If you thought 2022 was eventful in Virginia politics, wait until 2023! Why? Because next year’s REALLY going to be wild, with the entire Virginia General Assembly up for grabs — and along with it the proverbial “ballgame” for Youngkin’s right-wing agenda, whether or not women will retain full reproductive autonomy in Virginia, whether, whether or not Virginia will lurch backwards on clean energy and environmental protection (and voting rights, civil rights, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ equality, you name it).
As if all that’s not enough to make 2023 an eventful year, we’re also going to have a special election for State Senate District 7 (go Aaron Rouse!) on January 10; a special election for House District HD35 (go Holly Seibold!) on January 10; a special election for U.S. House in VA04 on February 21; quite possibly a special election for Jennifer McClellan’s State Senate District 14; quite possibly a special election for House of Delegates after the SD14 special election is decided (if either Del. Lamont Bagby or Del. Jeff Bourne win it); etc. Plus, we’ll have many primary and general elections for important local offices – county boards, city councils, school boards, etc. And we’ll have the 2023 Virginia General Assembly session, of course, in which Youngkin will be pushing his agenda against the Senate Democratic “brick wall” (we’ll see if it holds for another year or if cracks develop).
We’ll also, of course, be getting closer to the 2024 presidential primaries and caucuses, which means that we’ll see which Republicans – Youngkin? – announce for the GOP(Q) nomination…and there could be a lot of them, particularly if Trump is on trial, in prison, in severe legal jeopardy or whatever. Also, as we get closer to 2024, we’ll see which Republican(s) announce for US Senate against Tim Kaine, as well as who announces for U.S. House in competitive districts like VA02, VA07 and VA10. And god knows what wildcards we’ll have in 2023 on any number of fronts.
With that, here are a bunch of things to look out for in Virginia politics during the upcoming year of 2023.
- January 3: The new U.S. Congress will meet, beginning with members being sworn in – including incumbents and new members (from VA02 – Republican Jen Kiggans, unfortunately) – and a new House Speaker being elected (note that far-right-extremist Rep. Bob Good from VA05 has been one of several Republicans opposing Kevin McCarthy’s Speaker bid; we’ll see how that turns out). In the U.S. House, Democrats will be in the minority and Republicans in the (very narrow) majority, unfortunately, which will probably mean chaos, craziness, irresponsibility, witch hunts, extremism and other assorted idiocy. Can’t wait, huh? Fortunately, the US Senate will remain in capable Democratic hands, including Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner with a great deal of well-earned/deserved power and influence.
- January 10: Who will win the special elections for House of Delegates in HD24 and HD35 (go Holly Seibold!); and for State Senate District 7 (go Aaron Rouse!)? Republicans are overwhelmingly favored in the deep-red HD24, while Democrats are overwhelmingly favored in solid-blue HD35. As for SD7, that one could go either way, but it’s crucial that Democrats win it for a bunch of reasons I outlined recently.
- January 11: The 2023 Virginia General Assembly will convene for its Regular Session, which this year goes only for 46 days, adjourning sine die on February 25. This session will be crucial for Youngkin’s agenda, including on women’s reproductive freedom and many other issues, and depending on the results of the SD7 special election, Democrats could have a 22-18 or 21-19 majority in the State Senate. Also, we’ll see how hard Youngkin pushes for some sort of abortion restrictions, and whether any Democrats (cough, Sen. Joe Morrissey, cough) go along with them. And we’ll see how relentless Youngkin’s war on public education is, along with his attempts to roll back progress on a wide range of fronts (gun violence prevention, voting rights, labor, criminal justice, LGBGTQ equality, energy/environment, you name it). Speaking of Joe Morrissey, it will be interesting to see what his attitude’s like after pretty much every Democrat endorsed Jennifer McClellan for VA04 over him, and after he got crushed by McClellan.
