The Map: 2015 Virginia Senate Races

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, and Democratic Lt. Governor Ralph Northam could break a 20-20 tie.

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. These exciting Senate district contests are shown in yellow on the map, with notes showing campaign funding based on the latest reports.

Major contests exist in 7 of Virginia's 40 Senate districts

Major contests exist in 7 of Virginia’s 40 Senate districts

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

Sen. Frank Wagner (left) and Gary McCollum

Sen. Frank Wagner (left) and Gary McCollum

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 suffered Republican attacks because he misstated his inactive 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 no mistakes in October will win.
Prediction: Toss-up

Dan Gecker (left) and Glen Sturtevant

Dan Gecker (left) and Glen Sturtevant

District 10. Republicans will likely lose this open seat because demographic changes and voting trends favor Democrats.  Dan Gecker’s campaign needs high 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

Kim Adkins (left) and Sen. Bill Stanley

Kim Adkins (left) and Sen. Bill Stanley

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 voters. Democrat Kim Adkins, former Martinsville mayor, may have a chance at an upset if the Democratic areas in and around Martinsville, Danville, and South Boston enjoy higher than average voter turnout on Election Day.
Prediction: Toss-up

Sen. John Edwards (left) and Nancy Dye

Sen. John Edwards (left) and Nancy Dye

District 21. The challenge to Democratic Senator John Edwards follows a Republican strategy of targeting Democrats in southwestern Virginia, where Republicans took Senate 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 for opponent Nancy Dye east and west of Blacksburg.
Prediction: Democratic hold

Jeremy McPike (left) and Hal Parrish

Jeremy McPike (left) and Hal Parrish

District 29. Democrat Jeremy McPike should win this open seat due to demographics and voting patterns. Republican Hal Parrish, current Manassas mayor, is a strong candidate with lots of money, but the Democratic precincts of 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 late October. The last time the Virginia Senate was elected in 2011, a Republican governor campaigned with his party’s candidates; but in 2015 a Democratic governor boosts Democrats (other active campaigners are Lt. Gov. Northam and Attorney General Herring). In any case, it looks like only a few races will determine control of the Virginia Senate come November 3.

David B. Miller, Assistant Professor, Geography, NVCC-Alexandria & Annandale

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. Comments are welcome.

28 thoughts on “The Map: 2015 Virginia Senate Races

  1. I think the Virginia Senate will retain their slight Republican control. Most of the major contests look to be in rural areas and Republicans look to have the advantage. District 7 will be a pivotal point in the election in my opinion. The race there can go either way and whoever wins that district will probably decide the party advantage in the Virginia Senate.

  2. I think that after the November 3rd elections, the Virginia Senate will remain more Republican. I say this because that is how it is now. Republicans have more of an advantage because of this and it is not easy to go from being Republican senate to a Democratic senate. District 20 will be pivotal for the elections because it is equal in the amount of Democrats versus Republicans. District 20 could go one way or another, depending on how many voters vote.

    • In the last Virginia Senate election in 2011, two Democratic incumbents lost their seats to Republican challengers in very close contests. Democrats have a good chance of taking Republican seats in districts 7 and 10–and have an outside chance for districts 13 and 20.

  3. I believe that Republicans will hold control of the House of Delegates because of the number of districts they safely control vastly outnumbers those that the Democrats hold. On the issue of pivotal races I think that the race in district 13 should be given some attention since the area of Loudon County is quickly growing since it’s resident’s have a high median income, the schools are rated highly, and there is plenty of room for future development.

    • Good comments, and the length met the word limit (70). However, you did not comment on which party might win the Virginia Senate.

  4. I think control of the State Senate will be deadlocked after the next election (thereby passing control to the Democrats). The District 10 likely Democratic pickup means that the Democrats could lose both the toss-up districts and still gain control. Clearly District 10 is the key contest, and will carry with it control of the senate.

  5. I think the Republicans will retain their slight advantage in the Virginia Senate because they have slightly more districts with an ensured Republican win. Therefore, in those districts that have a major contest, such as district 7, I believe will most likely lean towards the public official (Frank Wagner) who has already held office, which happens to be primarily Republican. Also, many of these swing districts are in rural Virginia meaning most voters will likely be Republican as opposed to Democrat.

  6. I think that the Republicans will most likely maintain their hold on the Senate. The toss up districts are appearing to be more of a race for who is the worst option, followed by a vote for the opposition. District 20 has had a lot of recent controversy with Adkins handling of confederate monuments, and District 7 has been a battle of out of context comments.

  7. Although the Republicans have only a slight majority in the Virginia senate it looks as though they will most likely keep it. With 20 of 40 districts having candidates run uncontested there is little room for a shift of majority from one party to another. District 20 looks to be an interesting race given the fact that Senator Stanley is Ted Cruz’s state chairman for his campaign. That may raise more attention to the election and cause more Democratic voters to head to the polls than they usually would.

  8. The Republicans will most likely maintain control of the Senate because there are at least ten seats already that will not be contested against the Republicans and seven on the Democrats side with a difference of 3 for the Republicans. A very pivotal race is in District 13 against incumbent Black and his challenger Mrs. McCabe, with the fact that the funds raised by her shows that there is some serious support on her side. Normally the incumbent out-raises the challenger two to three times over.

