Home 2017 Races Ranking the Competitiveness of Virginia’s House of Delegates Districts

Ranking the Competitiveness of Virginia’s House of Delegates Districts


I’ve been keeping track of Virginia’s House of Delegates districts, and specifically which ones have either Democratic incumbents or challengers. As of the moment, I count 20 districts without a Democratic candidate/incumbent, or to put it in a more positive way, I count 80 out of 100 districts with either a Democratic incumbent or challenger to a Republican. Not too shabby, especially given that we still have time to add more Democratic candidates. 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, 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 two promising Democratic candidates (Jennifer Carroll Foy and Josh King) running against a weak Republican candidate, HD-2 is practically a certain pickup this November, barring something truly unforeseen. The only question is whether the next delegate will be Jennifer Carroll Foy or Josh King.
  2. 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 three Democrats (John W. Carey, Karrie DelaneyHannah Risheq) vying to take him on. Excellent pickup opportunity here.
  3. 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 four Democrats (Steven Jansen, Mansimran Kahlon, Danica Roem, Andrew Adams) vying 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!
  4. 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.
  5. District 31 (51% Hillary Clinton district): Democrats Elizabeth GuzmanSara Townsend and Jatia Wrighten are vying to take on Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R) in this Prince William County/Fauquier County district. Strong pickup opportunity here.
  6. 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!
  7. District 50 (53% Hillary Clinton district): This Manassas City/PW County district’s a tough one to rank, as it will depend heavily on whether or not incumbent Del. Jackson Miller (R) is elected Prince William County Clerk of the Circuit Court in a few weeks, thus causing him to vacate his seat. If that happens – and I’m personally rooting for Democrat Jackie Smith to beat him on April 18 – then Democrat Lee Carter (or potentially another Democrat, as I keep hearing rumors someone else is getting in this race) would certainly have a good shot here. If Del. Miller loses the Clerk’s race and thus is still the incumbent in this district, the Dem nominee would still have a shot, but it would be tougher.
  8. District 51 (51% Hillary Clinton district): Dems Ken Boddye and Hala Ayala are running to take on Del. Rich Anderson (R) in this PW County district. A winnable seat with a strong candidate and strong campaign.
  9. 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.
  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 21 (49% Hillary Clinton district)Thomas Brock (D) and Kelly Fowler (D) are running to take on Del. Ron Villanueva (R). We could definitely win this Virginia Beach/Chesapeake district, but only with a strong candidate and campaign, plus fired-up Democrats who turn out at the polls in November.
  12. District 42 (57% Hillary Clinton district): Wait a minute, you ask, how can a 57% Clinton district be ranked so low on this list? Very simple – incumbent Del. Dave Albo (R) has proven extremely difficult to beat in this Fairfax County district. Still, Democrats appear to have two potentially strong candidates — Kathy Tran and Nelfred “Tilly” Blanding — chomping at the bit to finally fulfill the wish that “Albo Must Go!” And with all the anti-Trump energy out there right now, this definitely could be the year…
  13. District 68 (51% Hillary Clinton district): Democrats Dawn Adams, Mary Jo Sheeley and Ben Pearson-Nelson are running to take on Del. Manoli Loupassi (R) in this Chesterfield County/Henrico County/Richmond City district.
  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): Democrats Chelsea Savage, Sarah Smith, Bill Coleman and Debra Rodman are running to take on Del. John O’Bannon (R) in increasingly “blue” Henrico County. Will be tough, but you never know.
  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..


  • GoBlue!

    What about District 28? Is there any opening with Bill Howell stepping down?

    • Per VPAP , the 28th went as follows:

      2014 US Senator Gillespie 53% / Warner 44% / Sarvis 2%
      2013 Governor Cuccinelli 49% / McAuliffe 44% / Sarvis 6%
      2013 Lt. Governor Jackson 49% / Northam 51%
      2013 Attorney General Obenshain 52% / Herring 48%
      2012 US President Romney 49% / Obama 49% / Johnson 1%
      2012 US Senator Allen 49% / Kaine 51%
      2009 Governor McDonnell 64% / McDonnell 62% / Deeds 38% / Deeds 36%

      Also, Hillary Clinton LOST this district 45%-49%. So…I’d say very small chance of Dems winning here, definitely not in the top 17.

