Okay, I just gave a test on political geography to one of my classes, and I decided to sit down and collect my thoughts on the election next Tuesday, November 4. After getting my students all hyped up about electoral geography, I am hoping some of that enthusiasm translates into a memorable blog. Well, here goes…
Virginia Geopolitical Predictions—The Senate
Virginia’s Senate seat will go to incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Warner. Surprise! Republican Ed Gillespie’s campaign boils down to, “Governor Warner wouldn’t recognize Senator Warner,” but candidate Gillespie does not offer much substance—just tired old Republican rhetoric. Gillespie will lose by some 500,000 votes, but Virginians will probably see him run for governor in 2017. Geopolitically, Warner will carry most of the counties and cities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, with the exception of some rural counties, especially in the west and southwest. Virginia went mostly blue (map below) in 2008, when Warner beat former Governor James Gilmore for the U.S. Senate seat.
Virginia Geopolitical Predictions—U.S. House Seats
All 11 of Virginia’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election, and most will return the (mostly Republican) incumbents. Yes, people are vastly unhappy with Congress, yet they seem to return their representatives.Virginia races that are interesting or competitive this year are in districts 2, 7, and 10 (see map below).
District 2. The geography of the 2nd District is delightfully complex, thanks to Republican-led gerrymandering efforts in 2011. The district includes Accomack and Northampton counties and the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News. Here, Democrat Suzanne Patrick is challenging Republican incumbent Scott Rigell. Normally the incumbent should win, but this district is competitive geographically. Rigell was elected in the Republican wave of 2010, but in 2012 the district gave Democrat Tim Kaine more votes than former Republican Senator George Allen. Rigell defended his seat in 2012 by spending $2.5 million—one of the most expensive 2012 House races in Virginia. The key to this district is Virginia Beach: The city split its vote in the 2013 gubernatorial contest between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Patrick’s military background could give her a boost on November 4, especially if turnout is high.
District 7. This district is not competitive, but it is exciting. David Brat’s upset primary win over Eric Cantor in June 2014 means this is an open seat—with a political newbie. The 7th District is safely Republican, based on the boundaries set in 2011 by Virginia’s Republican legislature. However, the boundaries for District 7 will change in 2015, because the neighboring 3rd District was declared unconstitutional in 2014. Looking at the map at left, changes to the 3rd District will likely give surrounding districts a greater minority population. Assuming he wins election, Representative Brat will have the least seniority in the Republican delegation, and his district could see the greatest change in boundaries, making it more competitive.
District 10. This is by far the most competitive Congressional district in Virginia. This is an open seat due to Republican Frank Wolf’s retirement. The candidates are Republican Barbara Comstock and Democrat John Foust. The district includes Fairfax, Frederick, and Loudoun counties, as well as the cities of Manassas and Winchester.
Delegate Barbara Comstock has represented District 34 in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2010. About two thirds of her district is in Fairfax, with the rest in eastern Loudoun County. Comstock won her last election with only 50% of the vote, versus 49% for her Democratic opponent. Also, Comstock has drawn fire from tea party activists, which could limit conservative support.
John Foust won his last election to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisions with 60% of the vote. Loudoun and Fairfax counties are key to this race, and Democrats have a voting edge in both counties. A recent Republican poll shows Comstock as winning big, but this seems to be a ploy to discourage Democratic voters from turning out. Other polls have been more competitive.
In the end, District 10 is the only one that I believe will change from Republican to Democrat on November 4. Based on the political geography of the 10th district, I think John Foust will win and the district map of Virginia will have one more Democratic district (map below). We will see on November 4.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the view of the NOVA Institute for Public Service or Northern Virginia Community College as a whole. All materials may be reprinted with permission, for more information please contact the IPS Coordinator.