Mapping Virginia’s crucial legislative elections

Key battles take shape along the I-95 corridor, from NoVa to the North Carolina border.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, center (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Virginia voters are already casting ballots in the race for control of the nation’s oldest state legislature, as both Democrats and Republicans vie for control of a narrowly divided state Senate and House of Delegates.

The stakes are high: Virginia is one of just two states, along with Pennsylvania, where the legislature is split between the two parties. Democrats hold 22 of 40 seats in the Senate, while Republicans control 51 seats in the 100-member House of Delegates. A few seats flipping in either direction will mean a change in partisan control.

And this year, after the decennial redistricting process and an unusually large number of retirements, a huge number of seats are open. Eleven Senate contests and 33 House races feature no incumbent.

A baker’s dozen seats in the Senate are going to feature close races. The Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan group that monitors elections, campaign finance reports and lobbying activity in the Old Dominion, rates four races in its competitive column based on past election results, four that lean toward Republicans and five that lean toward Democrats.

Here’s where those districts lie, colored by partisan lean:

Youngkin won all four of the most competitive Senate districts — the 31st district in Loudon and Fauquier counties; the 17th in Hampton Roads; the 27th in Fredericksburg; and the 24th on the Peninsula. But Democratic congressional candidates carried all four of those districts in the 2022 midterm elections, according to VPAP’s data.

In the House of Delegates, VPAP highlights seven contests in the competitive column, 16 that lean toward Republicans and 11 that tilt toward Democrats.

Here are those districts, mapped:

Similar to the Senate map, Youngkin won all seven of the competitive House districts, while Democratic congressional candidates carried more votes in six of the seven seats in the 2022 midterm elections.

So far, Democrats have outraised their Republican counterparts. Campaign finance reports filed on Sunday, which reflect total campaign cash raised through the end of September, show Senate Democratic candidates have raised $42 million, while their Republican rivals have pulled in $25 million.

The battle for the House of Delegates is more closely matched: Democrats have raised almost $25 million, compared with $20 million for the GOP.

Those figures do not account for big outside money, flowing in from Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) political action committee, conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity and liberal groups such as the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, The States Project and Forward Majority.

The amount of money flowing into Virginia’s elections is already historic. In 2019, the last time Virginia elected state senators, the two sides spent $56 million — the same amount Democrats and Republicans had spent through June of this year.

Already, more than 270,000 voters have cast ballots in this year’s elections — 147,000 have voted in person, while 122,000 have voted by mail, according to VPAP’s tally that runs through Oct. 16. About 20,000 voters a day are casting their ballots.

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

That’s slightly below the pace set two years ago, when about 25,000 people were voting every day in the middle of October. That year, Youngkin beat former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a race that attracted historically high turnout. A total of nearly 1.2 million voters voted early in 2021.

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

Virginia does not require voters to register by party, so it’s not entirely clear if one side or the other is gaining an early advantage. But Youngkin’s team has been messaging aggressively to known Republican voters, urging them to return their ballots as early as possible — something Democrats have pushed on their voters for years.