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Key Races to Watch as Virginia Votes on Tuesday

The big story here is control of the General Assembly

Virginia votes on Tuesday, Nov 5. Here are the races to watch in Northern Virginia and beyond.

The big story here is control of the General Assembly. A blue wave surge in 2017 left Republicans with a very narrow majority in both chambers. Democrats think voter frustration over gun control combined with President Donald Trump’s unpopularity could now help them win control of at least one chamber, possibly both.

Republicans are hoping that some of the scandals involving Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax will help them maintain their majorities.

Democrats also have their sights set on getting more Democrats elected to the Loudoun County and Prince William County boards of supervisors.

Here’s what we’ll be watching. 

Blue Wave Staying Power?: We reported a lot about the blue wave in 2017, in which a number of Northern Virginia Democrats beat Republican incumbents in the House. Elizabeth Guzman (Dist. 31), Lee Carter (Dist. 50), Danica Roem (Dist.1) and Hala Ayala (Dist. 51) are all worth watching to see if they win re-election. Ayala faces a rematch with Rich Anderson, whom she defeated in 2017. Loudoun County also features a rematch between Democrat Wendy Gooditis (Dist. 10) and Randy Minchew (R), who used to represent the district.

House District 40: This is the marquee House race in Northern Virginia and one critical to GOP control. Longtime incumbent Tim Hugo (R), who has held this seat since 2002 but only barely won in 2017, faces Army veteran Dan Helmer (D). Hugo is the last General Assembly Republican in Fairfax. This race set a record as having the most money spent on a House race: $3 million combined.

House District 28: In the Fredericksburg/Stafford area, Democratic candidate Josh Cole lost this race by less than 100 votes in 2017 after a recount, when it was determined that some voters cast ballots in the wrong race. He’s running again, this time against GOP Supervisor Paul Milde. Cole, an African American minister who has worked as a legislative chief of staff, has significantly out-raised Milde.

House District 66: This is not in our region, but conservative Kirk Cox, currently House speaker, is running for re-election. This district was impacted by the gerrymandering decision, and he’s facing an African-American opponent, Sheila Bynum-Coleman.

House District 30: Incumbent GOP Del. Nick Freitas would have likely had a lock on this red district in the Madison, Orange and Culpeper area. But he and his campaign failed to file paperwork on time, and he must wage a write-in campaign. The only name on the ballot is that of Democrat Amy Ridgeway.

Senate District 13: Democrats are targeting four Senate districts in their bid to flip that chamber. One is in Northern Virginia. The 13th District seat that runs from Loudoun County into Prince William County is critical to that effort and vital to GOP hopes to maintain control. It’s an open seat with State Sen. Dick Black not seeking re-election. Del. John Bell is looking to move from the House on a platform focusing on gun control. He’s facing Geary Higgins (R), a well-known Loudoun County supervisor who has been running ads on curbing the high cost of tolls.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors: Jeff McKay (D) will most likely succeed Sharon Bulova (retiring), even though a state police investigation is underway into whether he violated ethics laws in the purchase of his home. The board may also elect its first Latina supervisor, in the Providence District, with Dalia Palchik. There will be dramatic change in the board, with five open seats. It may also become even more blue than the current 8-2 majority.

Loudoun Board of Supervisors: Chair Phyllis Randall (D) made history in 2019 as the first African-American woman to be elected chair of a Virginia county board. She faces a well-funded challenge from former Republican Party Chair John Whitbeck (R). There is also a change: this board could also lean Democratic for the first time in recent memory.

Prince William Board of Supervisors: This Board also could turn blue. Four people are running for chairman to fill the vacancy left by conservative Corey Stewart. Republican John Gray (an accountant) is as conservative as Stewart, especially with immigration. Former energy consultant Ann Wheeler could be the first Democratic chair since 1999. There are two Independent candidates – Muneer Baig (founder of a cybersecurity firm) and Don Scoggins (a former real estate broker). The Board could have four African-American members.

Commonwealth's Attorney Races: There is major change coming in Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties, where longtime prosecutors are either retiring or have been defeated in the primary.

  • Fairfax County: Incumbent Ray Morrogh (D) lost in the primary to Steve Descano, a former tax policy federal prosecutor who is campaigning on a platform of criminal justice reform. He’s facing independent candidate Jonathan Fahey, a former local and federal prosecutor. Descano’s campaign has been fueled by nearly $500,000 in funding from wealthy Democrat George Soros. He promises not to prosecute simple marijuana possession cases, would end cash bonds and would never seek the death penalty. Fahey says Descano lacks the experience to run the office, since he’s never tried a case in local courts. Fahey is positioning himself as a moderate with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
  • Prince William: Incumbent Paul Ebert is retiring after more than 50 years in this role, leaving room for a new person to make a mark in this diverse county. Amy Ashworth (D) is pushing for reforms – including adding a public defender's office in the county, which currently does not have one. Republican Mike May says he wants to modernize the office and make fighting crime his main issue.
  • Loudoun: Incumbent Jim Plowman has become a judge, so candidate Nicole Wittmann was just sworn in to fill out the term. She has been a prosecutor for 26 years and thinks the office is on the right track, though she wants to expand drug and mental health court. She’s facing Buta Biberaj (D), who is one of the progressive candidates. She has talked about increased victim assistance and more resources to tackle cybercrime.
  • Arlington: Incumbent Theo Stamos lost to Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D) in the primary. Tafti is a former public defender, innocence protection lawyer and professor. She is running unopposed.
Prince William County Ballot Question: After failed attempts over the years, pari-mutuel betting could take hold in Northern Virginia. Dumfries voters will decide whether to permit Rosie’s Gaming Emporium to locate in the tiny community.
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