Control of the state legislature, a casino in Richmond top ballots in coming elections

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 9/14/2023, 6 p.m.
Abortion, clean energy, public education funding and state tax policy will all be on the ballot in the upcoming election …

Abortion, clean energy, public education funding and state tax policy will all be on the ballot in the upcoming election for the General Assembly.

Voters soon will start to decide whether they want to continue a divided government or hand Republican Gov. Glenn A. Youngkin majorities in both houses as they fill the 100 seats in the House of Delegates and the 40 seats in the state Senate.

Early voting begins next Friday, Sept. 22, in what is being called a “jump ball” election for control of the legislature that will culminate Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The outcome could be determined by the winners in just four Senate districts and seven House districts, according to political observers.

Currently, Republicans control the house, with 50 members to 46 for Democrats and four vacancies. The state Senate has 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans.

However, in Richmond, the big issue for voters will be whether to approve a proposed $560 million casino-resort as there will be no competitive races on the city ballot.

On the Senate side, Richmond’s two incumbent Democrats appear to be shoo-ins.

Sen. Lamont Bagby, who represents most of the city in the 14th Senate District, is unchallenged for his first full term. Incumbent Ghazala Hashmi is facing only light opposition from little known Republican Hayden Fisher in her bid to represent the 15th Senate District, which includes a small portion of the city’s South Side and part of Chesterfield County.

On the House side, all three Democrats running for the city’s House seats are unopposed. That includes incumbent Delegate Betsy B. Carr in the 78th House District, current City Council President Michael J. Jones in the 77th House District, and Rae Cousins in the 79th House District.

Two of the most competitive races are close by in Henrico County, one in the state Senate and one for the House.

In the 16th Senate District, outgoing Democratic Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg is challenging Republican incumbent Siobhan Dunnavant in a new district that has tended to vote for Democratic candidates since 2016.

The other three tight races include the 31st Senate District in Loudoun County where Democrat Russet Perry is pitted against Republican Juan Pablo Segura for an open seat, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Also, the 27th Senate District in the Fredericksburg area where outgoing Republican Delegate Tara Durant is facing Democrat Joel Griffin and independent Monica Gary; and the 17th Senate District in the Suffolk-Portsmouth area where outgoing Democratic Delegate Clinton Jenkins is challenging outgoing Republican Delegate Emily Brewer.

On the House side, VPAP lists seven hotly competitive races, including the one in Henrico in the 57th House District. Democrat Susanna Gibson and Republican David Owen are competing for the open seat. Ms. Gibson garnered unexpected attention after the Washington Post disclosed Monday that she had been a regular on a pornographic website having sex with her husband while pitching for contributions from viewers. Another hotly competitive race is taking place in the Petersburg area where Democrat Kimberly Pope Adams is seeking to upset Republican Delegate Kim Taylor.

Other House races that VPAP has described as key include the 21st House District in Prince William County in which Democrat Josh Thomas and Republican John Stirrup are vying for an open seat; the 22nd House District in Prince William County featuring Democrat Travis Nemghard vying with Republican Ian Lovejoy for the open seat; and the 65th House District in which Democrat Joshua Cole is taking on Republican Lee Peters III for the open seat.

Two other races that are gaining close attention include the 89th House District in the Chesapeake-Suffolk area where Democrat Karen Jenkins, wife of Clinton Jenkins, is taking on Republican Baxter Ennis; and the 97th House District, where Democrat Michael Feggans is challenging incumbent Republican Delegate Karen Greenhalgh.