by Sam Shirazi
You’re excited, you want to act, but you don’t know what to do. The reality is that winning an election is the most effective way to block Glenn Youngkin’s right-wing agenda.
Fortunately, because the Democrats won the state Senate in 2019, they are now an obstacle to any Republican legislation. But the entire General Assembly will be elected in 2023, including the 40 seats in the State Senate and the 100 seats in the House of Delegates. If the Democrats fail to win at least one of the two chambers, nothing will stop the Republicans from passing extreme legislation. That means everything from voting rights to reproductive rights will be on the ballot.
Now, 2023 may seem a long way off, but these are the first elections according to the new maps adopted as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process. This means a lot of changes and starters with new territory where they are not as well known.
The good news for Democrats is that they have plenty of safe seats to close in on a majority. The bad news is that the last few seats needed for the majority will not be easy.
So start getting organized now, choose which districts to focus on, and get ready for a busy 2023.
According to the new maps, 19 state Senate seats voted for Joe Biden in 2020 by at least 20 points, so Democrats are expected to keep them next year.
However, the Democrats need two more Biden seats to have a majority in the state Senate (a 20-20 tie wouldn’t be enough, as Lt. Governor Sears would sever ties in favor of the Republicans).
Here are the “Majority Makers”, ranked in order of probability of winning. Democrats need at least 2 in 5 to win a majority.
- Senate District 24 in Newport News/Williamsburg voted 53%-44% for Joe Biden. Democrats have an incumbent in that district with Sen. Monty Mason. However, the Williamsburg portion of the district could see a drop in voting in an off-year state election. This is an area where Democrats need to focus on getting young people to vote to make sure they get that seat.
- Senate District 16 at Western Henrico voted 57% to 40% Biden. Republican Senator Siobhan Dunnavant is likely to run for re-election here in 2023. Note that she survived politically in a Democratic-leaning district in 2019. However, she spoke out in favor of Younkin’s mask executive order and voted to advance Amanda Chase. bill to allow doctors to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Given the Democratic leanings of this district, it’s an almost “must-win” district, which Democrats should view as a top opportunity in 2023.
- Senate District 31 in Western Loudoun/Fauquier voted 55%-42% Biden. Republican Senator Jill Vogel will likely run for re-election in this district, and she will no doubt try to run as a moderate to win over suburban voters. Even with the district’s Democratic leanings, Vogel will be tough to beat given his name recognition. Democrats are expected to focus on organizing in Leesburg and the eastern arm of the district, which is much more “blue” and stretches to the Fairfax border.
- Senate District 27 in Stafford/Fredericksburg voted 52% to 46% Biden. While this area turned Democratic during the Trump era, parts of it have traditionally been more Republican. It’s more of a reach for Democrats, but the right candidate and a good campaign could win it.
- Senate District 17 in Portsmouth/Southside voted 53%-46% Biden. This area has moved away from Democrats and turnout was an issue in 2021. Republicans have a strong candidate in Del. Emily Brewer. This one will be difficult for Democrats, but proper investment in African-American participation could make it a possibility.
House of Delegates
According to the new maps, 49 seats in the House of Delegates voted for Biden by at least 15 points, so Democrats would need two more Biden seats to win back a majority.
Here are the “Majority Makers”, ranked in order of probability of winning. Democrats need at least 2 out of 9 to get a majority.
- House District 65 in Fredericksburg voted 55%-43% Biden. The old Del. Josh Cole narrowly lost his seat in 2021 and looks set to race in the new version of the seat. He’s a lot less gerrymander and keeping Fredericksburg whole this time around, which should give Cole a really good shot in 2023 if he shows up again.
- House District 97 in Virginia Beach voted 55%-42.5% Biden. This neighborhood corresponds roughly to that which the old Del. Alex Askew narrowly lost in 2021. This part of Virginia Beach is a constant battleground, and Democrats will need to work to improve Hampton Roads after a tough time in 2021.
- House District 22, in central Prince William County, voted 52% to 46% Biden. While the rest of Prince William County has become more “blue”, the central parts of the county have retained their “red” nature. Given trends in Northern Virginia, it still makes sense for Democrats to focus on securing that seat in 2023.
- House District 82 in Petersburg/Southside voted 55%-44% Biden. The old Del. Lashrecse Aird lost that seat in 2021 in an upset, and she may decide to run for the state Senate in 2023. Despite the district’s “blue” streak, Democrats have struggled with turnout in 2021. He is important not to take the African American vote for granted and work to get it out here in 2023.
- House District 57 in Western Henrico/Eastern Goochland voted 52%-46.5% Biden. Suburb Richmond is another battleground where Democrats have a chance to win more seats in the House of Delegates. While the Goochland portion of this district is more Republican and makes this seat difficult, the highly competitive state Senate seat in the Henrico portion should increase turnout here for Democrats, giving them a chance.
- House District 75 in Hopewell/Chester voted 52%-46.5% Biden. Another potential battleground in suburban Richmond gives Democrats a chance to get picked up. This is a majority-minority district, and Democrats should focus on getting minority voters out here.
- House District 71 in Williamsburg voted 50.5%-47.5% Biden. This district is a mix of the very blue college town of Williamsburg and the surrounding very red rural areas. If Democrats can maximize turnout in Williamsburg, which also has a competitive state Senate race, then they may have a chance here.
- House District 86 in Hampton/Poquoson voted between 50.5% and 47%. Another seat where Democrats may have a chance if they can work on African American turnout to offset the heavily Republican Poquoson area.
- House District 89 in Chesapeake/Suffolk voted 50%-48% Biden. That seat would be overkill given the turnout issues in off-year elections, but if Democrats can get their voters out, then they might have a chance here.