Balance of Power Could Tip in Virginia Senate

Every seat in the Virginia General Assembly is on the ballot Tuesday -- and the balance of power in the Virginia Senate could tip.

The polls closed at 7 p.m.

While Republicans are expected to maintain control in the House of Delegates, Democrats would only need to pick up one seat to gain control of the Senate. Right now, Republicans have 21 seats to the Democrats' 19.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has made taking control of the commonwealth's Senate a top priority and has spent heavily in trying to improve his party's field operations in key districts. His efforts have been bolstered by heavy donations and spending by Democratic megadonors and groups like billionaire Michael Bloomberg's gun-control group.

But Republicans are confident they've successfully matched those efforts. They also hope to strengthen their grip on the House, where they hold an overwhelming majority of seats.

However, the Democratic Party of Virginia released a memo Tuesday morning that appears aimed at tempering expectations about Election Day results, saying this year's election "has always been an uphill battle for Democrats" and said it's a "huge gain" for the party just to be competitive.

Democrats said the off-year election, political gerrymandering, and "fatigue" related to the Obama presidency have made this election favorable to Republicans.


District 29 in Prince William County is considered a competitive race. The seat is open for the first time in decades in the district, which cuts across Prince William County from Gainesville, through Manassas and to Woodbridge.

Earlier this month, McAuliffe shared his hopes for Democratic candidate Jeremy McPike during a Hillary Clinton rally in Alexandria.

"I need one seat to get control of the Senate, so I can get Medicaid expansion, safe gun restrictions -- all the things I talk about every day to help to build the new Virginia economy," McAuliffe said.

The Republican candidate, Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish, has been in local politics since he was first elected to the Manassas council in 1993. He recently said that he understands the fear and terror that gun violence can create; his son was a senior at Virginia Tech in 2007 when 32 students and faculty were killed.

Parrish said he wanted to focus attention on keeping guns out of the hands of people "who shouldn't have guns because of mental health issues. I want to work on that."

Republicans are also raising their own issues in District 29, vowing to stop McAuliffe's plan to add tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway. 

"We'll put a stop sign on any new toll," Parrish said in an ad.


Democrats believe they may be able to pick up a seat in District 10 in the Richmond area, where Chesterfield Supervisor Dan Gecker (D) faces Glen Sturtevant (R) in a heated race.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that it's been one of the most expensive Virginia Senate races in history, and the outcome is likely to come down to voter turnout.

Morton Mumma of Richmond voted with his wife shortly after 9 a.m. He said the contest between Sturtevant and Gecker had gotten a lot of people's attention.

Ron Davis, a retiree, cast his ballot for Gecker, saying that Sturtevant lacks the necessary experience to be a state senator.

But voter Thomas A. Shearer said he was supporting Sturtevant, in part because of the large financial assistance Gecker had received from Bloomberg's gun-control group. Shearer, also a retiree, said no candidate should be so heavily financed by out-of-state interests.


If both parties end up with 20 seats in the Virginia Senate, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will cast the tie-breaking vote. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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