Will Virginia Republicans Rebound This Fall?

by Chris Saxman

Virginia is just 38 short days away from its first statewide nomination as the Republicans are finally set to pick their candidates for the Big Three — Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General on May 8th in an “unassembled convention.”

Sticking with the date of May 8th is the smartest decision the Virginia GOP has made this year, as it gives them a 31 day head start on likely Democratic nominee, former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

And they need it.

As Ward Bond’s Father Lonegan says to open one of my favorite movies, “The Quiet Man”:

“Well, then. I’ll begin at the beginning.”

It has been 512 days since the Democrats won the majority back from twenty years of Republican control of the House of Delegates. In just 223 days, Virginia’s citizens will decide if they merit a return to power.

Our initial ranking of the most competitive races is based primarily on how Democrats performed in each of these districts in 2019. This ranking will change over the course of the election season as statewide polling and fundraising reports come in. This is just “the beginning.”

Overall, Republicans should do better in 2021 versus 2019 and I rate control of the Virginia House as a Toss Up right now.

Nuttycombe sees it as Tilt Democratic and will go into that further on Friday. There are just so many unknowns these days, but over the next four months things will start to settle out.

The primary impact on this cycle is that Donald Trump is no longer president. The level of antipathy for Trump in suburban districts was the most important reason why the GOP lost their House and Senate majorities in Virginia.

Now that reason is gone.

After the 2015 elections, Republicans had 66 House seats and 21 Senate seats.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 ended up costing the GOP 21 House seats and 3 Senate seats. If you still have a problem grasping that reality here’s a message from Colonel Nathan Jessup.

One of the greatest scene in cinematic history. Still gives chills.

Look, these rankings are just built on numbers. Numbers derived from election data and I start with the closest House races of 2019 working down the list with the district number first, then the incumbent and challenger (s).

Democratic districts will come ahead of Republicans since they are more adversely affected by the Absence of Trump.

Key takeaways:
A) Virginia House Republicans have recruited a much more diverse field of women and minority candidates. That seemed to help GOP win 14 seats in 2020 U.S House races

B) Democrats have FIFTEEN primary challengers who are further to the Left than the incumbents; however, only four on the Top 26.

C) CNanlysis is Bold Italics

D) this ranking will change

E) Finance Reports are out April 15th.

1 – 83 – Del. Nancy Guy (D) has three Republicans running including former Delegate Chris Stolle and attorney Tim Anderson. CNanlysis rates Tilt Republican

2 – 27 – Del. Roxann Robinson (R) will face Democrat Debra Gardner and Independent Henry Staruk. Lean Republican

3 – 75 – Del. Roslyn Tyler (D) rematch versus Otto Wachsmann (R). Tilt Republican

4 – 10 – Del. Wendy Gooditis (D) against Millennial Republican Nick Clemente. Tilt Democratic. Democrats must win this seat to retain majority. Likely #1 District by fall.

5 – 2 – Del. Candi King (D) opponent TBD – nothing on VPAP yet. Solid Democratic; however, recent Special Election was VERY close. Probably moves down, but for now it’s a top Five District based on the Special and pre-Trump performance.

6 – 28 – Del. Joshua Cole (D) only announced opponent thus far Republican Tara Durant. Toss Up

7 – 40 – Del. Dan Helmer (D) will face winner of Dutch Hillenburg and Harold Pyon nomination battle. Lean Democratic

8 – 73 – Del. Rodney Willett (D) rematches with Republican Mary Margaret Kastelberg. Tilt Democratic

9 – 85- Del. Alex Askew (9) is challenged by Republican Karen Greenhalgh. Toss Up

10 – 66 – OPEN – Del. Kirk Cox not seeking re-election. Mike Cherry looks to be the Republican nominee to oppose one of three Democrats running including former House candidates Sheila Bynum-Coleman and Katie Sponsor. This race will move up the rankings early. Lean Republican

11 – 84 – Del. Glenn Davis (R) is also running for Lt. Governor. Democrats have two candidates Kim Melnyk and Tracie Liguid. Outcome of LG nomination factors heavily here. Lean Republican