  • David Rose-Carmack

    Might I encourage you to look at the 83rd district. Bright young democrat running against an 8 year incumbent who hasn’t faced a challenger since he took office in 2009.

    • Yeah, glad that we’ve got a strong candidate (yourself) running – thanks! The challenge is figuring out how to turn a 51%-43% Trump/53% Romney/52% Allen/53% Gillespie/55% Obenshain district blue. Any ideas?

      • David Rose-Carmack

        Absolutely! It’s a tough race and the numbers show that. But I’m meeting a lot of people who like progressive ideas, they just haven’t had anyone take the time to make the case in terms that resonate with them. I’m running a campaign based on positivity and understanding, and really making an effort to engage people who don’t normally look at Democrats and show them why progressive policies actually make sense from a conservative viewpoint. For instance, single payer healthcare covers everyone and saves money. If we can accomplish the goal of universal coverage while also cutting costs, we’re achieving a really positive, progressive goal while honoring more conservative fiscal values. I’m getting a lot of support that way and I think people appreciate my approach. It’s about meeting people where they are. There’s a lot to it, but mark this one down as competitive. I need all the support I can get, but I’m a fighter.

  • Josh Stanfield

    You’re right to point out the extraordinary HoD recruiting efforts this year, but let’s present this in a way that remotely squares with reality. Several of the people/entities that’ve scoured the state in search of candidates have been tracking these efforts. As of last week, here’s the verified count: 7 candidates recruited by the DPVA/House Democratic Caucus, and 40 candidates recruited by other people/entities. There are several candidates who we aren’t sure about; they’re not included in this count.

    Of the seven we know were recruited by the DPVA/HDC, three of them were recruited after a Democratic candidate had already been campaigning in the district for months. It seems one of those candidates, Ms. Ayala, was repeated contacted by Delegate Lopez and begged to run. We wish our Democratic leadership would dedicate their efforts towards finding challengers against unopposed Republicans, not against young, diverse, hardworking candidates who’ve campaigned by the book. Perhaps it’s Mr. Boddye’s rejection of the corporate money that floods our Party that made him a target of our leadership. Who knows.

    We suspect another of those seven will soon file against Lee Carter for the Democratic nomination in HD 50. If we’re hearing the same rumors as you, it seems our Party leadership have recruited a rather scandalous lapsed Republican for this race. Mr. Carter, surprise surprise, rejects contributions from for-profit entities too.

    Many of us are new to Virginia politics, so perhaps it’s the norm here to cede credit to leadership for work they should’ve been doing – but haven’t done. That’s not gonna work this year, and it helps if everyone starts to question narratives that are self-serving at the expense of the truth.

    • notjohnsmosby

      You can’t win an election without money. Boddye and Carter have been running for months, and haven’t raised squat. Their principles might be sincere, but they’re not competitive candidates at this point. These are winnable seats, so it makes sense to find candidates who can run a good campaign and potentially win.

      • No doubt, fundraising ability/success is a key part of being a strong political candidate. It will be very interesting to see how much our candidates have raised this quarter.

    • Interesting, I hadn’t heard a lot of this information previously, such as the breakdown on who was recruited by the party vs. other groups/individuals. I’d definitely be interested in hearing more on this. As for motives for recruiting candidates, my guess is that a candidate’s ability to recruit money (whether corporate or from individuals) is a factor, just not sure how much of one…

      • notjohnsmosby

        Most Dem candidates and wannabe candidates are fairly close on the political front. Some emphasize some issues more than others, but if there were 100 votes foo 100 different things, they would all vote the same at least 85% of the time. The main differentiater in potential candidates isn’t their political philosophy. Can they campaign successfully, make good decisions? Can they communicate well, are they interesting people to listen to? Can they inspire people? Can they think quickly on their feet? Are they experienced in some form of management?

        Then, can they raise money to make all of the other things matter?

        • Agreed, the key at this point (or any point, frankly) is not purity tests but finding the strongest candidates who can win in November.

  • Kenny Allen Boddye

    Thanks for continuing to shine a light on our competitive races this year, Lowell! We need as much attention as we can get, as we have the unique chance this year to be the first large-scale electoral response to Trump and last year’s campaign season.