- February 21: The special election for U.S. House District 4 should be won easily by Democrat Jennifer McClellan, given that it’s an overwhelmingly “blue” district. The question will be when McClellan steps down from the State Senate – preferably AFTER it adjourns on February 25 – and what impact this could have on Youngkin’s legislative agenda. Because depending on whether Democrats win the January 10 special election in SD7, their majority in the State Senate after McClellan steps down will be either 21-18 or 20-19. Waaaayyyy too close for comfort, especially given that right-wing Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears (R) breaks ties in the Senate.
- January-June: Lots of primaries for local offices – county board, school board, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, etc. It will be interesting to see the types of candidates running in Republican primaries – Trumpists? relatively more sane/”mainstream” Republicans? – and who wins them. And if Republicans continue to go with Trumpists, will they prove unelectable in November everywhere but in solidly “red” districts? I’ll also be interested to see the types of issues Republicans focus on (quality-of-life issues or “culture war” Trumpist stuff that helps nobody and hurts a lot of people)? On the Democratic side, it will be interesting to see how many of the progressive Commonwealth’s Attorneys elected in 2019 face serious challenges in 2023. For County Board and School Board, how many incumbents will draw primaries, including in large “blue” counties like Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William? Who will run for the two vacant Arlington County Board seats?
- February 25-June 20: Following the 2023 General Assembly session, primaries should REALLY heat up fast. A few big Democratic ones in the State Senate to keep an eye on include: SD11 (incumbent Creigh Deeds vs. challenger Sally Hudson); SD13 (incumbent Joe Morrissey vs. challenger Lashrecse Aird); SD18 (incumbents Lionell Spruill vs. Louise Lucas); SD21 (Andria McClellan vs. Angelia Williams Graves vs. Mike Pudhorodsky); SD27 (Ben Litchfield vs. Luke Radley Wright); SD29 (incumbent Jeremy McPike vs. challenger Elizabeth Guzman); SD31 (Zach Cummings vs. Russet Perry); SD33 (Jennifer Carroll Foy vs. Hala Ayala). Oh, and we’ll see if any other Democratic incumbents – Sen. Chap Petersen? – draw primary challengers. On the Republican side in the State Senate, keep an eye on SD2 (will incumbents Emmett Hanger and Mark Obenshain run against each other, or will one of them back down?); SD8 (will incumbents Steve Newman and Mark Peake run against each other, or will one of them back down?); SD10 (looks like a four-way contest at the moment between John McGuire, Jack Dyer, Sandy Brindley and Duane Adams); SD12 (incumbent Amanda Chase vs. challengers Tina Ramirez and Glen Sturtevant); SD26 (will Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment retire or run against Sen. Ryan McDougle?); SD27 (Tara Durant vs. Matt Strickland); SD28 (incumbent Bryce Reeves vs. Mike Allers); SD31 (incumbent Jill Vogel, IF she runs again, challenged by Geary Higgins). Will Sen. John Edwards (D) and/or Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D) run for reelection, despite the fact that their districts were made significantly “redder” by redistricting? Assuming Aaron Rouse wins the special election, will he “clear the field” or be primaried, potentially by Cheryl Turpin and/or Kelly Convirs-Fowler? For House of Delegates Democrats, a few big ones to keep an eye on include HD13 (incumbents Marcus Simon vs. Kaye Kory); HD18 (incumbents Eileen Filler-Corn vs. Kathy Tran); HD55 (Amy Laufer vs. Kellen Squire); HD57 (Susanna Gibson vs. Bob Shippee); HD78 (incumbents Dawn Adam vs. Jeff Bourne vs. Betsy Carr); etc. For House of Delegates Republicans, check out HD44 (incumbents Israel O’Quinn vs. Will Wampler); HD47 (this one could be really wild between two far-right incumbents who despise each other, Marie March and Wren Williams); HD67 (incumbents Bobby Orrock vs. Margaret Ransone); HD100 (incumbents Tim Anderson vs. Rob Bloxom); etc.
