Virginia State Senate Battlegrounds for the November 5, 2019 Election


Geographic distribution of vulnerable Senate seats.
Republicans look vulnerable in 7 of their 21 Virginia Senate seats, and Democrats 1 or 2 for control.
Continue reading “Virginia State Senate Battlegrounds for the November 5, 2019 Election”

Halloween: Scary Virginia Senate Races

Map showing close Senate races as of October 31
Map showing close Senate races as of October 31
Democratic (blue) and Republican (red) Senate districts prior to Nov 3
Democratic (blue) and Republican (red) Senate districts prior to Nov 3

Control of the 40-person Virginia Senate depends on a small number of district races. Scary I-66 tolls in Senate Districts 13 and 29 and threatening actions in District 20 made it a seemingly nerve-racking, anxious week before Election Day on November 3.


Districts 13 & 29: Horrifying I-66 Tolls in Northern Virginia?

A strange situation has developed in District 13 for the GOP, where first-term Republican Senator Dick Black should be cruising to victory in a Republican-leaning district. Black reportedly insulted women in an ad against Democratic opponent Dr. Jill McCabe, and his record on women’s issues looks bad. He is now using the “$17 tolls” scare tactic to gain political traction. Meanwhile, McCabe has surpassed Black in fundraising. Will District 13 be a lucky or a cursed number—and for which party?

Political ads for an against Sen. Dick Black
Political ads for an against Sen. Dick Black

Terrifying tolls are also an issue in District 29. Republican Hal Parrish, Manassas Mayor and Republican candidate for District 29, also used the $17 tolls in campaign ads prompting a withering rebuke from Democratic Governor McAuiliffe.

District 20: Facebook, Fear & Guns in Southern Virginia

An eerie incident in District 20 brought back memories of Republican State Senator Bill Stanley’s Glock. It all started when Andy Parker, father of Roanoke TV reporter who was fatally shot recently, started making negative comments on Bill Stanley’s Facebook page. Stanley has an “A” rating with the NRA, and Parker is a spokesman for Everytown for Gun Safety. Stanley perceived the Facebook comments as threatening and reacted by applying for concealed handgun permits and calling the Capitol Police and county sheriff’s office. Parker apologized for his harsh Facebook comments.

Governor Terry McAuliffe mocked Stanley’s reaction as a political ploy for voter sympathy, which then prompted a fearful furor from Republicans.

Stanley is running for re-election against Democrat Kim Adkins (NRA “F” rating), former mayor of Martinsville. Stanley’s campaign showed concern for Martinsville and Henry County votes by opening a new Republican office in September. The gun issue took a vicious turn when Adkins’ Martinsville campaign office was defaced with a large spray-painted gun target symbol and threatening words.

Adkins' office vandalized
Adkins’ office vandalized
District 7: Monstrous Money Amounts in Virginia Beach

Republican Frank Wagner, who has not had a Democratic opponent in his last two senate elections, is fighting for his political life in one of the most expensive races in Virginia’s history. Governor McAuliffe lost this district by about 300 votes out of some 50,000 cast in 2013, but Democratic Lt. Governor Northam won it by 5,200 votes.

District 8: This Virginia Beach District Should Be Safe for GOP

Virginia Delegate Bill DeSteph is running against Democrat Dave Belote, a political newcomer. Belote’s fundraising is impressive, but this district should go Republican, based on recent elections.

District 10: Scary Gun Safety & the Battle for Richmond

A battle over gun safety and 2nd Amendment rights is brewing. Democratic candidate Dan Gecker, supported by Everytown for Gun Safety, is running against Republican Glen Sturtevant, with backing from the NRA. Voting history for the district favors Democrats, for example the district favored Democrats in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 elections.

District 21: Democratic Senator Faces Formidable Opponents

State Senator John Edwards earned NRA endorsement, but this could scare away some Democratic voters in this close election. Republicans are targeting Edwards, the last Democratic senator in Southwest Virginia. However, the conservative Republican and Independent candidates will likely split the non-Democratic vote. McAuliffe won this district in 2013, and Democratic Senator Warner received 54% of the vote in 2014. Edwards should win re-election.