12 – 81 – Del. Barry Knight (R) against Democrat Jeffrey Feld and Independent Jeff Staples. Likely Republican

13 – 100 – Del. Rob Bloxom (R) goes up against Democrat Finale Norton. Likely Republican

14 – 12 – Del. Chris Hurst (D) is contested by Republican Jason Ballard. I expect this race to move up rankings. Toss Up

15 – 72 – Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D) so far appears to be uncontested. This district is going to change A LOT in redistricting. Lean Democratic

16 – 50 – Del. Lee Carter (D) is also running for Governor and has two primary challengers along with two Republican candidates. Lean Democratic

17 – 31 – Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D) looks like she is staying in the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor while also facing three primary opponents. Winner of that primary will see Republican Ben Baldwin in the fall. Lean Democratic

18 – 21 – Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D) will face an intriguing candidate in Republican Tanya Gould. Gould, African American, is a survivor of sex trafficking in her youth. Put this one on your watch list. Lean Democratic

19 – 51 – OPEN – Del. Hala Ayala (D) defeated Rich Anderson in a rematch from 2017 and is now running for Lt. Governor. Democrat Brianna Sewell will oppose either Tim Cox or Jeff Dove for the Republicans. Lean Democratic

20 – 13 – Del. Danica Roem (D) has Republican Christopher Stone as her opponent. Very Likely Democratic

21 – 63 – Del. Lashrecse Aird (D) drew Kim Taylor for a Republican challenger. Tilt Democratic

22 – 91 – Del. Martha Mugler (D) faces A.C. Cordoza and Libertarian Charles West. Race to pay attention to see if third party closes the gap for African American Republican Cordoza. Likely Democratic

23 – 68 – Del. Dawn Adams (D) has to get by a potentially strong contest in the primary versus Kyle Elliott who out raised Adams in the last report. After that, the winner goes against either Mike Dickinson or Mark Earley Jr, son of the former Attorney General. (And I just felt old – again) Likely Democratic

24 – 93 – Del. Mike Mullin (D) will go against Republican Jordan Gray who teaches at The Achievable Dream Middle and High School in Newport News. Lean Democratic

25 – 34 – Del. Kathleen Murphy (D) has a rematch with Republican Gary Pan but first has to get past primary opponent Jennifer Adeli. Solid Democratic

26 – 94 – Del. Shelly Simonds (D) – you’ll remember this race as the one that broke the tie by drawing a film canister out of a bowl in 2017. David Yancey won that day and got blown out by Simonds by almost 18 points in 2019. Simonds is uncontested thus far. Solid Democratic

Next districts to be considered would be 26 – Del. Tony Wilt (R) Harrisonburg Very Likely Republican, 96 – Del. Amanda Batten (R) James City Very Likely Republican, 62 – Del. Carrie Coyner Likely Republican (R) Hopewell, 67 – Del. Karrie Delaney (D) Fairfax Solid Democratic, 32 – Del. David Reid (D) Loudoun Solid Democratic, 88 – OPEN SEAT Likely Republican – Del. Mark Cole (R) Retiring and 82 – Del. Jason Miyares (R) Virginia Beach Very Likely Republican.

 Chris Saxman is executive director of Virginia FREE. This commentary is republished with permission from a Virginia FREE email distribution. 

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26 responses to “Will Virginia Republicans Rebound This Fall?”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well, Trump did not hurt the rural at all. What he hurt was the suburban swing districts and the question is for the GOP – are they running as Amanda Chase Trumpsters or Kirk Coxers?

    In other words, will they hold on tight to their bases or will they try to get other more moderate GOP or even some Dems?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Here’s a thought — let’s wait and see. My prediction is you won’t acknowledge them for that even if they try….You and the others just have to hit the letter “T” on your keyboards and the pre-written TDS blather appears. Kinda like me with “S” for socialism….

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Not really about Trump but more about what the GOP base thinks and wants. That’s what the GOP candidates are going to run for. Just listen to the folks in rural Va as to what they want in a candidate and you’ll get the idea.

