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Analyst breaks down ‘tossup’ districts in Virginia’s pivotal election

Early voting gets underway in about a week across Virginia for this year’s legislative elections, which will decide political control of the state’s currently divided General Assembly.

The election is set for Nov. 7, with early voting starting on Sept. 22.

Every seat in both the House of Delegates and state Senate will be on the ballot in an election cycle that will help determine how much of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s legislative agenda can be achieved in his final two years in office.

According to CNalysis, a nonpartisan website that forecasts state legislative elections, Democrats are favored slightly to maintain control of Virginia’s Senate and take control of the House.

However, anything can happen.

“At the end of the day, both chambers are going to come down to tossup districts,” said Chaz Nuttycombe, director of CNalysis.

The Virginia House is currently controlled by the GOP with 50 Republicans, 46 Democrats and four vacancies.

Of the 40 seats in the Senate, there are 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans.

The projection from CNalysis said both chambers “tilt” toward Democratic control, with Democrats taking the House 52 to 48 and keeping the senate 21 to 19.

“That’s not to say that Republicans can’t win both chambers,” Nuttycombe said. “People should not underestimate them.”

The analysis from Nuttycombe and his team involves looking at district demographics and voting patterns in recent elections, especially recent gubernatorial and presidential contests.

They also look at the candidates and how much money they have raised and spent.

Where are the tossup races?

According to CNalysis, there are two tossup districts in Virginia’s Senate and three in the House of Delegates.

Senate District 31 is one of the contests considered to be a tossup. It includes portions of Loudoun and Fauquier counties and there is no incumbent in the race.

Democrat Russet Perry is running against Republican Juan Pablo Segura.

“There’s a lot of money in that race, and it may become the most expensive race in Virginia state legislative history,” Nuttycombe said.

Senate District 24 is another tossup, according to CNalysis.

That area includes York County and a portion of Newport News, with Democratic Sen. Monty Mason running against Republican challenger Danny Diggs.

“That’s going to be a very tight race,” Nuttycombe said.

In the House of Delegates, District 82 in Petersburg and Dinwiddie County is listed as a tossup, with Republican Del. Kim Taylor facing Democrat Kimberly Pope Adams.

House District 97 in the Virginia Beach area, another tossup, has Republican Del. Karen Greenhalgh facing a challenge from Democrat Michael Feggans.

There is an open seat with no incumbent in House District 21 in Prince William County, with Democrat Josh Thomas running against Republican John Stirrup.

That is the third House of Delegates race considered to be a tossup, according to CNalysis.

“The tossup districts are just so close,” Nuttycombe said. “These are races that are likely to be decided by under four points, if I were to ballpark it, and I would be surprised if either party won by outside of that margin.”

Another race that’s widely considered to be highly competitive is in Henrico County in Senate District 16, which “leans” Democratic, according to CNalysis.

Republican state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant is facing a tough challenge from Democratic candidate Schuyler VanValkenburg.

The November election will be the first general election in Virginia under new district boundaries that were redrawn in at the end of 2021.

“All the district lines got reshuffled,” said Alex Keena, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Many incumbents got placed into entirely new districts, and many new districts were created that didn’t contain any incumbents.”

According to Keena, the General Assembly “will look completely different” after November’s elections.

“For all these reasons, it’s really hard to predict how the cards will fall,” Keena said.

Source: WTOP News