Home 2017 Races Ranking the Competitiveness of Virginia’s House of Delegates Districts (6/21/17 update)

Ranking the Competitiveness of Virginia’s House of Delegates Districts (6/21/17 update)


I’ve been keeping track of Virginia’s House of Delegates districts, and specifically which ones have either Democratic incumbents or challengers. My first take on this was back in late March; I wanted to update the list based on Democratic primary results, new candidates recruited, Trump’s continued low approval rating, Democratic over-performance in multiple special elections across the country, and FAR greater Democratic than Republican turnout on June 13 here in Virginia. As of the moment, I count 12 districts without a Democratic candidate/incumbent, or to put it in a more positive way, I count 88 out of 100 districts with either a Democratic incumbent or challenger to a Republican. Nice! Also good news — we’ve got Democrats running against all 17 Republican incumbents holding down districts won by Hillary Clinton this past November. So, overall, things are looking good right now – nice job by everyone involved in recruiting candidates, including Del. David Toscano, Del. Rip Sullivan, Del. Alfonso Lopez, Trent Armitage, independent groups, etc.

Now, the question is which districts should be given the highest priority in terms of time, attention, effort, money, etc. Here’s a totally unscientific list – albeit one that comes from talking to knowledgeable people, looking at the districts and candidates, etc. – of the top 17 districts [UPDATED to 18], (roughly) ranked from the best chance of Dems winning the district to the worst chance in November.