  9. It is hard to say, in my opinion. At first glance on the map one might wonder how the Democrats stand a chance. However many of these are rural populations, and thus probably have a much less population than the Democratic areas, which, since they are more urbanized, have a much larger populations, perhaps one that exceeds a couple of the Republican districts combined. Here it seems that the Democrats have a pretty good shot because of this, and 3 of the 5 districts which are unpredictable are closer to urbanized areas, providing some much needed leverage. They just don’t need to make any mistakes that could have the voting population change their minds about who to vote for. I think the Democrats have a pretty good shot at turning things around, but seeing things as they are now, they don’t have a lot of leeway to make mistakes, either.

    • All Virginia Senate districts contain about 200,000 people. The mostly Democratic urban districts are smaller because the population density is higher, and mostly Republican rural districts are larger due to low population density.

  10. I think the Virginia Senate will still have a Republican majority, but how much of a majority will depend largely on voter turnout. If voter turnout is high, it will be less of a majority. If it’s low, it will be a large majority. Regardless of voter turnout, I still think it will be a Republican majority because Virginia is generally conservative. However, I think Northern Virginia will have a lot of Democratic districts.

  11. The Republicans will most likely control the Virginia Senate after the November 3rd elections. Both the Republicans and Democrats will win and lose seats during election night. The participants from District 7 have raised over $1.6M making it one of the most expensive races in Virginia. However, I think District 7 will be pivotal; it will be the district that will make the Republicans the majority in the Senate.

  12. I think that after the Nov. 3 elections the Republicans will still maintain their hold on the Senate; since the majority of the districts are already Republican. In my opinion District 29 is pivotal with the funds showing that Republican Parrish has raised more than twice as much than Democrat McPike. It looks likely the Republicans could win that district.

  13. I believe the Republican party will continue to run Virginia’s senate as they have been. Like Senator Marsden said, “not a lot of voters show up to the ballots during the off year election.” This usually gives the Republican’s an advantage. Some of the pivotal districts in this election are the 6th, 7th, 10th, 21st, and 29th.

  14. I think that the Senate will remain largely Republican. Two of the districts listed as key are open. Democrat candidates lead in campaign financing in other key districts. While this does not guarantee a Democrat victory in those districts, more money means more campaign support. However, even if the Democrats were to win these key races there would still be more Republican support in the Senate as a whole.

  15. I believe the Republicans will remain in control of the Virgina Senate, because of the larger number of Republicans in the red shaded areas. I strongly think the more voters you get to vote can increase the chances of the Democrats having a chance of winning the Senate. The district that may play a pivotal role is district 20 because of the larger area that seems to be up for grabs. Democrat or Republican whoever wins should be for the people not personal interest and make our country truly a better place to live.

  16. I believe that the Virginia State Senate will remain Republican because the majority of the districts are already Republican. They already have an advantage against the Democrats. Also, the districts that I believe are pivotal are District 7 and 20, because District 7 and 20 could go either way. Though, I do believe that both of those will go Republican because that’s what they are leaning towards. It’s still up in the air.

  17. The Virginia Senate will remain Republican because the vast majority is Republican. The Democrats are outnumbered throughout Virginia. District 7 and 20 are hard to pinpoint, it’s going to be a close race.

  18. I believe that the Democrats will take control of the state senate because Virginians will vote to ensure they have a government in Richmond that will look out for their needs more at the expense of higher taxes.

  19. The Republicans seem to have the edge over the Democrats pretty convincingly so they will most likely retain their positions. The shift of majority from one party to the other seems unlikely as half of the 40 districts have their candidates run uncontested. Something to point out is the very interesting race District 20 appears to be, as Ted Cruz’s state chairman for his campaign is Stanley. District 20 will raise the attention to the election, and more Democratic voters will be more inclined to vote for their respective Democratic representatives.

  20. If Virginia maintains the Democratic seats they actually have, with a big chance for a Democratic pickup in district 10 as Senator Watkins is retiring and Dan Gecker has raised more money, the Democrats have a good chance to get the 20/20 they were looking for since 2011. The difference is that now the demographic changes and voting trends favor Democrats. District 10 is pivotal to make the difference, but districts 7, 13 and 20 could make a further change to an outstanding Democratic election outcome.

  21. I believe that the Republican party will win and keep the Senate in VA because as seen in the map a lot of Virginia supports this party. The districts that are being contested seem to be in rural areas, where they tend to be more conservative. Also some of the major contests are out in the western VA, where the urban population is low, which tends to drive people to be more conservative.

  22. The Republicans will have control of the Virginia Senate because, as Senator Marsden said, Democratic voters don’t usually come out to vote unless its a presidential election year.

  23. I think that Republican party will control the Virginia Senate after the November 3 elections. Like Senator Marsden explained that not many people show up to vote for state senators. I think district 29 is the pivotal district.

  24. I would say even though the Democrats only need one seat, it probably won’t happen.
    The state is generally more conservative and Republican (even though Obama won state twice, current democratic governor and two senators are both Democrats) But the map shows more districts that are Republican leaning so that favors the republicans in a state race.

    In District 10, (includes Richmond) the Republican is retiring and the Dem has raised over $680,000 and is considered the best chance for a Democratic pick up………
    But in another open seat in District 29, (close to home) the Republican is far ahead in in fund raising and is looking to be a Republican pickup… the Democrats would have to hold all their districts and then pick up one. I would bet that they won’t do it, especially in a non-presidential year where there is lower voter turnout that favors Republican candidates.

  25. I think the Republicans will retain over Virginia because as Senator Marsden said democratic voters don’t usually come out to vote unless it’s a presidential election year.

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