2019 Virginia election guide: Key races to watch

Absentee voting opens Friday in hotly contested races that will determine control of Virginia’s General Assembly and of key local offices across Northern Virginia.

Republicans and Democrats are battling in most of the state’s 100 House of Delegates seats and 40 state Senate seats. Republicans are entering the election with the slimmest of majorities in each chamber. The races are getting national attention, because of the four states with legislative elections on Nov. 5, Virginia’s General Assembly has the highest odds of changing hands.

The odds increased for Democrats under court-drawn maps, which were meant to fix race-based gerrymandering that was found to be unconstitutional. This will be the only general election under the new maps because new lines are scheduled to be drawn in 2021 based on 2020 census data.

At the local level, elections range from board of supervisors and commonwealth’s attorneys races to school board and sheriffs races.

A number of local governments will or could have major turnover after the election, including in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties.

Candidates for most local offices are not labeled by party on Virginia ballots, but candidates for General Assembly offices do have their parties noted on the ballot.

Still, in a number of local races, the June primary or other spring nominating contest probably was decisive in heavily Democratic- or Republican-leaning areas. In some cases — such as commonwealth’s attorney in Arlington County and Falls Church — the winner of a hard-fought primary is unopposed on the ballot.

Voters can cast ballots in person on Election Day; by mail by requesting an absentee ballot; or in person at local elections offices during specified hours for in-person absentee voting.

Besides elections in Virginia on Nov. 5, there are also a limited number of local races in parts of Maryland.

Rockville is trying out the area’s first election in which all voters who are registered by Sept. 20 automatically receive a ballot in the mail for mayor and council. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out by Oct. 11, and completed ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to count.

In Greenbelt, any absentee ballots must be submitted by 6 p.m. on Election Day, although polls are open until 8 p.m.

Key Virginia House of Delegates races

While every voter will see a House of Delegates race on his or her ballot, some races are expected to be much tighter than others, even coming down to just a handful of votes.

Two years ago, control of the House ended up being determined by a random drawing after judges found that a race ended in a tie.

Several of the Northern Virginia districts that were decided by an extremely small number of votes in 2017 are expected to see extremely tight races again this year, with the outcome largely resting on turnout.

In District 40, longtime Republican Del. Tim Hugo hopes to hold on again in parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties. In statewide races, the district last tilted Republican in 2013, and Hugo won by just 99 votes in 2017. This year, Hugo is facing Democrat Dan Helmer, an Army veteran.

In District 28, Republican Del. Bob Thomas lost a GOP primary this spring to fellow former Stafford Supervisor Paul Milde, who ran as being more conservative. Thomas only beat Democrat Joshua Cole by 73 votes in 2017 in an election marred by voters assigned to incorrect districts in parts of
Stafford County and Fredericksburg. Cole is running again this year, and hopes to flip the seat for Democrats. Then-Speaker Bill Howell held the seat for Republicans until Thomas was sworn in.

In GOP-leaning District 33 — which covers parts of Loudoun, Frederick and Clarke counties — Republican Dave LaRock is being challenged by Democrat Mavis Taintor.

Republicans have their own seats they have the highest hopes of flipping, including District 50 in parts of Prince William County and Manassas. The seat is currently held by Democratic Socialist Lee Carter, and the area only recently began consistently voting for Democrats in statewide races. Republican Manassas City Councilman Ian Lovejoy is challenging Carter.

In parts of Loudoun, Frederick and Clarke counties, Democratic Del. Wendy Gooditis (10th District) is facing a challenge from former Republican delegate Randy Minchew, who is hoping to return to the House.

Republicans also hold out hope of flipping the open seat in the 87th District in Loudoun and Prince William counties that was vacated by Del. John Bell’s run for state Senate. The area has voted strongly for Democrats in recent statewide elections though. Democrat Suhas Subramanyam is running against Republican Bill Drennan. Subramanyam, a former Obama administration technology adviser, would be the first Indian-American Virginia state delegate.

In Prince William County, Democratic Del. Hala Ayala faces a challenge in District 51 from former Del. Rich Anderson. Also in part of Prince William County, Democratic Del. Danica Roem, the state’s first openly transgender delegate, is running for reelection in District 13. Del. Elizabeth Guzman faces a challenge from Republican D.J. Jordan in the 31st District.

In Orange, Culpeper and Madison counties, what had appeared to be a safe GOP seat is now in jeopardy after Del. Nick Freitas failed to properly file and qualify for the ballot. It leaves him running a write-in campaign against Democrat Ann Ridgeway, who is the only one listed.

Key Virginia state Senate races

In the Senate, a number of Northern Virginia seats could be key to who controls the chamber.

In parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties, the 13th District seat held by retiring conservative Sen. Dick Black is a prime target for Democrats. Del. John Bell, a Democrat, is facing Republican Loudoun County Supervisor Geary Higgins, who says he would follow in Black’s footsteps.

In parts of Stafford, Prince William, Spotsylvania, King George and Westmoreland counties, GOP Sen. Richard Stuart is being challenged in the Republican-leaning 28th District by Democrat Qasim Rashid, who is Muslim. Stuart ran Facebook ads apparently attacking Rashid’s faith. Rashid would be Virginia’s first Muslim state senator.

