Home 2019 Elections FWIW Virginia: New Districts, Who Dis?

FWIW Virginia: New Districts, Who Dis?


From FWIW Virginia/ACRONYM:

Editor’s note: Going forward FWIW Virginia will be landing in your inbox on Wednesdays – a whole day earlier!

The field is set for the general election, not just because the primary is over, but also due to the Supreme Court’s ruling this week that upheld the eleven redrawn House of Delegates districts that had previously been racially gerrymandered. Now several well-funded Republican incumbents who haven’t had to face a tough election in years find themselves in Democratic-leaning districts.

What’s that mean for control of the General Assembly? We take a look in this week’s edition of FWIW Virginia.

But first…

2019 by the numbers

In past issues, we’ve compared the spending of Republicans and Democrats since the midterms. But now that the primary is over, we’re resetting the clock. This is because the way campaigns try to win over primary voters online can be extremely different than their general election strategy. So now that their audience is voters in November, we want to see who is spending the most in the run up to Election Day.

Here’s how Facebook spending by Republican and Democratic party committees and candidates in the most competitive districts compares since last week’s primary.

Here are the top five biggest Facebook spenders in Virginia from June 12-18.

Days until the general election: 138

Deep Dive: New districts, who dis?
Back in March, we took a look at how the new court-issued map had shaken up the race for control of the House of Delegates. Now that we are certain this map will stay in place for the general election and the primary is finished, we’re going to take a deeper dive into who’s got the most cash to burn, who’s already trying to win over voters online, and who doesn’t even have a Facebook page set up yet.

Overall, the Republicans whose districts shifted most heavily towards Democrats are some of the most senior and resource-rich Republicans in the House of Delegates, but with the exception of David Yancey, none have had to fend off a serious general election challenge in years.

House District 66 – Speaker of the House Kirk Cox ?☑️

Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox’s district had the most drastic swing left in the court-ordered district map. Cox defeated his Democratic opponent by twenty-seven points in 2017 but now has to face off in a district that every statewide Democratic candidate has carried since 2013.

Cox has run the most robust digital program out of the candidates who did not face a primary challenge – and he’s showing no signs of slowing down after Monday’s ruling.

African American voters now make up a third of this newly drawn district, so it’s probably no coincidence that Cox has run a series of ads featuring testimonials from Black supporters.

Meanwhile, Cox’s opponent Sheila Bynum-Colman has been actively posting organic content online but hasn’t begun running paid advertising to target voters in the district.
House District 76 – Del. Chris Jones ?☑️

Del. Chris Jones is… extremely not online. Jones has absolutely no social media presence for his campaign – he’s actually the only candidate in a competitive district that we have seen who hasn’t even set up a Facebook page. Not only is this a missed opportunity to communicate with voters, but it also means his campaign can’t even run Facebook ads. There’s no excuse for a campaign to be this unplugged from social media in 2019, especially one as well resourced as Jones’ – he has more cash on hand than any other candidate for the House with $607,286 in his war chest.

Jones’ Democratic opponent Clint Jenkins is far behind in the cash dash. He only has $12,401 on hand as of May. But at least he’s launched a Facebook page and appears to be opening up a campaign office according to an event on his page.

House District 81 – Del. Barry Knight ?☑️
The unrigged map puts this district closer to a toss up – and positions Barry Knight for a tough reelection campaign. Luckily for him, he’s already stashed away a hefty war chest, while his Democratic opponent Len Myers is starting at a major cash deficit.
Despite his cash on hand, Knight hasn’t run digital ads yet or even started to pay a digital consultant. Also, we noticed that his Twitter links to a website that is very much not his campaign’s site. Rookie mistake, Barry.
House District 83 – Del. Chris Stolle ?☑️

Chris Stolle faced his first Democratic challenger in years in 2017, though he still dispatched by a double digit margin. But now Stolle has to run in a district that Ralph Northam won by eleven points (Kaine won here by eighteen), and his opponent may be catching him flat-footed.

Out of the newly vulnerable Republican incumbents, Stolle’s fundraising has been the most lackluster, and the Democratic nominee Nancy Guy was able to avoid a primary and isn’t far off from Stolle in cash on hand.

Guy recently received a shoutout from noted climate candidate Jay Inslee for her willingness to tackle climate change in her campaign. Be on the lookout for a deep dive from us on which 2020 candidates are using their platform to boost Democrats in Virginia ?

House District 91 – Del. Gordon Helsel ?

Gordon Helsel has decided not to run for reelection, which might be the coward’s way out now that he has to compete in a district that Ralph Northam won by nine points.

Colleen Holcomb is running to hold this seat for Republicans, but hasn’t raised as much as her Democratic opponent Martha Mugler. However, Mugler just emerged from a competitive primary that may have put a significant dent on her cash on hand.

Mugler’s Facebook spending shot up ahead of last week’s primary. She ran a series of ads touting her major endorsements, including one from Senator Tim Kaine who carried this district by sixteen points in 2018.
House District 94 – Del. David Yancey ?☑️

This district was famously decided by a random drawing after the 2017 election. Now, Shelly Simonds is back for a rematch, and she finds herself competing on much more friendly turf this time around following the court’s redrawn map. In the newly drawn district, Ralph Northam won by twenty-one points in 2017, while Tim Kaine carried it by a whopping twenty-eight points (!!).

Neither has started to run a paid digital program yet, but both Yancey and Simonds have been raking in donations since the start of the year.

Fun fact: The story of Simonds losing the election two years ago by just one vote was used by Democratic outside groups to motivate voters for the midterm elections.

Final Thoughts
The redrawn map presents Democrats with a whole new roster of flippable seats. but the challenge going forward for the Democratic candidates in these districts will be to catch up to the significant fundraising advantage of their Republican opponents. Using digital outreach to build an email list and solicit online donations might be a good place to start.
Thanks for reading and make sure to sign up for weekly updatesfollow us on Twitter andemail us with ideas of what you’d like us to dive into next.

– The team at ACRONYM

P.S. Here’s a sign-up link for our national FWIW newsletter and you can find today’s issuehere.


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