What to Watch in Virginia Down Ballot Races

In 2017, Virginia Democrats flipped fifteen seats in the Virginia House of Delegates with a sixteenth seat, decided by random drawing, that went to a Republican. Had the seat gone to a Democrat, each party would have had 50 seats, instead the split is 49 (D) to 51 (R). The 2017 election brought Democrats the closest they’ve been to controlling the House of Delegates since 1997. The Virginia Public Access Project reported that a total of $46.9 million was raised for the 2017 election, which was by all accounts one of the most expensive in history. It’s no surprise that in 2019, with all seats in both chambers of the state legislature up for election, that number has nearly doubled with close to $82.5 million reported at the end of September. Of that, $26.4 million was spent on broadcast, cable, digital, or radio advertising.

VA downballot

Digging In

Of all the races, the top five most expensive spent 44.48% or $10.5 million of the $26.4 million that has been spent this cycle. Four of those five races are for Senate seats, as there has not been an election for the VA State Senate since 2015 and Democrats came close to flipping the House of Delegates in 2017. The one House seat in the top five is currently held by House Speaker Kirk Cox (R). Overall, Democrats have a slight lead in spending, accounting for 56.41% of the total or $14.9 million, Republicans have spent $11.5 million. Outside groups, which this year account for 28.4% of spending, heavily favor Democrats with about two out of every three dollars from an outside group spent on behalf a Democrat. If the conventional wisdom that those who spend more win, Virginia could be looking at a blue State Legislature post-election.

The Lottery District

Though not in the top five most expensive races, there is another House district worth watching. House district 94 was decided by random drawing in 2017, and has seen surprisingly one-sided spending this cycle. Shelley Simonds (D) who is running against Republican incumbent David Yancey has spent over 7 times as much as Yancey in this race $360,000 to Yancey’s $50,000. This is Simonds 3rd time running for this seat against incumbent Yancey. She first lost by around 15% in 2015, then tied in 2017 and now is running for the seat after a U.S. District Court created new boundaries that shifted party identification within the district by 13 points in favor of Democrats. This is a visible trend across the state as multiple Republican districts went from safe to significantly less so, including HD-66, the seat of House Speaker Kirk Cox which went from 62.7% Republican to 53.2% Democratic. Shifting districts and heavy spending from the left are two significant factors in

VA downballot 2

Please note, the data in this post is current as of 2:30pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

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