In another Republican-leaning district, Sen. Bryce Reeves faces a challenge from Democrat Amy Laufer in the 17th District, representing parts of Spotsylvania, Orange, Culpeper, Louisa and Albemarle counties and Fredericksburg.

Among races elsewhere, Democrat Joe Morrissey is expected to win a state Senate seat despite previously commuting to the House of Delegates floor from jail each day, due to a relationship with an underage receptionist at his law office who is now his wife. Morrissey upset Sen. Rosalyn Dance in the June primary.

Local offices

Arlington County

County Board members Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol, both Democrats, are facing independent challengers Arron O’Dell and Audrey Clement in their races for re-election.

In races with only one candidate listed on the ballot, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is the reform-minded Democratic nominee for commonwealth’s attorney; incumbent Ingrid Morroy is up for another term as commissioner of revenue; Reid Goldstein is up for reelection to the school board; and Sheriff Beth Arthur and Treasurer Carla de la Pava are also up for reelection.

Culpeper County

There are challengers to incumbents for the Board of Supervisors, the school board and sheriff as well as a number of candidates for Culpeper Town Council and county treasurer.

Fairfax County

The county is set for major changes to its leadership, with a number of supervisors retiring and the current commonwealth’s attorney ousted by a primary challenge.

At the top of the local ticket, Supervisor Jeff McKay, a Democrat, is widely considered the favorite in the race for chairman against Republican Joe Galdo.

All local supervisors’ races are also on the ballot, with some potentially tight races, including Republican Pat Herrity’s race for reelection in the Springfield District.

In the race for commonwealth’s attorney, Steve Descano won the Democratic primary over incumbent Ray Morrogh by running on a more progressive platform. Jonathan Fahey qualified for the ballot as an independent.

The commonwealth’s attorney and sheriff positions also represent the city of Fairfax, so city voters can vote in those races. Sheriff Stacey Kincaid is up for reelection against independent Christopher DeCarlo.

County voters are also electing school board members and soil and water conservation directors.

Falls Church

Voters in Falls Church are electing members of the City Council and school board.

The Arlington County commonwealth’s attorney also represents the city of Falls Church, so voters will see that race on their ballots as well.

Fauquier County

Voters in Fauquier County will see mostly familiar names of incumbents on their Board of Supervisors’ ballots, with more new candidates for school board.

Sheriff Bob Mosier, a Republican, is unopposed in his race for reelection in November. Voters will also see incumbent soil and water conservation directors and Treasurer Tanya Wilcox.

Loudoun County

Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall is seeking a second term after a historic win four years ago.

The Democrat won a three way race in 2015, and again sees two other names on the ballot: Republican John Whitbeck, who is a former chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, and independent Robert Ohneiser.

All district seats on the Board of Supervisors are also on the ballot, along with races for commissioner of revenue, treasurer, a new commonwealth’s attorney and school board.

Sheriff Mike Chapman, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Democrat Justin Hannah. County voters are also selecting soil and water conservation directors.

Manassas

Voters have a City Council and school board election in addition to the shared commonwealth’s attorney and sheriff races that also cover Prince William County (see below).

Prince William County

All of the county’s top offices are on the ballot this fall, including the election of a new Board of Supervisors chairman to replace Corey Stewart.

Democrats nominated Ann Wheeler, a former county social services chair, while Republicans nominated John Gray, who brands himself as even more conservative than Stewart.

Two independent candidates are also on the ballot: Donald Scoggins and Muneer Baig.

Prince William County voters are also choosing a school board chairman again after a recent special election. Incumbent Babur Lateef again faces Alyson Satterwhite and Stanley Bender. While school board positions are technically nonpartisan, Lateef is endorsed by Democrats and Satterwhite by Republicans.

All local supervisors races are also on the ballot, as are the rest of the school board and the county’s soil and water conservation directors.

For the first time in decades, there is no incumbent listed in the commonwealth’s attorney’s race for Prince William County and Manassas due to the retirement of Paul Ebert. Democrats have nominated Amy Ashworth, while Republicans have nominated Mike May.

There is also a three-way race for sheriff, with incumbent Republican Glen Hill being challenged by Democrat Josh King and independent Rhonda Dickson.

Spotsylvania County

Voters in Spotsylvania County are also selecting members of their Board of Supervisors and school board plus soil and water conservation directors.

Commissioner of Revenue Deborah Williams, Treasurer Larry Pritchett, Commonwealth’s Attorney Travis Bird and Sheriff Roger Harris are each running unopposed.

Stafford County

Voters in Stafford County are selecting supervisors and school board members as well as other offices down to soil and water conservation director.

The commonwealth’s attorney’s race pits Democratic challenger Julia Dillon against incumbent Republican Eric Olsen.

Sheriff D.P. Decatur, a Republican, faces independent Chad Oxley.

Incumbent Commissioner of Revenue Scott Mayausky, a Republican, is facing Democrat Lorena Thorne Bruner and independent Paul Waldowski.

Treasurer Laura Rudy, a Republican, faces Democratic challenger Henry Thomassen.

There are also local races in other jurisdictions in Virginia, including Clarke County, Orange County, Warren County, Page County and Frederick County, and two races each with a single candidate in Fredericksburg.

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