- April 5 or 12: “Reconvened session” of the Virginia General Assembly. At this point, assuming the vacant seat of Jennifer McClellan hasn’t been filled yet, Democrats could have as small a margin as 20-19 in the State Senate, which will leave them pretty much no room for error. Unless, of course, Aaron Rouse wins the SD7 special election on January 10, in which case Democrats will probably have a 21-18 margin. So let’s make damn sure Aaron Rouse wins on January 10!
- June 20: Primary day in Virginia, and there will be a LOT of Democratic and Republican primaries next year, with numerous delegates and state senators “drawn in” with each other (see above for more details on that) during the 2021 redistricting process, and with numerous Senate and House of Delegates incumbents being challenged. Also keep an eye on important races for County Board, School Board, City Council, etc.
- Second half of the year: Presumably, we’ll start to see 2024 Republican presidential candidates announcing during this period, and we’ll find out if Glenn Youngkin is going to throw his hat in the presidential ring – or not. We’ll also start to see who steps up to run for U.S. House in 2024 and against Sen. Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate in 2024. By late in the year, increased jockeying for Virginia governor/LG/AG in 2025?
- September/October: We’ll see how much money Glenn Youngkin puts into helping Republicans try to take back the State Senate and hold the House of Delegates. Democrats are very worried that Youngkin will pour millions of dollars into these races, and the fact that Democrats don’t have an obvious leader/fundraiser of their own to match him. We’ll also see what the public mood is like, what President Biden’s approval rating looks like, what Youngkin’s approval rating looks like, how the economy is doing, whether Republicans blow winnable races due to nominating far-right-extremist nutjobs (as they did in several states this past November), etc.
- November 7: General Election Day in Virginia, with all State Senate and House of Delegates districts up for grabs, plus the aforementioned local offices. In the State Senate, Democrats will need to at least keep their 21-19 majority to avert potential disaster, but note that Democrats also very much have a shot at taking back the House of Delegates, which Republicans only hold narrowly (52-48). Some key districts to keep an eye on include (Sam Shirazi’s ratings): SD22 and SD30 (Likely Dem); SD16 (Leans Dem); SD17, SD24 and SD31 (Tossup); SD27 (Leans R); SD4 and SD20 (Likely R); HD58, HD94 and HD96 (Likely Dem); HD84 (Leans Dem); HD21, HD57, HD65, HD82 and HD97 (Tossup); HD22 and HD89 (Lean R); HD30, HD41, HD71, HD75, HD86 (Likely R). To narrow it down even further, the key State Senate districts IMHO are: SD24 (Democrats need to make sure Sen. Monty Mason wins reelection); SD31 (a prime pickup opportunity for Dems in the NOVA suburbs/exurbs, particularly if incumbent Republican Jill Vogel steps down, as has been rumored); SD17 (a prime pickup opportunity for Dems in the Richmond suburbs, with Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg taking on incumbent Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant). And in the House of Delegates, I’d really keep an eye on the tossup districts – HD21, HD57 (Henrico County), HD65 (former Del. Josh Cole makes a comeback attempt in this Stafford/Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania “purple” district), HD82 (Dems really need to win this seat in Petersburg/Dinwiddie/Prince George/Surry back); and HD97 (definitely a winnable, “purple” seat for Dems in Virginia Beach). As for local elections, among other things, we’ll see if Democrats keep their majorities on the Loudoun and Prince William County Boards of Supervisors.
- December: With a bunch of retirements expected in the Virginia State Senate – including Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Janet Howell, possibly Minority Leader Tommy Norment, etc. – and with control of the State Senate decided, we’ll see how leadership shakes out in each party, who heads up key committees, etc. As for the House of Delegates, if Democrats take back the majority, there will be a new, greatly improved Speaker (could Don Scott be the first African-American Speaker of the House in Virginia history?) and House Majority Leader. What if there’s a tie in the House of Delegates? That would be wild; some sort of power-sharing arrangement. Anyway, stay tuned on that front! Also by the end of December, will Virginia actually pull out of RGGI (which would be a huge mistake, but one that Youngkin/Wheeler/etc. seem determined to make), or will there be legal action to stop that from happening?
What else should I add to this list?