Virginia’s Top Statehouse Races to Watch in 2023

Work continues on the tunnel being dug between the new Virginia General Assembly building and the State Capitol Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Carolyn Fiddler

June 28, 2023

This year’s primary contests are over, and now we know the lay of the political landscape for this November’s general elections for the General Assembly. Here are the top House and Senate districts to watch.

With this fall’s House and Senate matchups officially set following last week’s primary, Virginia’s political focus is turning to flipping and protecting the handful of competitive seats that will determine which party controls the state’s government for the next few years.

Republicans currently have majority control of the House of Delegates after winning it back from Democrats in 2021. It’s not a big majority, though – the GOP holds just a 52-48 edge in the 100-seat chamber, which means that Democrats need to flip just three seats to take back the majority.

In the 40-seat state Senate, Democrats have a 22-18 majority. Flipping just two seats here will give Republicans effective majority control of the chamber, as GOP Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears will hold the tie-breaking vote on everything except for budget bills.

Here’s a quick look at the top-targeted districts across the commonwealth, inducing who’s running and the most recent campaign finance data available.

House of Delegates

Of the 100 House seats, 48 were won by both Joe Biden in 2020 and Terry McAuliffe in 2021. Another 11 were won by Biden in 2020 and by Glenn Youngkin in 2021. Just 41 seats were won by both Trump and Youngkin.

Of those 11 Biden/Youngkin seats, only a handful are top targets – although a bad night for Republicans could very well send all of them into the Democratic column.

Let’s start with top targets for R-to-D flips.

HD97: This Hampton Roads-area district went for Biden 55-42 and for Youngkin 51-48

Neither GOP incumbent Del. Karen Greenhalgh nor Democratic challenger Michale Feggans faced a primary, so both have been able to focus their campaigns and fundraising efforts on the general election. Greenhalgh barely outraised Feggans through the most recent reporting period (which ended June 8).

HD82: GOP incumbent Del. Kim Taylor is, like Greenhalgh, a vulnerable first-termer in this Petersburg-area district that went for Biden 55-44 and Youngkin 51-48.

She’s being challenged by Kimberly Pope Adams, who just bested a better-funded opponent in her primary. Consequently, though, Adams is entering the general election at a financial disadvantage.

HD71: On paper, Republican Del. Amanda Batten’s seat is more GOP-friendly than HDs 97 or 82; Biden won it by just 51-47, while Youngkin carried it 53-46.

Additionally, while challenger Jessica Anderson has raised a respectable $167,000, the incumbent ended the last fundraising period with almost twice that amount. An interesting wrinkle in this race, however, is the fact that Anderson, a progressive activist and public school employee, has a sizeable following on TikTok.

And now, let’s look at the open seats.

HD21: This seat in the northern Virginia sub/exurbs went for Democratic U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton 51-49 in 2022, and Youngkin won it 51-49 in 2021. (The presidential data available for this seat is a little iffy, for reasons explained here.)

Marine veteran Josh Thomas has outraised his GOP opponent, former county supervisor John Stirrup, who was also forced to use resources in his ugly Republican primary.

HD57: This seat in the Richmond suburbs swung from 52-46 Biden in 2020 to 52-48 Youngkin a year later.

Nurse practitioner Susanna Gibson won her Democratic primary 55-45%, while Republican businessman David Owen had no primary opposition. Gibson had the fundraising edge through June 8, though the primary left her with way less in the bank than Owen. 

HD65: Former Democratic Del. Joshua Cole is looking to return to the legislature via this Fredericksburg-area seat that went for Biden 55-43 and to Youngkin 51-48.

He faces Republican Lee Peters, a captain in the local sheriff’s office, who just won his primary 79-21%. Cole had raised more than twice Peters’ total as of the last campaign finance deadline.

State Senate

Of these 40 seats, 20 were won by both Biden and McAuliffe, and just 16 were won by Trump and Youngkin. Four districts were carried by Biden in 2020 and Youngkin in 2021.

SD16: Incumbent GOP Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant faces Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg in this district that went 57-41 Biden and 52-47 McAuliffe.

But don’t let those margins put you at ease; Dunnavant raised more than twice VanValkenburg’s total through June 8, although she doesn’t have all that much more than the Democrat in the bank.

SD24: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Monty Mason faces former sheriff Danny Diggs in this Hampton Roads-area seat. The district swung from 53-45 Biden to 51-48 Youngkin.

Mason has the fundraising edge in this contest, and he also has more in the bank than Diggs.

The other two Biden/Youngkin Senate districts are open seats without incumbents running.

SD17: Republican Del. Emily Brewer faces Democratic Del. Clint Jenkins for this seat that went for Biden 53-46 and Youngkin 52-47.

Brewer just emerged from a bruising primary, but the fact that she’s both outraised Jenkins almost 10 times over and has more in the bank should raise alarm bells for team blue.

SD31: Last but not least, Democratic prosecutor Russet Perry faces Republican Juan Pablo Segura in this NoVA exurban seat that went 57-42 Biden and 50-49 Youngkin.

This seat looks pretty friendly to team blue on paper, but Perry just emerged from a primary and has far less in the bank than Segura, who also happens to be the son of billionaire Enrique Segura. With Virginia’s incredibly permissive campaign finance laws, family money could very well tip the balance in this race if Democrats don’t fully engage.

So the upshot of all this (many thanks to Daily Kos Elections and VPAP, which are always great data sources) is that both chambers are winnable/flippable by either party.

Also, the next round of campaign finance data drops on July 17 (for reports through June 30), so the viability of some of these seats may shift between now and then – and some new ones might even make the list.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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