D) vs. State Delegate Emily Brewer (R). District: Hampton Roads/Southside.

Senate District 24: Senator Monty Mason* (D) vs. retired Sheriff Danny Diggs (R). Mason, who previously represented SD-1, was redistricted into the new 24th, which is slightly less Democratic. District: Peninsula.

Senate District 27: Marine Corp veteran, investment firm CEO and former Stafford Economic Development Authority Chairman Joel Griffin (D) vs. State Delegate Tara Durant (R) vs. Independent and Stafford Board of Supervisors member Monica Gary. District: Fredericksburg.

Senate District 30: State Delegate and the country's first elected transgender legislator Danica Roem (D) vs. Bill Woolf (R), a former police officer and anti-human trafficking advocate. District: Western Prince William County.

Senate District 31: Democratic prosecutor and former CIA agent Russet Perry vs. Republican entrepreneur and maternal health care startup founder Juan Pablo Segura. As of September 30, Perry had raised more than $3.39 million and Segura more than $2.8 million. District: Parts of Loudoun and Fauquier Counties.

House District 21: Democratic attorney and former Marine Corps officer Josh Thomas (D) vs. former Prince William County Supervisor John Stirrup (R). District: Prince William County.

House District 22: Attorney Travis Nembhard (D) vs. former Manassas City Councilman Ian Lovejoy (R). District: Manassas.

House District 57: Nurse Practitioner Susanna Gibson (D) vs. retired home builder David Owen (R). District: Western Henrico County.

House District 65: Former Democratic Delegate Joshua Cole vs. veteran and law enforcement officer Lee Peters (R). District: Fredericksburg.

House District 82: State Delegate Kim Taylor* (R) vs. university auditor Kimberly Pope-Adams (D). A highly competitive 46% Black district. Biden won the seat in 2020 and Youngkin captured it in 2021. District: Petersburg, Dinwiddie, Prince George and Surry Counties.

House District 89: Suffolk School Board member Karen Jenkins (D) vs. former US Army communications official Baxter Ennis (R). District: Hampton Roads.

House District 97: Republican Delegate Karen Greenhalgh* vs. veteran and small business owner Michael Feggans (D). District: Virginia Beach.

Voter Information
Check Your Registration: IWillVote.com
Early Voting: September 22-November 4: Find Your Polling Place
Voter Information: Virginia Dems
Questions: 844.482.VOTE (8683)
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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: Ballotpedia, Washington Post, 13NewsNow, Politico, WTOP, VPAP, Democracy Labs, Virginia Mercury, Virginia General Assembly

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