Home 2019 Elections FWIW Virginia: “Races We’re Watching on Election Night”

FWIW Virginia: “Races We’re Watching on Election Night”

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by FWIW Virginia/ACRONYM:

Virginians are going to the polls in just FIVE days and Democrats have every reason to feel confident heading into Election Day. The last batch of campaign finance reports show that Democrats have outraised and outspent their Republican opponents in most competitive races, and voter enthusiasm appears to be high with absentee ballot submissions surging.

With less than a week to go, we break down some of the races we’ll be watching closely on Election Night in our last edition of FWIW Virginia ?. But first…

But first…

2019 by the numbers

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

From October 20-26, Democratic campaigns + party committees outspent Republicans on Facebook by $21,000.

Here are the top ten biggest Facebook spenders in Virginia from October 20-26:

Days left until the general election: 5 (!!)

State of Play: Races we’re watching on Election Night

There’s a huge playing field going into Tuesday, with Democrats in particular going on an aggressive offense. We can’t cover every race that we expect to be competitive, but here are some of the highlights.

GOP Leadership – Dels. Kirk Cox (HD-66), Tim Hugo (HD-40), and Chris Jones (HD-76)

House Speaker Kirk Cox and Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones both found themselves in redrawn districts this year after a judge threw out Virginia’s illegal racially-gerrymandered map, priming them to be top targets this year. Democrats have invested heavily in both of these races and have been targeting both GOP candidates with negative digital ads way back in July, before either Cox or Jones could introduce themselves to their new districts.

Cox entered the last week and a half of the election with just over half the cash on hand of his Democratic opponent, Sheila Bynum-Coleman, while Chris Jones was outraised in October – but he did have a cash on hand advantage as of October 24.

GOP House Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo was the last Republican standing in Northern Virginia after pulling out a 106-vote squeaker in 2017, and that was with a significant spending advantage. Hugo’s district gave 59% of its vote to Tim Kaine in last year’s US Senate race, and Hugo is being outraised and outspent this election cycle. His Democratic opponent, Dan Helmer, brought in over $840,000 in October and had a nearly 2:1 cash advantage as of October 24, with $417,709 in the bank compared to Hugo’s $218,524.

Redrawn Districts – Dels. Chris Stolle (HD-83), David Yancey (HD-94), Barry Knight (HD-81), OPEN (HD-96)

Cox and Jones aren’t the only Republicans fighting for their lives in new districts, though. Republican Delegates Chris Stolle, David Yancey, and Barry Knight all received new Democratic-leaning districts after the court-ordered redistricting.

It’s difficult to see any path to victory for David Yancey, who finished in a literal tie with Democrat Shelly Simonds in 2017, winning back his seat on a coin flip. Simonds, back for a rematch with Yancey, is now running in a strongly Democratic-leaning district and she outraised Yancey in October. However, Yancey does have a cash on hand advantage as of October 24.

Chris Stolle and Barry Knight’s new districts aren’t nearly as unfavorable as Yancey’s, though, and both have outraised their Democratic opponents throughout the election cycle. The slight Democratic-lean of Stolle’s district will likely make the race very close on Election Night, while Knight’s district remains more of a reach for Democrats. That said, Democrats are investing late for Knight’s opponent, Democrat Len Myers, with $181,000 in last-minute donations.

Senate Retirements – OPEN (SD-7), OPEN (SD-13)

The entire Virginia State Senate is only up for re-election once every four years, so many incumbent GOP State Senators were shielded from the suburban realignment that decimated House Republicans in 2017. Democrats only need to pick up one seat to take control of the State Senate and are favored to do so on Tuesday, in part because of two open-seat races in now Democratic-leaning districts.

In SD 7, Democratic Del. Cheryl Turpin is running against Republican Jen Kiggans for the seat vacated by long-time incumbent Frank Wagner, who won the seat in 2015 after the most expensive Senate race in Virginia history. Every statewide Democrat carried the Virginia Beach-based district in 2017 and Tim Kaine carried 56% of the district’s vote in 2018. Turpin has outraised Kiggans significantly throughout the election, including throughout the month of October. This race looks good for Democrats, but it might be close on Election Night.

SD 13 is a Northern Virginia-based district that sprawls across Loudoun and Prince William Counties and is represented by GOP Sen. Dick Black, who first won the seat in 2011. SD 13 hasn’t voted for a Republican at the statewide level, for either federal or state office, since 2014. Democratic candidate Del. John Bell has outraised Republican nominee Geary Higgins by more than 2:1 and started October 24 with a nearly 5:1 cash on hand advantage, with $462,678 compared to Higgins’ $93,069. Democrats can expect to pick up this seat on Tuesday.

Possible Upsets – Sen. Chase (SD-11), Del. Freitas (HD-30)

Every election cycle inevitably has a handful of otherwise uncompetitive races that turn competitive after a candidate does something detrimental to their campaign – and this year is no different. In SD 11, GOP incumbent Amanda Chase’s long history of controversy, including running ads threatening to “shoot down” gun groups and calling rape victims “naive”, has turned a normally Republican-leaning district into a potentially competitive battleground. Democrats haven’t invested in this race at the same rate they have in other Senate races, but Democrat Amanda Pohl has matched Chase’s fundraising nearly dollar-for-dollar. Chase had just a roughly $20,000 cash on hand advantage as of October 24.

HD 30, normally a close to guaranteed Republican seat, was thrown into chaos this year after incumbent GOP Del. Nick Freitas forgot to submit his paperwork on time, forcing him to run a write-in campaign against Democrat Ann Ridgeway. Ridgeway will have the ballot to herself on Tuesday, but state policy will count any “reasonably clear” attempt to write-in Freitas’ name. Per Virginia election analyst Chaz Nuttycombe, election night returns will show votes for Ridgeway and the number of write-in votes, but not who the write-in votes are for, potentially making the race uncallable until the election is certified on November 18. Freitas has handily outraised and outspent Ridgeway, but it’s hard to tell how this race will shake out.
Before we go…
As always, thank you to all of our readers for subscribing to FWIW Virginia, we hope you’ve found our analysis helpful throughout this election cycle. And a special thanks to the team at Virginia Public Access Project, who does an excellent job sorting and visualizing data on Virginia politics – it saved us a lot of time and effort on lots of editions!

While this is the last edition of FWIW Virginia, our national FWIW newsletter will continue to provide must-read analysis of digital spending trends throughout the Presidential primary and general election. You can subscribe to our national FWIW newsletter here and find an archive of FWIW Virginia newsletters here.

– The team at ACRONYM