The Election Could Spook Republicans

Based on demographic trends and past voting trends, Democrats should take District 10 from Republicans and successfully defend Districts 21 and 29. This means that Democrats should gain control of the Senate. If Democrats pick up Districts 7 and/or 13, then Republicans will be more than unlucky. The loss of Districts 8 or 20 would be real Republican horror stories. All of the above races are worth watching on Election Day.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 11.29.30 AM

Mapping Virginia Senate Races, 2015

It’s the beginning of October, and campaign signs are popping up like flowers in spring. This is the sprint season for political campaigns, especially in Virginia where all 40 members of the State Senate and 100 members of the House of Delegates are up for election on November 3, 2015.

Whereas Democrats need to win an impossible 19 seats from Republicans to take control of the House of Delegates, they need to capture only 1 seat in the Virginia Senate to take back control that they lost in 2014. Currently, Republicans hold 21 seats and Democrats 19.

The Senate districts were drawn in 2011 to protect incumbent senators, and so the majority of districts are safe for sitting senators. Most races are boringly predictable. However, there are a few districts where retiring senators created open seats—and some electoral excitement. Also, a handful of districts are unpredictable due to demographic changes, especially in urbanized areas, that have taken place since the 2011 redistricting. Big changes can happen in 5 years (parents of teenagers know this). Those exciting Senate district contests are shown in yellow on the map and described below:
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.07.11 PM

District 6. Democratic Senator Lynwood Lewis is an incumbent in a Democratic-leaning district. He should win.
Prediction: Democratic hold

District 7. Republican Senator Frank Wagner represents an urbanized district favorable to Democrats that includes Virginia Beach and Norfolk and is almost a quarter African American. In September, Democratic challenger Gary McCollum created faux Republican outrage because he purportedly misunderstood his Army Reserve status; then Senator Wagner generated outrage from the Virginia Black Caucus for the following quote at a fancy country club luncheon: “So it’s a very diverse district. I wish sometimes I represented this half, but I’m very, very happy to represent the folks I have.” Perhaps the candidate who makes the least mistakes in October will win.
Prediction: Toss-up

District 10. Republicans will likely lose this open seat because demographic changes and voting trends increasingly favor Democrats. Almost a quarter of the population is African American. Dan Gecker’s campaign needs good Democratic voter turnout in the Richmond area to offset Republican votes for Glen Sturtevant in the rural western part of the district.
Prediction: Democratic pickup

District 13. Republican Senator Dick Black is an incumbent in a Republican-leaning district. He should win.
Prediction: Republican hold 

District 20. Republican Bill Stanley defeated the Democratic incumbent in the 2011 election by some 600 votes, getting only 46.8% of the total in this borderline Republican district. Senator Stanley is state chairman for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, which will have both a positive and negative impact on local voters. Democrat Kim Adkins may have a chance at an upset if the Democratic areas in and around Martinsville and Danville enjoy high voter turnout on Election Day.
Prediction: Toss-up

District 21. The challenge to Democratic Senator John Edwards follows a Republican strategy of targeting Democrats in southwestern Virginia, where Republicans took district 20 in 2011 and district 38 (west of district 21) in 2014. However, Senator Edwards should receive more than enough Democratic votes from the urban populations in Roanoke and Blacksburg to counter the rural Republican votes east and west of Blacksburg.
Prediction: Democratic hold

District 29. Democrat Jeremy McPike should win this open seat due to demographics and voting patterns. Republican Hal Parrish, current Mayor of Manassas, is a strong candidate with lots of money, but the Democratic precincts in and near Dale City should overwhelm the rural and suburban Republican precincts in the west.
Prediction: Democratic hold

The “Toss-ups” in districts 7 and 20 should favor either the Republican or Democratic candidates by mid-October. The last time the Virginia Senate was elected in 2011, a Republican governor supported his party’s candidates; but in 2015 a Democratic governor promotes Democrats (other active campaigners are Lt. Gov. Northam and Attorney General Herring). In any case, it looks likely that Democrats will take back the Virginia Senate come November 3.

