From WTOP’s Election Desk: All eyes on Va. House race; Senate races tightening nationwide

Welcome back to WTOP’s weekly election update! WTOP’s team of reporters will keep you informed on the latest through November on primary and election races in the District, Maryland, Virginia and nationwide.

Local elections | Nick Iannelli

DC ballots are coming

Registered voters in the District should keep an eye on their mailboxes.

The D.C. Board of Elections has started mailing out ballots to voters across the city ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

“This is the third consecutive election cycle that D.C. has sent out mail ballots to all registered voters, and the voting method has proven popular,” according to a DCist report. “Roughly two-thirds of voters in the 2020 general election and 2022 primary election opted to vote using a mail ballot.”

If you don’t want to vote by mail, you can always vote in person instead.

Early in-person voting in D.C. begins on Oct. 31. It starts on Oct. 27 in Maryland, and is underway in Virginia.

The big race in Virginia

The U.S. House race in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, in the Virginia Beach area, is one of the most competitive U.S. House races in the nation.

Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria is facing Republican State Sen. Jen Kiggans. According to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, that election is a “tossup.”

CNN spoke to voters in Virginia Beach, including Jason Feteke who said he was an independent who planned to support Kiggans.

“Elaine Luria is just voting with everybody else for the Inflation Reduction Act, which doesn’t reduce inflation,” Feteke said. “She’s not really concerned about my family and what we’re trying to do; it’s a no-brainer. It’s not even close right now.”

Ryan Farmer said he was voting for Luria despite high inflation and steep gas prices, which in some cases are being blamed on incumbent politicians.

“I don’t care who’s president. Gas prices are going to be expensive. It is what it is right now,” Farmer said. “I don’t think that anyone who goes out and says, ‘Oh, this is because of whoever’s in charge’ — I don’t think that’s just true.”

Maryland’s lopsided governor’s race

It’s looking like it will be a runaway victory for political newcomer Wes Moore, the Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland.

Moore leads Republican candidate Dan Cox by 32 percentage points, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

“Moore, a veteran and best-selling author, appears to have consolidated support among the Democrats who make up the majority of the electorate, with the poll finding 86% of registered Democrats saying they would vote for him,” The Post reported.

It gets even worse for Cox: The poll found that 22% of registered Republicans said they would switch sides and vote for Moore in November.

Cox was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and his current poll numbers mirror Trump’s numbers in Maryland in the 2020 election, when he lost to Joe Biden by 33 percentage points.

Hogan gets closer to serious White House bid

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has been hinting for a while that he may run for president in 2024. Now he seems to be taking some serious steps in that direction.

According to Maryland Matters, Hogan “convened a meeting of about 50 supporters and donors in an Annapolis hotel ballroom and served them cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, to discuss his prospects and his timetable for making a decision.”

The conversation was centered around the idea that Hogan has a potential path to victory for the Republican nomination.

From Capitol Hill | Mitchell Miller

GOP doubles down on Walker

Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker has dealt with a slew of negative stories during the campaign, including the latest report: that he previously paid for an abortion for a former girlfriend, even though he publicly supports a federal ban on abortion and likens it to murder.

This week’s story — which Walker has said is untrue — has created political shock waves.

But Republicans have come to Walker’s defense, apparently calculating that the stakes are too high for them to criticize their candidate in a race that could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

The chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Rick Scott, of Florida, charged that Democrats “have cranked up the smear machine,” due to concerns that Walker will win his race against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

He offered no evidence that Democrats were involved in the latest report.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a PAC closely affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also said it will continue to support Walker.

Some Republicans downplayed the long-term impact of the latest revelation, pointing to the “Access Hollywood” video of Donald Trump making lewd comments about women that was made public shortly before the 2020 presidential election.

For his part, Warnock has declined to comment about the latest report about Walker, while continuing to stress his support for abortion rights.

Walker’s son Christian, a conservative who often posts on social media, sharply criticized his father. He accused him of lying and being a hypocrite.

“He has four kids, four different women, wasn’t in the house raising one of them,” he said on Instagram.

After a previous Daily Beast report, Herschel Walker acknowledged he had three other children out of wedlock. He has been a critic of absentee fathers.

Other key US Senate races

Republicans only need a net gain of one seat to flip the U.S. Senate, and the latest polls indicate some key races are tightening.

Like Georgia, Pennsylvania could be a critical state in the fight for control of the upper chamber.

The latest polls suggest Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman still has a slight lead over Republican Mehmet Oz, but the race is closer than it was over the summer.

An average of polls from Real Clear Politics indicates Fetterman has a lead of about four percentage points — less than half of what it was in August.

A larger shift is happening in Wisconsin, where Republican Sen. Ron Johnson had been trailing Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in polls this summer.

A Marquette University Law School poll had Barnes up by seven percentage points over Johnson in August. Another Marquette poll, released in September, had Johnson ahead by a point, though that was well within the margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

In more positive developments for Democrats, the latest polls show Sen. Mark Kelly leading Republican challenger Blake Masters in Arizona.

In New Hampshire, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan is ahead of Republican Don Bolduc.

Changing of the guard for House Democrats?

Democrats are still publicly clinging to the hope that they might hold onto the U.S. House, but Republicans remain likely to regain control of the lower chamber.

What could that mean for Democrats?

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia and a centrist in a tough race for reelection, has called for a change in Democratic leadership.

She recently sharply criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, charging Democratic leaders didn’t do enough to allow a floor vote for her bill restricting lawmakers from trading stocks.

Spanberger issued a sharply-worded statement that said, “It’s another example of why I believe the Democratic Party needs new leaders in the halls of Capitol Hill.”

Pelosi downplayed Spanberger’s statement and, asked whether she plans to remain in Congress if Republicans retake the House, would only say that she’s focusing on winning the midterm elections.

If Democrats lose control of the House, there will no doubt be a renewed focus on the aging Democratic leadership. Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip James Clyburn are all over 80 years old. And while most Democrats aren’t as vocal as Spanberger, many privately acknowledge it will soon be time for a new generation of party leaders to take over.

Worth your time

From Nick Iannelli

From Mitchell Miller

Dates to remember

WTOP’s Rick Massimo contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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