    Here is some context about how my race – as the first Democrat to declare for the 51st – has gone:
    – We’ve knocked on hundreds of doors.
    – We’ve had conversations with countless residents, both at events and at their doorsteps.
    – We’ve collected hundreds of ballot petition signatures so I can be on the ballot this year. We’re first on the ballot, by the way.
    – We’ve got a professional team in place, including finance and mail folks.
    – We’ve earned endorsements.
    – We’ve raised five figures in campaign contributions with an average donation of just $60. (All from people, not corporations!)
    – We’ve earned media attention on the local, state and national stage.

    For more information, head over to http://www.KenBoddyeForVA.com. My donation page is http://www.DonateForProgress.com

    • Magill

      Congratulations on your outstanding campaign, Ken.

  • Dave Arlington

    I want to know what happens to the pure and driven narrative of these progressive candidates when their money runs out, and they have to ask DPVA. Because that little “we don’t accept corporate donations” bit would be out the window in a flash the second they deposit a check from the state party or the leadership PACs. It’s basically just laundered corporate money.

  • Dan Mac

    What about District 85? Cheryl Turpin is running in the November. After she ran a strong campaign in the special. In the special she made a strong showing considering the obstacles of lower turn out and a snow storm within days of the election. The district was won comfortably by both Lt. Gov Northam (’13) and Senator Kane (’12). With her experience in the special she has shown she can run a strong campaign and will have strong name ID going into the general You can check her website out at http://www.cherylturpinforvb.com

    • Tough district (see below), but I think you’re right and will add this one…

      2016 Trump 47% (Clinton 46%)
      2014 US Senator Gillespie 50% / Warner 47% / Sarvis 3%
      2013 Governor Cuccinelli 48% / McAuliffe 46% / Sarvis 6%
      2013 Lt. Governor Jackson 47% / Northam 53%
      2013 Attorney General Obenshain 54% / Herring 46%
      2012 US President Romney 49% / Obama 49% / Johnson 1%
      2012 US Senator Allen 49% / Kaine 51%
      2009 Governor McDonnell 64% / McDonnell 64% / Deeds 36% / Deeds 36%

  • Boyd Walker

    I first ran for Alexandria City Council in 2007 and immediately pledged to take no money from developers, and I ran in primaries twice more and yes I was always short of money, especially competing against opponents who had no qualms with taking money from people doing business before city council. But now we have a Mayor, Allison Silberberg, who took no money from corporations or developers so it is possible to win without it. Small donations from more people can equal by-in from a wider range of people.

    But we know that money in politics is a problem and that Dominion is one (if not the biggest) donor to campaigns across the commonwealth. One gubernatorial candidate has taken $100,000 from Dominion and has no position on pipelines and the other will take no money from Dominion and has come out strongly against pipelines.

    Other candidates like Dick Saslaw take money from the tobacco industry. Lt. Gov candidate Susan Platt was a lobbyist for Altria for the last 15 years. She has said she will accept tobacco money in her campaign.

    So if to be “competitive” means to take money from companies that damage our health, or damage our environment, and being “clean” means not taking money and not allowing corporations to buy influence (or sponsor breakfasts at the Democratic National convention) I am all for it. And if you say you are against Citizens United but still take money from corporations you are in conflict with your own values and positions.

    So I would rather put my money on candidates who don’t take corporate donations and risk loosing. I prefer candidates who stick to their principles. If you want to help them be as competitive as those with corporate backing donate to their campaigns: Ken Boddye, Lee Carter and Elizabeth Guzman are the three that have taken this pledge. And yes, if candidates who will accept all donations run against them in Democratic primaries, it makes their races a lot more expensive. But bring on the competition and let’s see what happens.

    • notjohnsmosby

      Getting a Dem elected in a 70% Democratic city isn’t a very hard thing. Allison’s main competition was another Democrat.

      Getting a Dem elected in a 50/50 district, with a Republican incumbent, is a very, very different animal. One that many Dems who live in heavily Democratic districts frequently fail to understand. Unless a candidate can self-fund their effort, they will spend a large portion of their time fundraising. A lot of candidates cannot do that effectively, especially if they decide to not target the largest pool of money available.

      Getting elected is the goal. Where the money comes from doesn’t really matter, but it’s many times harder to raise it when you’re scrounging for nickles and dimes instead of going for bigger donations. Plenty of very progressive, loyal Dems accept donations from corporations. They’re not sellouts for doing accepting money.

      • Bingo.