Senator Ebbin Comes to Alexandria

State Senator Adam Ebbin came to the Alexandria campus to talk to Professor David Miller’s Cultural Geography (Geo 210) class on Thursday, March 19. Senator Ebbin represents the 30th district (parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax) as a Democratic member of the Virginia Senate. His district borders the Potomac River from National Airport to Mount Vernon and includes part of NOVA’s Alexandria campus. He spoke to students about gerrymandering, the Virginia Senate, and his bills in the recent legislative session.

Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin
Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin

Ebbin explained that gerrymandering is the drawing of electoral district boundaries in awkward shapes to make the districts safe for the party in power. In 2011, when the districts were drawn, Republicans controlled the governor’s mansion, Virginia House of Delegates, and the Virginia Senate. Therefore, the process of drawing new districts, or redistricting, tended to favor Republicans.

Geography students listen to Senator Ebbin talk about the map of his district.
Geography students listen to Senator Ebbin talk about the map of his district.

Virginia is a purple state with roughly equal populations of Republicans and Democrats, but the power of gerrymandering gives an edge to Senate Republicans, who hold 21 seats versus 19 seats for Democrats. Democratic voters are packed into Senator Ebbin’s elongated district, making districts to the south and west safe for Republicans. Each state senator represents about 200,000 people, and all 40 senators will be up for election in November 2015.

Senator Ebbin explains the legislative process.
Senator Ebbin explains the legislative process.

Senator Ebbin also discussed a number of his bills, including ones for cleaner energy, mass transit funding, and protections against discrimination in state employment. He highlighted his sponsorship of Senate Joint Resolution 337 commending Dr. Robert Templin for his 13 years of service as President of Northern Virginia Community College.

After his presentation, Senator Ebbin met with Dr. Jimmie McClellan, Dean of Liberal Arts, and Marcus Henderson, Community Outreach Specialist.

Who Will Win Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Primary, June 10?


First of all, there are a lot of good Democratic candidates vying for the right to succeed Congressman Jim Moran, who is retiring. I have met some of the candidates, been to some forums, reviewed campaign sites, and seen countless brochures.

Candidate stickers and 8th district map
Candidate stickers and 8th district map

Geographical Advantage to Patrick Hope

The candidate favored to win the June 10 primary seems to be former Lt. Governor Don Beyer. He certainly has the money and the political connections to win, but I think Delegate Patrick Hope may pull an upset win. Why does Hope look so good electorally? As a geographer, I look at geopolitical patterns and trends and see some advantages:

  • Hope has won three elections to his House of Delegates district (47th) since 2009.
  • His Arlington district holds some 60,000 voters; he is the only candidate from Arlington.
  • Hope’s primary rivals are all from Alexandria, which will divide the Alexandria vote.
  • @TeamHopeVA & http://www.hopeforcongress.comshow Hope campaigning throughout the 8th.
  • Hope tried to visit all 159 precincts in the 8th; he even broke a rib after misjudging some stairs while visiting the Woodlawn area (Fairfax) on May 25.


Message Advantage to Patrick Hope

From forums to campaign literature, Hope has a simple message. He is an expert on health care, embraces the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and wants to make it work for Virginians. His May 25 rib injury took him off the campaign trail, but it gave him a media opportunity to talk health care while recovering at the Virginia Hospital Center.

He is passionate but concise, and voters who have heard him like what he has to say. He prefers to listen, rather than talk—and voters like that too. Finally, he is a former Capitol Hill staffer, who knows how the Hill can work (but often doesn’t).

What About $Money?

It is true that Patrick Hope has not raised the most money for the June primary, based on recent figures, but he has shown that money isn’t everything. In 2009, Hope ran against four other candidates in a Democratic primary. As you can see on the Virginia Public Access Project table below, he got the most votes without raising the most money.