        Trump is a convenient distraction for folks who don’t want to acknowledge how rural GOP vote.

        Folks who vote in the suburbs are not voting for”socialism” but they not voting for what rural Va votes for either and that’s the fly in the ointment for GOP running in non-rural Virginia.

        Can the GOP win suburban Va by not being what GOP candidates in rural Va must be to succeed?

        How will GOP down ballot in Va vote if Amanda Chase is top ballot? How will rural GOP vote down ballot if Kirk Cox is top ballot?

        There is wishful thinking and there is reality.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Here’s a thought — let’s wait and see. My prediction is you won’t acknowledge them for that even if they try….You and the others just have to hit the letter “T” on your keyboards and the pre-written TDS blather appears. Kinda like me with “S” for socialism….

  2. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Interesting but way too early to mean much. Some will crash and burn. Some will soar and surprise. Money will matter (the Dems will have a crushing dollar lead, but the GOP could raise enough….you only need enough.) Big key is they are running in the current districts so the incumbent Democrats won’t be able to gerrymander to add to their advantage. The advantage provided by the judicial gerrymander, that is.

    No disagreement from me that Trump’s unpopularity was a huge factor in the Decline and Fall, with huge Democratic turnouts in 2017 and 2019 resulting. But as active as he is appearing to remain, that’s not going away, I fear. The policy issues are glaring and Virginians need to be asked directly if they really wanted this level of Californication or not. Answer may be yes, but it needs to be asked in no uncertain terms.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “you only need enough.”

      Reminds me of a joke, but not for here.

  3. Keydet16 Avatar

    I don’t think Virginians are nearly as far to the left as some might think, they’re moderates. A Larry Hogan/Charlie Baker-type would dominate in the Commonwealth and a AOC/San Fran Democrat couldn’t win (see the 2016 and 2020 Presidential Primary and compare how Clinton/Biden did compared to Sanders).

    If Democrats aren’t careful and go “full-California” they may enjoy success for a cycle or two, but they couldn’t maintain their success for very long – especially if Republicans purge the Amanda Chase-types from the party, which I think (read: hope) will happen between now and 2024.

    When its all said and done, Democrats will keep their control of legislature, the Senate will remain unchanged numerically the Dems will lose a few seats in the House but will maintain the majority. McAuliffe will win the Governorship, Rasoul or Guzman wins the LG, and Herring will win AG (he will barely beat Jay Jones).

    However, a lot can happen between now and Nov.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: ” especially if Republicans purge the Amanda Chase-types from the party (which I think will happen between now and 2024).”

      that’s the $64 question. Are you really sure that Chase will be dumped – not by GOP leadership but by GOP voters especially in rural Va?

      Isn’t his the Corey Stewart problem on steroids?

      1. Keydet16 Avatar

        Indeed it is, but (and this is just the ramblings and thoughts of a 26 year-old) Trump will be a non-entity by 2024, sure there will be some remnants here and there in places like Mississippi/Alabama but the party won’t do well nationally in 2022 and as a consequence will say “enough”. Michelle Steel and Young Kim are the Republicans of the future. I think the VA GOP will have this failure sooner and will start thinking about purging them sooner as a result…if that makes sense.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Perhaps. But you have to acknowledge what the GOP is doing right now to maintain votes from their base.

          Look at National GOP then look at Va and what GOP in Virginia is maintaining that the election was “stolen”. Several GOP Congressmen as well as many rural GOP elected and candidates… are sticking with this narrative.

          Look at the changes to voter rules now going on in many states. The GOP is convinced they need to do it even as black voters are calling it Jim Crow.

          If the GOPs come off of this and go back to conventional “Conservative” GOP orthodoxy, they’re probably dead ducks, no?

          The GOP, as a party, has fundamentally changed and moderate GOPs are now called CINOs.

          Some seem to be trying to paper this over. And I could well be wrong, but from my perspective, the GOP is not going back.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    If they get into the Chase, then no.

  5. sam elias Avatar
    sam elias

    Possible, but seems unlikely. If they go hard right, no way.

