11.08.2023 2023 Virginia Election Report
On Tuesday, November 7th, citizens across the Commonwealth went back to the polls to vote in one of the most consequential elections in Virginia’s history. Following redistricting, primary elections, and a wave of retirements from longtime legislators, the Virginia General Assembly faced a loss of over 635 years of legislative experience and a turnover of at least 40% of the legislature, even before a single ballot was cast on Tuesday. And with a very narrow Democratic majority in the Senate (22-18) and a very narrow Republican majority in the House (52-48), this election cycle offered both parties a chance to truly vie for total control of the legislature.
While all politics may be local, Virginia’s election season was firmly in the national spotlight this year. One of only four legislative elections in the country, Virginia’s election cycle has been viewed as a barometer for the looming 2024 presidential election cycle. What’s more, races for the House of Delegates and Senate were inextricably intertwined with major national political issues, such as abortion access and parental rights in education. Further adding to the intrigue are Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s rumored presidential aspirations, which many pundits believe hinged upon his ability to maintain a Republican majority in the House and help Republicans take control of the Senate.
Following nearly 8 months of campaigning and an unprecedented level of fundraising, when the dust settled late Tuesday night, Virginia Democrats had not just defended their majority in the Senate, but they also took back the House of Delegates.
As of 10 on Thursday morning, Democrats held a 51-48 majority in the House of Delegates and a 21-19 majority in the Senate, with one race undecided in the House. The race between Delegate Kim Taylor (R) and Kimberly Pope Adams (D) in HD 82 remains too close to call, with Delegate Kim Taylor in the lead by just over 200 votes.
Another race that couldn’t be called on election night has now officially been resolved. Republican challenger Danny Diggs (R) has defeated Senator Monty Mason (D) in SD 24. As of Wednesday evening, Diggs lead Mason by over 1,600 votes, and Senator Mason officially conceded the election.
Also of note were ballot initiatives for gaming. Richmond voters rejected a second referendum that would have allowed the development of a casino in the city (61.62% to 38.38%) while Manassas Park voters rejected a referendum that would have allowed pari-mutuel wagering (58.88% to 41.12%).
In the House of Delegates, 69 of the 100 seats were contested by either a major political party or an independent or third-party candidate. This is slightly lower than the last election cycle for the House (2021), where 91 of the 100 seats were contested.
In the Senate, 33 of the 40 seats were contested. This was actually slightly higher than the last election cycle for the Senate, where only 29 out of the 40 seats were contested.
Familiar Faces On The Move:
Thanks in no small part to the results of redistricting, a number of current House members made the decision this year to run for Senate. For the Republicans, Delegates Chris Head, John McGuire, Emily Brewer, Tara Durant all succeeded in their campaigns and will join the Senate this January. For the Democrats, Delegates Schuyler VanValkenburg, Angelia Williams Graves, Danica Roem, and Suhas Subramanyam all won their elections to the Senate as well.
This election cycle also bore witness to a number of former legislators making their political comebacks. Notably, former U.S. Representative Tom Garrett – who is also a former member of both the Virginia House and Senate – won his election to HD 56. In the Senate, former state Senator Glen Sturtevant won in the newly drawn SD 12, former Delegate Laschresce Aird won in SD 13, and former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy won in SD 33. In the House, former Delegate Josh Cole won in HD 65, and former Delegate Alex Askew won in HD 95.
What Comes Next?
With election results mostly finalized at this juncture, all eyes will now turn to the caucuses to see how leadership elections and committee assignments shake out.
In the House, Delegate Don Scott is presumably in line for Speaker of the House, though who will be named House Minority Leader is a bit murkier. In the Senate, despite Democrats maintaining control (which they’ve enjoyed since 2020), there will still be significant changes in the Senate Democratic Caucus leadership structure. With former Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw retiring earlier this year, Senators Mamie Locke (current Caucus Chair) and Scott Surovell (current Caucus Vice Chair) are angling for the post. On the other side of the aisle, Senators Ryan McDougle (current Caucus Chair) and Mark Obenshain (current Caucus Co-Chair) are frequently mentioned as candidates to replace the retiring Senator Tommy Norment as the Minority Leader.
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