Hope: Less Money More Votes
Hope: Less Money More Votes

Who Will Vote in the Primary?

The older and more affluent Democratic establishment seems to support Beyer; but Vaclav Havel, former President of Czechoslovakia, perhaps put it best when he said:

None of us know all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population, or all the ways in which that population can surprise us when there is the right interplay of events.

Such is the nature of primary elections. Given the overwhelming Democratic population in the 8th, the primary winner will win the November election. Remember to vote on June 10!

A NOVA Geographer in Tampa

The 2014 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) offered opportunities to meet scholars from all over the world and gain new geographic insights. I attended sessions on themes ranging from “Kurdish Geopolitics” to “Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age.”

Screen shot 2014-04-20 at 11.24.21 PMOn April 10, I presented a paper, “Visualizing Geopolitics: Virginia’s Elections,” in a session titled, “Cultural Geography of the American South.” Other papers in the session dealt with Georgia, Mississippi, and New Orleans. I started with the statement, “In 2008, Virginia voted for a Democrat (Barack Obama), breaking a Republican voting pattern that began in 1968.”

My AAG paper featured graphics done for the NOVA Institute for Public Service and its blog regarding the November 2013 elections in Virginia, in which Democratic candidates swept statewide offices for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General for the first time since 1989. Democrats currently hold all five statewide offices, including both U.S. Senate seats, which has not happened since 1968.

VirginaGovElection 2013

My presentation included a map (above) of Virginia, showing election results by city and county. At first glance, it looks like Mr. Cuccinelli should have won because most of Virginia is red, but a closer look reveals that Mr. McAuliffe captured 12 of Virginia’s most populous counties and cities—versus 5 for Mr. Cuccinelli. Virginia’s largest county, Fairfax, gave Mr. McAuliffe some 68,000 more votes than his rival. Democratic votes from cities and urban counties can overwhelm the relatively small number of Republican votes from sparsely populated regions. In western and southwestern Virginia, 11 counties stretching from Highland to Lee along the Virginia border gave Ken Cuccinelli a total of only 30,770 votes.

Terry McAuliffe campaigned throughout Virginia and was elected governor by accumulating votes from:

  • urban areas—especially Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond
  • university campuses (he visited all 23 community colleges)
  • rural counties with high minority populations

For example, the southwestern Virginia county of Montgomery, home to Virginia Tech, gave Terry McAuliffe 10,689 votes. Rural Brunswick County in southern Virginia, which is 57% black, provided Mr. McAuliffe with 2,704 votes.

My paper’s conclusion? The Commonwealth of Virginia, once a dependable red state for Republicans, has become a purple state; one that is increasingly favorable for Democratic candidates. Some 50 attendees were at the session, and questions focused on the Senator Mark Warner’s 2014 reelection bid. I explained that geopolitical trends indicate Senator Warner’s should easily win because he is popular throughout the state — even in Republican strongholds like southwestern Virginia.

The 2014 AAG Annual Meeting was a great learning experience, and I would like to thank NOVA’s Professional Development Committee. Their grant awards program made this trip possible.

Virginia Delegate Hope Comes to NVCC Alexandria

Delegate Patrick Hope came to the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College to talk to my Cultural Geography (Geo 210) classes on Wednesday, March 19. Delegate Hope, represents the 47th district (Arlington) as a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He talked to the students about Virginia gerrymandering and his campaign to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia’s 8th Congressional District.

Delegate Patrick Hope talks to Cultural Geography class.
Delegate Patrick Hope talks to Cultural Geography class.

Gerrymandering was the first topic he discussed, which answered the question: What is it? Students found out that gerrymandering is the drawing of electoral district boundaries in awkward shapes to make the districts safe for the party in power. In 2011, when the districts were drawn, Republicans controlled the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. Therefore, the process of drawing new districts, or redistricting, tended to favor Republicans.

