Leading up to Election Day/Election Week, we’re going to take a closer look at a few key races in Virginia, and what to look out for as election results start coming in. We’ll start with Hampton Roads’ VA02, which is made up of all or parts of Virginia Beach (63.4% of the district), York County (9.5%), Norfolk (9.1%), Accomack County (4.9%), Hampton (4.6%), James City County (2.6%), Williamsburg (2.1%), Northampton County (1.9%) and Poquoson (1.9%). This is a district that went by four points (49%-45%) for Trump in 2016, then was about even in the 2017 Virginia statewide races, then went by 10 points (54%-44%) for Tim Kaine over Corey Stewart in 2018. Also in 2018, Democrat Elaine Luria defeated then-Rep. Scott Taylor (R) – tarnished by the ongoing “Petitiongate scandal,” regarding the 2018 Taylor campaign’s desperate attempt to get a third party candidate, Shaun Brown on the ballot – in VA02 by a 2.2-point (51.0%-48.8%) margin, with a total of 273,428 votes cast.
So what should we be looking for in VA02? Here are a few things:
- There’s only been one public poll in VA02 this fall, and it was a good one for Luria, as it showed her leading Taylor by 7 points (50%-43%). So we’ll see how close that poll comes to the final outcome in this race. Also note that FiveThirtyEight.com gives Luria an 88% chance of winning this race, while The Economist model gives Luria a 93% chance, with a predicted outcome of Luria 54%-Taylor 46%. We’ll see how close the models come.
- Will Sen. Mark Warner carry this district by a similar margin to Sen. Tim Kaine (54%-44%) in 2018? Or will it be significantly larger/smaller than that? How about Joe Biden? Can he carry this district that Trump won by four points in 2018? If so, that certainly should help “down-ballot” Democrats like Elaine Luria.
- Turnout in 2018 was 273k, with Luria getting 140k and Taylor 133k. And in 2016, turnout in VA02 was 311k. So…what will overall VA02 turnout look like this time around? Also, where will that turnout come from?
- In 2018, 170k of the 273k (62%) of the VA02 vote came from Virginia Beach, with Luria winning the city narrowly (87k-83k). Will Luria win Virginia Beach again this time, and if so by how much? Obviously, this is the “motherlode” of votes in VA02, so the higher margin possible for Luria, the better. Also keep an eye on the Virginia Beach mayoral race, by the way, given that Democrat Jody Wagner is running a very strong campaign to unseat the incumbent, Republican Mayor, Bobby Dyer, and could certainly win it. Finally, how will Sen. Mark Warner do in Virginia Beach? In 2018, Sen. Tim Kaine won Virginia Beach handily (92k-74k) over Corey Stewart, which presumably helped Luria. This time, will Sen. Warner win it by similar or even larger margins, and will that also help Luria? Something to keep an eye on…
- The next-highest VA02 turnout totals in 2018 were from York County (29k) and Norfolk (23k), with Taylor winning York 16k-13k and Luria winning Norfolk 14k-9k. Combined, those two counties accounted for another 19% of the VA02 vote, bringing us to 81% including Virginia Beach. A couple things to look for here are what turnout looks like in York, and what Taylor’s margin is there. Also, again, it will be interesting to see how Sen. Warner does in York; note that Tim Kaine lost York in 2018 by a 1.2k-vote margin. As for Norfolk, the bigger the turnout in that “blue” city the better…
- The next two highest VA02 jurisdictions in terms of turnout in 2018 were Hampton and Accomack County, both at 12.8k, with Luria winning Hampton by under 1k votes and Taylor winning Accomack County by about 1.3k votes. Note that Tim Kaine lost Accomack County in 2018, by just over 600 votes (6.6k-6.0k), while he won Hampton by a 37k-13k margin. So…keep an eye on turnout and margins in both those jurisdictions.
- The final four VA02 jurisdictions in terms of turnout in 2018 were James City County (8.4k), Williamsburg (6.2k), Poquoson (6k), Northampton County (5.1k). Luria won James City County by 568 votes, Williamsburg by about 2.6k votes and Northampton County by about 500 votes, while Taylor won Poquoson by about 2.9k votes. We’ll see how each of those does on Tuesday night, and whether they indicate large Democratic and/or Republican turnout in general.
- Finally, note that we’ll first be getting results from election day voting, then after 11 pm, “that’s when you start to see the localities reporting results for all the early voting, absentee voting.” So if early voting skews Democratic, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Taylor with an early-evening “lead” that disappears once the early/absentee votes are tabulated. Keep that in mind not just in VA02, but throughout Virginia on Tuesday night!