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Long hot summer ahead and plenty of unforeseen events to come. I think the big key in the suburbs for Republicans is an all out blitz to capture the early votes. November 2nd is election day but September 18 a Saturday is the first day you can vote early. If the nominee for Governor can’t figure out this one simple fact there is no chance by November 2nd.

  7. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    I find interesting parallels with 1920 and 2021. In May of 1920 Warren Harding charged out of a political mist with the slogan “Return To Normalcy”. He astutely calculated that Americans were sick and tired of war, pandemics, progressivism, and a turn towards globalism.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      If you could conjure up the perfect competitive candidate against Biden – what would be his/her message?

      Steve can play too.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        The reincarnation of Ronald Reagan.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Word is that Reagan is now “canceled” as a closet CINO along with all the Bushes also.

          Which is even more interesting considering the folks that say Biden is “senile”!

          Deja vu all over again…. Ronnie “I was out of the Iran Contra loop” Reagan.

          I’m trying to think of a principled GOP like Collin Powell or Liz Chaney or Mitt Romney that might could win the election but the GOP party as we know it today probably would not have them.

          When I hear folks say the Dems have moved left – I think of who the GOP is these days – not exactly lean right… anymore.

      2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        I don’t know Mr. Larry. But I think this guy could beat Biden up the stairs.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I had a friend who has now passed who had one of those things… and whenever he got on it he would sing ” On the road again”! 😉

          1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Your pal had a good sense of humor.

      3. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        He won’t run again. No point.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    The two party system as currently operating is a scourge on representative government and the GOP is the prime example with the Dems running a close second.

    Both parties pay more attention to party hierarchy than constituents and both parties moderates challenged by more radical elements of which the GOP has effectively split into hard right and Lean right wings. Dems have similar challenges from their left but not near so much a split to the point of situations like Virginia , Chase and Cox.

    One challenge for the GOP is how GOP in urban and suburban areas will vote and if they vote for Cox , is that enough to overcome Chase in the rural and if he does, can Cox win later in General election, rural GOP or will they sit out?

    Notice Steve H – not a word about you know who !

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Even I don’t know who you mean by “who,” but if you mean Senator Chase and her supporters the reality is they are an essential element of the GOP voting coalition. The two party system with all its problems does force the building of coalitions. I have no interest in throwing anybody out. The challenge is persuading them to turn out to support a nominee who isn’t her and who isn’t trying to do a Trump imitation. I think they will. A year ago Biden masqueraded as a centrist but nobody will fall for that again — he’ll be hanging around the neck of the Democratic nominees in November. A vote against TMac is really easy to cast.

      The selection of a candidate for governor is probably already over, we just don’t know the outcome because people who file to be delegates do not have to state their preferred candidate. In many places the deadline has passed or will soon. But most signing up to be delegates have made a choice I expect. Most won’t have strong feelings about LG or AG, though. Very persuadable there.

      The noisy complaints coming out of Senator Chase this past week lead me to suspect she knows it isn’t going to happen for her. She pledged to support the nominee, unless it is Pete Snyder. She blames Snyder for the process turmoil that prevented a primary and said if he is the nominee, she’ll file as an independent.

      If I find out that Snyder is behind the nasty anonymous TV and mail, I might go with her.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        re: ” You and the others just have to hit the letter “T” on your keyboards and the pre-written TDS blather appears”

        did it appear?


        re: ” Biden masqueraded as a centrist but nobody will fall for that again”

        Well, no, he said he was to the RIGHT of Sanders and AOC!

        Question is is he too far left for the folks that voted FOR HIM in last election?

        We ALREADY know how Conservatives feel but will they comprise a majority at next POTUS election OR will it also depend on Dems not voting or voting for GOP?


        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Well, he is exactly in line with Sanders and AOC. There is not an inch of sunlight between them. But I don’t care about 2024. This discussion is about this November. Biden will be a liability to the D candidates here in VA. Maybe not as polarizing as Trump, but not benign, not at all.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Perhaps. But is this the alternative:

            ” A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected.”

            John Boehner’s book ON THE HOUSE


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