Northern Virginia’s District 51, Virginia House of Delegates, is a classic example of gerrymandering. Republican Delegate Rich Anderson had a close election in 2009, winning with only 50.78% of the vote compared to 49.05% for his Democratic opponent. District 51 went from a compact shape to an elongated one in 2011; it became much more Republican, by getting rid of urban Democratic precincts (red area on map) and adding rural Republican precincts (blue area on map) far to the west.

Virginia's 51st District is gerrymandered to favor Republican candidates.
Virginia’s 51st District is gerrymandered to favor Republican candidates.

The House of Delegates does not represent Virginia, according to Delegate Hope. Virginia is a purple state with roughly equal populations of Republicans and Democrats, but the power of gerrymandering makes for a lopsided Virginia House. There are 68 Republican delegates and only 32 Democratic delegates. The next election is in 2015, and by then population growth will make some of the districts less safe for Republicans. In the meantime, Delegate Hope confided that Democrats have virtually no say in the chamber.

Delegate Hope represents about 80,000 people as a Virginia delegate, but this will grow to representing some 800,000 if he becomes a U.S. Representative. However, the road to the U.S. House from the Virginia House is long and expensive. First, there is the Democratic primary on June 10, with Delegate Hope facing 10 other Democrats. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will most likely win the election in November. Hope was asked by one of the students how much money he needed to raise for a Congressional seat, and he replied “about $550,000.”

Health care motivated Delegate Hope to run for the 8th U.S. House district in Virginia. His central concern is “to improve access and care for patients.” Delegate Hope leads community organizations dealing with aging and homelessness, and he is the Director for Legislative Policy at the American College of Cardiology. He firmly believes in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) and feels that he can help it succeed as a member of the U.S. House.

Hope’s geographic campaign strategy is to meet people throughout the district and raise money (in that order). In 2009 he won the Democratic primary by going door to door in the 47th district. Money was strictly secondary. In the 2009 primary Patrick Hope received almost twice the votes of his nearest competitor, while two of his competitors spent more than twice as much in their campaigns. He plans to capture most of the Arlington vote, while his competitors divide the Alexandria vote. His “Hope for Virginia” campaign may just take him from Richmond to Washington.

"Hope for Virginia" mascot
“Hope for Virginia” mascot

Why Rob Bloxom Won Virginia’s 100th District

As predicted in my blog of February 22, Republican candidate Rob Bloxom won the special election for the 100th District  in the Virginia House of Delegates. But why?

Speaker of the House of Delegates, William Howell, made the following statement as the election results revealed a Republican victory on February 25:

 Tonight, citizens of Virginia spoke loud and clear. They overwhelmingly elected Rob Bloxom as Delegate in Virginia’s 100th District and adamantly rejected ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion in Virginia.

Wait. What? Speaker Howell’s assessment ignores recent electoral trends. In November 2013, Democrats in favor of the Affordable Care Act (derisively referred to as ObamaCare by Republicans) swept statewide offices—and in 2014 won three special elections to Virginia’s General Assembly.

My conclusion differs from the one purported by Speaker Howell. Rob Bloxom’s electoral victory over Democrat Willie Randall is based primarily on geography:

1. Rob Bloxom resides in Accomack County, the most populous county in District 100. He grew up on the Eastern Shore, and his father represented the area as a delegate from 1978 to 2003. Bloxom won Accomack County with 4,465 votes versus 2,246 for Randall.

2. Willie Randall lives in Northampton County, the least populous county in District 100. He came to the Eastern Shore in 1997, a relative newcomer to most folks in the area. Randall lost his home county in the election, receiving 1,234 votes to Bloxom’s 1,527.

3. Norfolk city’s precincts gave a narrow win to Randall with 893 votes to Bloxom’s 818. Voter turnout was abysmally low (only about 9%), probably because neither candidate was from Norfolk. In contrast, voter turnout was about 30% on the Eastern Shore.

Election results on February 25, 2014 are mostly red (Republican).
Election results by precinct on February 25  are mostly red (Republican). Source: VPAP.