        • Boyd Walker

          If getting elected is your only goal fine, but, yes, where the money comes from matters. I think who we elect and what their principals are matters. To say categorically that money in politics has no influence is BS.

          • notjohnsmosby

            Can you site an example of a race similar to the 50th or 51st district that has been won by a Dem who doesn’t raise any money? That would be purple districts with a Republican incumbent with no scandal hanging around his or her neck.

          • JohnSMosby

            Can you cite an example of one that has been won with dirty money?

            Because if dirty money worked, we’d have more than 34 seats.

          • notjohnsmosby

            Since all of those 34 Democratic delegates do accept money from any legal source, including corporations, then there are 34 wins right there. 19 state senators, state Attorney General, Lt. Governor, Governor, 2 US Senators, 4 US Representatives. It’s an extensive list if you consider donations from all corporations to be dirty money.

          • JohnSMosby

            Bring those goalposts back here, buddy. You said races in purple seats where the Democrat knocked off a scandal-free Republican incumbent.

            The 34 seats we have are all in very blue districts. Nearly all of them underperform the statewide Dem brand by a lot. I’m talking ten points or more. Same goes for the Senate.

            I mean… Unless you think 60/40, 70/30, and 80/20 blue districts are “purple.”

          • notjohnsmosby

            Chuck Caputo in 2005, he beat an incumbent by 15 points who had won the previous election by 32 points. Huge swing there.

            Dave Marsden in 2005, similar to Chuck’s win. Beat an incumbent who had won the prior election by.

            If you want to count some state Senate races,

            2007, Chap Peterson over JeanMarie Devolites
            2007, George Barker over Jay O’Brian

            All purple districts which were won in wave years, with all four guys taking in donations from everywhere

      • Stephanie Elizabeth Carter

        Whether or not they’re sellouts is a matter of opinion, not fact.

  • Magill

    First, I’d like to give a big thank you to the “independent groups, etc.” referenced in this article. Those folks know who they are and don’t need recognition, however, I think it’s glaringly obvious in the current political climate that the majority of candidates were recruited/encouraged by various grassroots groups, or made the decision independently, because they actually want to make a difference in their communities. If we want to give credit to the House politicians for the recruitment, fine. I don’t really care. What I DO care about is the fact that honest, hard working, incredibly valuable and viable candidates will be facing primaries by candidates recruited by party insiders. For once, I wish the Democratic establishment would listen to the voice of the grassroots and hear the people.

    • It’s actually far from clear who was recruited by whom. Also, there are probably a dozen (or more?) independent groups busy doing their thing in Virginia; I’m not even sure who they all are, let alone what they’re doing exactly, hence the “independent groups, etc.”

      • Magill

        Understood, and I apologize if my comment sounded in any way unfair. I should have been more empathetic to what things look like from another point of view. And you’re right – there are tons of grassroots groups at work in Virginia. From the ground it seems obvious that the citizen uprising has fueled these folks to run, but that’s only my narrow point of view. I appreciate the article and look forward to watching the democratic process of these primaries unfold.

        • notjohnsmosby

          It’s clearly gotten people to run in districts where there’s little chance of victory. I’m glad they’re running, and they’re the type of candidates we should field in those districts. They won’t win, but they’ll tie up Republican resources. They’ll also let all of the Dems in those districts know that they’re not alone, and they have a choice on the ballot. For many, the first choice in decades. Sending that message is incredibly important.

          • Magill

            Indeed. Let’s make these R’s spend money for the first time in years! Unlock the war chests! Also – I would encourage candidates in deeply Red Districts to focus on campaigning on a precinct by precinct basis – focusing on those precincts that went for Hillary. These candidates will be essential because they can increase Dem turnout that will have a positive impact on the Gov, LG, and AG races.

        • I mean, just a short list includes: Emerge VA, Our Revolution, Activate Virginia, Competitive Commonwealth Fund, Resurgent Left, Code Blue, The First Ask, Project Blue Dominion, the Indivisible groups, the VA House Dem Caucus, etc, etc.

    • notjohnsmosby

      If they are truly viable candidates, then let them prove it by winning a primary first. If they can’t win a primary, then they can’t win a general election.

      • Magill

        Yes, and I look forward to them winning their respective primaries. Hopefully well established campaigns, hard work, community involvement, and good old fashioned door knocking will prove fruitful in the end…but we will see 🙂