  1. District 2 (56% Hillary Clinton district): With incumbent Del. Mark Dudenhefer (R) stepping down, with this PW/Stafford County district having gone so strongly for Clinton, AND with one of two promising Democratic candidates (Jennifer Carroll Foy and Josh King) — note that this race has gone to a recount, with Carroll Foy leading by 12 votes – running against Republican Laquan Austion, HD-2 is practically a certain pickup this November, barring something truly unforeseen. The only question is whether the next delegate from this district will be Jennifer Carroll Foy or Josh King. [UPDATE: In the recount, Jennifer Carroll Foy maintained her lead over Josh King and is now the Democratic nominee in this district. Go get’m!]
  2. District 42 (57% Hillary Clinton district): With the retirement of long-time incumbent Del. Dave Albo (R), Democratic nominee Kathy Tran has a great shot at being the next delegate from this district. Tran’s opponent is “extreme Tea Party activist” Lolita Mancheno-Smoak. Go Kathy Tran go!
  3. District 67 (58% Hillary Clinton district): This Fairfax County/Loudoun County district has an incumbent Republican (Del. Jim LeMunyon) sitting in a big-time Clinton seat, and Democrat Karrie Delaney challenging him. Excellent pickup opportunity here.
  4. District 13 (54% Hillary Clinton district): This PW County/Manassas Park City district’s a must-win, with crazy Del. “Sideshow Bob” Marshall (R-Outer Space) holding it down and Democrat Danica Roem looking to send him to a merciful retirement. The key here, as it is in many districts, is to minimize Democratic voter “dropoff” from the presidential election. If so, we definitely should win. Let’s do it!
  5. District 32 (57% Hillary Clinton district): Democrat David Reid is running against the pathetic Del. Tag Greason (R) in this Loudoun County district. We definitely need to win this one, and can certainly do so if Democrats turn out this November.
  6. District 31 (51% Hillary Clinton district): Democrat Elizabeth Guzman is the nominee to take on Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R) in this Prince William County/Fauquier County district. Strong pickup opportunity here.
  7. District 51 (51% Hillary Clinton district): Democratic nominee Hala Ayala is taking on Del. Rich Anderson (R) in this PW County district. A winnable seat, given a strong candidate (which we appear to have) and a strong campaign (we’ll see…but hopefully).
  8. District 72 (49% Hillary Clinton district): With the announcement by incumbent Del. Jimmie Massie (R) that he will not seek reelection to this increasingly “blue” Henrico County district, Democrat Schuyler VanValkenburg certainly would seem to have a shot if the anti-Trump “wave” is as strong in November as it is now!
  9. District 21 (49% Hillary Clinton district)Kelly Fowler (D) is taking on Del. Ron Villanueva (R), who had a lackluster Republican primary, winning far fewer votes than Fowler did in her primary. So…this Virginia Beach/Chesapeake district is definitely winnable with a strong campaign, plus (of course) fired-up Democrats who turn out at the polls in November.
  10. District 12 (47% Hillary Clinton district):  Democrats have a strong candidate in this Giles County/Montgomery County/Pulaski County/Radford City district with Chris Hurst, but Clinton barely won it over Trump and there’s a Republican incumbent (Joseph Yost) holding it down since 2012, so…it’s winnable but won’t be easy.
  11. District 94 (49% Hillary Clinton district): This Newport News district is currently held by Del. David Yancey (R), with Zack Wittkamp the Democratic challenger. Winnable but won’t be easy.
  12. District 50 (53% Hillary Clinton district): Del. Jackson Miller (R) lost a special election for Prince William County Clerk of the Circuit Court to Democrat Jackie Smith in mid-April, leaving him in a weakened condition to fend off Democrat Lee Carter in November. Still, I am lowering this one a few notches, because I think it would have been more winnable without an incumbent than with one.
  13. District 68 (51% Hillary Clinton district): Democrat Dawn Adams is taking on Del. Manoli Loupassi (R) in this Chesterfield County/Henrico County/Richmond City district. Will be tough, but definitely winnable.
  14. District 40 (51% Hillary Clinton district): Democrat Donte Tanner is running against the very tough Del. Tim Hugo (R) in this Fairfax/Prince William Counties district. Will need a “wave” and a strong campaign to win this one.
  15. District 73 (50% Hillary Clinton district): Democrat Debra Rodman is taking on Del. John O’Bannon (R) in increasingly “blue” Henrico County. Will be tough, but you never know, especially if we continue to see Democrats “over-perform” by 8, 10 or more points as they have in special elections for Congress so far this year.
  16. District 100 (49% Hillary Clinton district): Democrat Willie Randall is running against Del. Rob Bloxom (R) in this Accomack and Northampton Counties + Norfolk City district. Another tough one, but winnable with a very big “wave.”
  17. District 10 (49% Hillary Clinton district): Democrat Wendy Gooditis is running against Del. Randy Minchew (R) in this Loudoun, Frederick and Clarke County district. Tidal wave, anyone?
  18. District 85 (won by Trump by 1 point; won by Cooch by 2 points, etc.): Democrat Cheryl Turpin running against Del. Rocky Holcomb (R) in this Virginia Beach district. Note that Turpin lost to Holcomb 53%-47% in a special election in January, but that turnout should be MUCH higher in November. Again, I think we need a super-strong wave to win this one…

Any others you think I should add? Honestly, I’d say it would be a superb showing if Democrats picked up 10-12 of these districts. Also, as last night in Georgia and South Carolina showed, it’s relatively easy for Democrats to “over-perform” in “red” districts; it’s a LOT harder to actually seal the deal and win the election…

  • wizinit

    I urge you to reconsider this analysis by taking into consideration the factors I’ve cited in my comment on Kellen Squire’s post. Because of this obsession with the results of the last election we may be missing immediate and longer term opportunities opportunities in other districts where there are strong candidates running who are just in the wrong place to get the attention and support they need and deserve.

    • Looking at results of past elections – definitely not just the most recent one, by the way – is simply what one does to get a read on a district’s political leanings and to prioritize districts in terms of resource allocation decisions. Not sure what other options there are…

      • wizinit

        I believe there are other options. For example, look at the just completed Democratic primaries to determine which districts experienced voter engagement and participation. Similarly, look at last year’s presidential primaries to determine where Democrats were motivated to turn out when they had a choice; many finally have a choice for the House in 2016 for the first time in many cycles. Neither Trump nor Clinton will be on the ballot this November. So using their contest to allocate resources this year is really a simplistic, and possibly misleading, approach to politics.