As the map above shows, Republican Rob Bloxom gained votes from most of District 100 (outlined in green). His win can be attributed to his civic stature on the Eastern Shore, his father’s political legacy, and his constant refrain that he “is not a politician or a lawyer.” I heard Bloxom talk about business, government regulation, government ethics, education, and transportation. I really did not hear much from Bloxom or Randall on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

In the end, it is likely that the good people of District 100 voted for someone who is like them and can best represent them. To say the people voted against ObamaCare is a bit of a reach. It also ignores the cultural geography of the Eastern Shore.



Who Will Win Virginia’s 100th District on February 25?

Candidates Are Rob Bloxom (R) & Willie Randall (D)

Candidates Are Rob Bloxom (R) & Willie Randall (D)
Rob Bloxom (left) and Willie Randall

After looking over Bloxom’s ( and Randall’s ( campaign sites and newspaper reports, I decided to do a list of geopolitical advantages and disadvantages for each.

Virginia's 100th District
Virginia’s 100th House District & Candidates’ Homes

Rob Bloxom Republican candidate

  • He lives in Republican-leaning Accomack County (red marker on map), which holds the most voters (22,000) in District 100 (outlined in red on map).
  • Bloxom’s father served in the Virginia House of Delegates for 25 years.
  • He is a small business owner, who has served his community.
  • His campaign is well funded, including more than $60,000 from Dominion Leadership Trust (Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell’s PAC) as of February 20. It is worth noting that Dominion Leadership Trust has received $508,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which funnels out of state contributions from donors, like the Koch brothers and their industries. RSLC was run from 2010-14 by Ed Gillespie, current Republican candidate for  Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat.
  • District 100 is considered Democratic leaning.
  • He has not previously run for elective office.
  • His father supported McAuliffe for governor, angering some Republicans.
  • He did not support Wayne Coleman for the Virginia state senate in a special election on January 7, 2014, which earned him a RINO alert.


Willie Randall Democratic candidate

  • His residence, in heavily Democratic Northampton County (blue marker on map), has 9,000 voters in a district that is 30% Black.
  • He has won elective office before, as a member of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, 2009-2013.
  • Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim endorsed him (Norfolk has 18,000 voters in District 100).
  • Money appears abundant for his campaign, including about $62,000 from Democrat’s Virginia House Caucus; and most of its money comes from individual campaigns, such as $525,000 from Terry McAuliffe for Governor.
Willie Randall with Lt. Gov Northam (right) a
Willie Randall with Lt. Gov Northam (right) and Norfolk’s Mayor Fraim


  • District 100 is a political battleground, favoring Democrat McAuliffe for governor by 2% in 2013, but swinging to Republican Obenshain for attorney general by the same margin.
  • Randall lost his reelection bid for the Northampton County Board of Supervisors in November 2013.
  • The NRA endorsed Randall’s opponent (see below). Apparently, Randall did not respond to NRA queries, which made the easily offended NRA quite hostile.

Screen shot 2014-02-23 at 10.12.14 AM

So Who Will Win?

The election next week on Tuesday, February 25, will likely be decided by a relatively small number of voters (I would guess around 8,000, depending on the weather). Democrats swept the statewide offices in November and have won all three special elections since then—but the winning margin for the state senate election on the Eastern Shore was razor thin (9 votes out of some 20,300). Virginia is a purple state, and it seems Republicans are due a win.

Yes, I predict that Rob Bloxom will win this election. Why? I think Mr. Bloxom’s base in Accomack County will provide enough votes to carry him to victory. Mr. Randall could win with a surge of votes from the Norfolk area, but this seems unlikely due to previous special election turnout in the Norfolk precincts (see analysis).

If Bloxom wins, Republicans will  have  68 delegates versus 32 for Democrats in the House of Delegates. Mr. Bloxom strikes me as a pragmatic Republican; he often states “I’m not a politician, but a concerned neighbor.” He will likely work with Democrats for Virginia and the Eastern Shore. He may lose Republican votes, but he will gain independent voters and maybe even some Democrats.