Meet the Candidates in Virginia’s Sexiest Senate Seats

FILE - Visitors mill around the Virginia state Capitol in Richmond, Va., Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

By Carolyn Fiddler

August 18, 2023

Several districts won by President Biden are up for grabs this year as Democrats work to maintain – or even expand – their majority in the chamber.

Virginia’s election season for all 140 state House and Senate seats is well underway. Here are the contenders in the commonwealth’s most-watched state Senate races.

Senate District 16


In Richmond-area SD-16, incumbent Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant faces Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg.

Dunnavant is a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist who has pushed repeatedly for abortion bans during her term in the Senate. During this year’s election-year legislative session, she attempted to mitigate her opposition to reproductive rights somewhat, but in an ad she released earlier this summer, Dunnavant echoed GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s push for a ban on abortion after 15 weeks. She’s also previously been recorded saying that she’d like to ban abortion after 12 weeks.

Additionally, despite running online ads presenting herself as a physician who’s worked to make prescription drugs more affordable, she’s repeatedly voted against measures that would help reduce the cost of medication and health care for Virginians.

VanValkenburg, who’s served in the state House since 2017, co-sponsored a measure to establish a prescription drug affordability board earlier this year. Dunnavant voted against the Senate version of the bill, which passed with bipartisan support before dying in the GOP-controlled House.

In addition to his consistently strong support for reproductive rights, VanValkenburg has relied on his years of experience as a public school teacher to effectively advocate for improved education opportunities and better school funding.

SD-16 went 57-41 for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election and 52-47 for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 gubernatorial race.

Senate District 24


Incumbent Democratic Sen. Monty Mason faces former sheriff Danny Diggs in the Hampton Roads-area SD-24.

Mason has served in Virginia’s legislature since 2013. He’s regarded as a “pro-business” Democrat who’s a leader in the General Assembly on foster care and aging issues. Mason is also a staunch supporter of reproductive rights and gun safety.

Diggs was sheriff of York County for 23 years after starting his law enforcement career as a city cop in Poquoson. His priorities include funneling more money to police departments and working with Youngkin to eliminate Critical Race Theory from Virginia’s schools, even though it is not and never has been taught in K-12 classrooms. Diggs also supports Youngkin’s push to ban abortion.

The district swung from 53-45 Biden in 2020 to 51-48 Youngkin in 2021.

Senate District 17


Republican Del. Emily Brewer faces Democratic Del. Clint Jenkins for this Hampton Roads/Southside area district.

Brewer, seen as a rising star within the state GOP, has consistently voted to ban abortion in Virginia. She’s a staunch opponent of gun safety laws and has pledged to push Youngkin’s conservative agenda in the state Senate.

Jenkins is a US Army veteran who supports reproductive rights and has spent his time in the legislature trying to raise the minimum wage, protect voting rights, and increase teacher pay.

SD-17 went for Biden 53-46 and Youngkin 52-47.

Senate District 31


Former CIA officer and Democratic prosecutor Russet Perry faces Republican Juan Pablo Segura in this NoVA exurban seat.

Perry is running on a public safety platform that includes protecting vulnerable Virginians from domestic and gun violence. She’s also a vocal supporter of reproductive rights and improving the state’s public education system.

Juan Pablo Segura is the son of billionaire Enrique Segura, who’s already funneling massive sums of money into his son’s campaign. He supports Youngkin’s abortion ban and has vowed to fight against the “woke agenda.”

SD-31, regarded as a must-win by both parties, went 57-42 Biden and 50-49 Youngkin.

  • 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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