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Virginia race seen as litmus test for 2024 election

Virginia's state legislature is one of just two with split representation. Like the U.S. Congress, Democrats hold the Senate; the GOP has the House.
Virginia race seen as litmus test for 2024 election
Posted at 11:12 AM, Nov 03, 2023

After decades of Republican dominance in Virginia politics, the last few election cycles have created a relatively even playing field for Democrats and Republicans. 

On Tuesday, voters in Virginia will decide whether to create a unified government behind Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. What makes the Virginia General Assembly so unique is it's one of just two state legislatures in the U.S. where the House and Senate have different parties in the majority. 

Currently, Democrats hold a 22-18 advantage in the Virginia Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans have a 48-46 advantage in the House of Delegates. 

All 40 Senate and 100 House seats are up for grabs on Tuesday. 

According to the Sabato Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, if voters don't switch parties from the 2021 gubernatorial election, it would create a 20/20 split in the state's Senate. In that scenario, Republicans would hold the Senate with  Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears holding the tie-breaking vote. 

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The group says that winning the House of Delegates could be a "lighter lift" by Republicans, but taking control of the House is "hardly guaranteed."

The last House election came in 2021, and the last Senate election was in 2019. One change from those elections is that district boundaries have changed.  

According to Dave's Redistricting, 13 Senate districts favor a generic Republican versus 20 that favor Democrats. That would mean the seven remaining toss-up districts would have to be won by the GOP. 

In the House, 49 seats are favored by Democrats versus 31 that favor Republicans. But those figures don't take into account changes in attitudes by voters, nor do they take into account individual candidates. 

One thing that could benefit Republicans is the popularity of Youngkin. According to a recent survey from Christopher Newport University, 55% of voters approve of Youngkin. 

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William and Mary University government professor John McGlennon said in a press release that Youngkin has helped Republicans regain support in suburban regions of Virginia. 

"The major force driving political polarization between the parties today is education level, and the more highly educated voters in suburbs who tended to lean more toward the Republicans in the past have been crucial to Democratic success," he said. "The governor’s advisers have suggested that although he may not have totally reversed the trend, he may at least have put an end to the shift toward the Democrats, and that was part of what got him elected."

The battle for Virginia's General Assembly has attracted campaign dollars as it is seen as a litmus test heading into 2024. 

"Virginia is the big game in town, so without a lot of elections for state offices out there, Virginia is really a magnet for money right now," McGlennon said. "It’s a good chance for the parties to test themes and techniques, and so they’re investing heavily in it, knowing that they will spend much, much more next year during the presidential and congressional races, and this is a good chance for them to see what is more likely to work in those races."

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