Last month, I posted step-by-step guides to Democrats maintaining – or expanding – their Virginia State Senate majority this November, and also taking back the House of Delegates. In those posts, using this analysis by VPAP (“Mapping Midterm Results by State Districts”), I listed the key State Senate and House of Delegates districts Democrats need to win this November to accomplish those goals.
Now, after the huge (11-point) win by pro-choice/pro-democracy Democrat Janet Protasiewicz over anti-choice/anti-democracy Republican Daniel Kelly, the path to victory for Virginia Democrats has gotten even clearer: focus the races on the same things that Protasiewicz’s campaign focused on: upholding our constitutional freedoms; protecting our democracy; defending reproductive choice. Because on all of those crucial issues (I’d add climate action to the list, by the way), Democrats are on the right side and Republicans are WILDLY on wrong side.
So let’s take a quick look at the key State Senate races to see where the candidates stand on defending our constitutional rights and our democracy; reproductive choice; and combating the climate crisis (note: this analysis assumes Democrats “hold serve” by winning everything above 55% Democratic performance, which is likely).
- Win SD16 (Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg vs. Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant), which would get Democrats to 19 State Senate seats. On protecting women’s reproductive freedom, VanValkenburg got a 100% rating from REPRO Rising Virginia, while Dunnavant got a pathetic 17%. The contrast on this issue is stark. And on defending our democracy/protecting our freedoms, it’s also stark; whether we’re talking about voting rights, LGBTQ equality, voting rights, combating the climate crisis, you name it, Dunnavant is awful.
- Win SD30 (Democratic Del. Danica Roem vs. Republican Robert Ruffolo or William Carroll Woolf III), which would get Democrats to 20 State Senate seats (still not sufficient, given that Republican Winsome Sears is Lt. Governor and breaks ties in the State Senate). On protecting women’s reproductive freedom, Roem got a 92% rating from REPRO Rising in 2022, while either of her Republican opponents appear to be hard right all the way (Ruffolo rants, for instance, “teachers feel they have a right to indoctrinate your child with woke leftist ideologies and keep from you what they are teaching. CRT and Gender Theory have no place in our schools and I will fight to have them banned” and also pledges to “Restore Election Integrity” – code for voter suppression; not sure about Woolf, but presumably he’s anti-choice and not a friend of democracy, since basically every Republican is these days)
- Next, win SD31 (Democrats Russet Perry or Zach Cummings vs. Republican Juan Pablo Segura), which would get Democrats to a slim 21-seat majority in the State Senate. Both Democrats running are strongly pro-choice and pro-democracy. In contrast, right-wing Republican Juan Pablo Segura has never held public office so is somewhat of a cipher, but is almost certainly a strong opponent of women’s reproductive freedom and protecting our democracy, fundamental rights, environment, etc., given his extreme kickoff speech. The Democratic nominee will need to make sure that EVERY SINGLE VOTER in this district knows about how extreme Segura is, just like Wisconsin Democrats did against far-right Republican Daniel Kelly.
- To get back to where we are now, win SD27 (Democrats Joel Griffin, Ben Litchfield or Luke Radley Wright vs. Republicans Tara Durant or Matt Strickland vs. Independent Monica Gary), which would get Democrats to 22 State Senate seats. Griffin and Litchfield (and presumably Wright, although it’s not clear from his website) are both strongly pro-reproductive-freedom and pro-democracy. The far-right Republicans running are most definitely not, while the independent candidate believes that “personhood happens even before conception.”
- For some cushion (or “icing on the cake,” whichever metaphor you prefer), Democrats need to win SD24 (Democratic Sen. Monty Mason vs. Republican Danny Diggs), which would get us to 23 State Senate seats, up one from where we are now. Mason gets a 92% from REPRO Rising and is strongly pro-democracy and pro-constitutional-rights. In stark contrast, Diggs is strongly anti-reproductive freedom and appears to be hard right in just about every other way as well, so the choice is clear in this one, just as it was in Wisconsin yesterday.
- Finally, for even more cushion – and in case we lose any of the other competitive races – Democrats need to win SD17 (Democratic Del. Clint Jenkins vs. Republican Del. Emily Brewer or Republican Hermie Sadler) – 24 State Senate seats, up two from where we are now (which would really marginalize renegade “Democratic” Senate Joe Morrissey). Jenkins has a very strong pro-choice voting record and is also strongly pro-democracy, pro-clean-energy/environment, etc.. In stark contrast, Brewer is strongly anti-reproductive-freedom who rants on Twitter about how “ a George Soros funded DA is abusing his office to persecute @realDonaldTrump while he ignores the murders and rapists that are running rampant on the streets of Manhattan. This witch hunt is an unprecedented abuse of power.” Unhinged. As for Sadler, he said “I would be amenable to a 15-week ban similar to what Gov. Youngkin has proposed, I think that’s reasonable.” So…’nuff said.
Bottom line: As we saw in Wisconsin last night, and as we also saw in the 2022 midterm elections, protecting women’s reproductive rights as well as our democracy (and, of course, a healthy environment we all need to live!) are CRUCIAL issues to most Americans, including “swing voters” in places like the suburbs of Milwaukee…or the suburbs of Richmond, Washington, DC, etc. In the 2023 Virginia legislative elections, which will see all 140 seats up for grabs, it’s crucial that voters understand what’s at stake: the future of reproductive freedom, democracy and really ALL our constitutional freedoms in Virginia, which would be secure if Democrats win but in grave danger if they don’t. So…keep that in mind, and make sure you remind everyone to vote Democratic this November, up and down the ballot!