Now that the holidays are over and we’re all getting back to (hard, cold?) “reality,” it’s time to turn our attention back to several upcoming Virginia elections. Here, I list them and rate where I think they stand right now.
1. January 7 Special Election for State Senate District 6
The race to succeed Lt. Governor-elect Ralph Northam in the State Senate pits Delegate Lynwood Lewis (D) against Republican Wayne Coleman in a 57% “Obama district” in southeastern Virginia (Norfolk City Accomack County, Northampton County, Matthews County, a small part of Virginia Beach). To date, Lewis has been endorsed by both major papers in the area (the Daily Press and Virginian Pilot), while Coleman has been busy putting out utterly ridiculous ads and railing against desegregation busing (I’m not joking). The bottom line is that Coleman is an utter lightweight, and only very very low Democratic turnout in a special election on a cold January day could possibly win this one for him. Plus, Lewis is well liked, has a base, and is actually qualified for the job, unlike Coleman. This one should be a win for Lewis, barring a bizarre set of circumstances unfolding this coming Tuesday.
2. January 7 Special Election for House of Delegates District 11
Del. Onzlee Ware’s retirement announcement opened up this heavily Democratic seat (Roanoke City), which by all rights should stay in the “blue” column next Tuesday night. The only things that particularly worry me a bit about this one are a) the fact that it’s a special election, so you never know about turnout; and b) the Republican candidate, Octavia Johnson, is well funded (mostly by House Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell – does he sense a possible pickup here?). Still, I’d have to go with the strong Democratic lean of the district and say it leans to Democratic nominee Sam Rasoul.
3. January 21 Special Election for State Senate District 33
This race is to replace Attorney General-elect Mark Herring in the State Senate. The district, which covers eastern Loudoun County and parts of Fairfax County, went 59% for Barack Obama last November and 60% for Tim Kaine, so it definitely leans Democratic. Another advantage for the “blue team” is that not one but TWO Republicans are running – former Del. Joe May and anti-Semitic “joke” guy John Whitbeck – against one strong Democratic nominee, Jennifer Wexton. Other than the fact that this is a special election, so turnout can be flaky/funky, I’d say this one leans strongly towards Wexton.
4. Special Election for Lynwood Lewis’ House of Delegates Seat
I’m hearing a lot of pessimistic talk about Democrats being able to hold this seat. The main problems? First, the 100th district leans Democratic in a presidential year, but in an off-year election, let alone a special, it will be a lot tougher for Democrats. Second, I’m hearing that Democrats are having a tough time recruiting a strong candidate, while the Republicans supposedly have a relatively moderate candidate lined up, one who would be a “good fit for the district.” Put those two factors together, and it’s looking like a Republican lean in this special election, whenever that takes place exactly, unless Democrats come up with a strong candidate.
5. Arlington County Board Special Election
The announcement at the end of last year by long-time Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman that he’d be stepping down will result in a special election for his seat, probably sometime in late March or early April. First, though, Democrats have to choose their nominee – candidates so far are Alan Howze, Peter Fallon, and Cord Thomas – in a caucus at the end of this month. So far, Howze (who finished second to Patrick Hope in the June 2009 Democratic primary for the 47th House of Delegates district) has picked up the most endorsements, but we’ll see how this plays out. Meanwhile, there’s not one but TWO right wingers running for the Board as well – Libertarian Evan Bernick and big-time/long-time Republican donor (running as an “Independent” for some strange reason) John Vihstadt. In addition, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other candidates – Green Party? Independent Green Party (e.g., Janet Murphy, from what I hear)? – enter the race as well. Although Arlington leans heavily Democratic, this will be a special election, and the key will be who shows up. My guess is that turnout will be very low, but as usual that the people who are really fired up will be more likely to show up. In this case, those “fired-up” folks tend to be hostile to County Board policies, as well as projects like the Artisphere, the Aquatic Center, the Columbia Pike streetcar, school overcrowding, etc. So…at this point I’d have to call this one a tossup, with way too much uncertainty to make a solid prediction. One thing’s for sure, Democrats can’t take this one for granted.
UPDATE: The focus of this article was on local and state races, but let’s not forget that perhaps THAT marquee Virginia races of 2014 will be federal – the 10th CD, where Frank Wolf has announced his retirement, and where Democrats definitely have a shot to pick up the House seat; and possibly the U.S. Senate race, although I still find it hard to believe that Mark Warner won’t win easily.
UPDATE #2: There’s also the Fairfax County Democratic Committee chair race, between Cesar Delaguila and Sue Langley. I have no idea who will win this one…call it a tossup I guess.