        • I suggest you use your methodology, come up with a list and then we can compare.

          • wizinit

            If I had the time and resources I would.

  • Alec

    I’ll be putting out a similar list. And we pretty much agree on the top three, with small differences in the top 10. The idea that there are 17 districts in play is just not realistic, if we can flip 5 districts this year, it will be a major victory.

    • Just to be clear, I am not predicting in any way/shape/form that Dems will pick up 17 House of Delegates seats this year. Personally, I’d be quite pleased if we picked up 8-10 seats. We’ll see…

  • wizinit

    For starters, I suggest you add Tia Walbridge in HD 33 based on her primary turnout.

    • Here’s what HD 33 looks like — deep, deep “red.” Hell, even EW Jackson won this district!

      2016 US President
      Trump 55% / Clinton 39% / Johnson 3% / McMullin 2%

      2014 US Senator
      Gillespie 59% / Warner 39% / Sarvis 2%

      2013 Governor
      Cuccinelli 55% / McAuliffe 40% / Sarvis 5%

      2013 Lt. Governor
      Jackson 54% / Northam 46%

      2013 Attorney General
      Obenshain 56% / Herring 44%

      2012 US President
      Romney 56% / Obama 42% / Johnson 1%

      2012 US Senator
      Allen 56% / Kaine 44%

      • wizinit

        First of all, Tia Walbridge is a real person who won a primary that registered a record turnout Focusing on percentages is great at the casino, but not the best way to predict election results. Virginia Democrats would do well to weigh absolute numbers.

        Please do read https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/06/ghost-candidates-are-not-acceptable

        • All the candidates in all the districts are “real people,” but that has nothing to do with how the districts are ranked in terms of competitiveness. Where would you rank HD-33? I presume NOT higher than any of the “Clinton districts,” right?

          • wizinit

            You are exactly right. They are ALL real, and making a real run at winning. That is why they ALL deserve to be supported, and not ranked based on some outcome of past elections in which they were not a candidate. And the voters deserve to hear about and from these candidates. If there is resonance between local candidates and voters it may boost turnout affecting the top of the ticket and lay the foundation for future elections. This year you have a chance to put real faces to a party with which voters can identify. Leaving people off lists and denying them the support they need will certainly make them unelectable. Thiis strategy discouraged participation in the past. Continuing this strategy will only succeed in detering an entire new generation of leaders and continue the alienation of voters in parts of the state outside the Democrat’s urban strongholds.

          • Agreed that they all deserve support.

          • Jps

            Let’s start a fundraising effort to “Flip the17”. Just listened to an NPR story about how the state party doesn’t have enough money to fund all these races. So, let’s see if we can nationalize this, or at the very least get VA activists donating money to all of these races.

          • Jps

            An Act Blue, or something else . .. “Flip the Virginia 17”

          • wizinit

            I suggest you get to know the many first-time candidates running for Delegate, not just in the 17, but also in the “hopeless” districts. You will find there are some great candidates who were motivated to run this year. If you want to build a viable state-wide party in the future, these candidates are the place to start. Past efforts to pour piles of money into districts failed, so there’s no reason to expect a different result. A better approach may be to pick candidates who resonate with voters, not districts based solely on past performance by two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in history.

  • Mike

    Seriously? There is no way Hala is going to beat Rich. She does not have the chops to take him on and the eventual 30 piece mailer he’s going to push out on her being a McAuliffe shill.

  • Ray Sondetra

    I saw an email recently from the Turpin campaign in District 85 saying that Blue Virginia had changed her ranking to “toss-up” but I see no article on the blog, nor have I seen any
    Blue Virginia ranking or rating of races other than this one from June.
    Am I overlooking something?