This story originally ran on the Capital News Service.
The House of Delegates 27th District election on Nov. 2, between Debra Gardner (D) and incumbent Roxann Robinson (R), is a critical race for Democrats in an effort to maintain party control in Virginia.
“The GOP sees it as a must win and the Democrats see a victory there as a stop gap against possible losses elsewhere,” David Kerr, an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University, wrote in an email.
Robinson, who was a self-employed optometrist, has held office since 2010, according to her campaign website. She said that creating new jobs, re-invigorating the workforce and giving the next generation the tools they need to be economically independent must be the top priority for the General Assembly, according to her website.
“We’ve made motions in the right direction, but I believe in continuing these reforms to protect your voice and ensure that the people’s work is done,” she wrote on her campaign website.
Robinson has linked her campaign closely to Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor.
“For one thing, it’s a race between two opposites of the political spectrum,” Kerr wrote. “People know her. Her constituent service and community outreach is considered exceptionally good.”
In 2019, the 27th District race was the second closest for the entire House of Delegates with only a 189 vote difference, according to Ballotpedia. The same was true in 2017, Kerr wrote.
“[Robinson] is kind of a leader in Virginia when it comes to close races,” he wrote.
Gardner, who is the founder of D2G-Coaching, has never held office before. In 2019, she ran for the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors and lost by 398 votes to incumbent Christopher Winslow, despite having been expected to lose badly, Kerr wrote.
Gardner is committed to COVID-19 recovery and plans to fight for fair wages and support continued economic relief for small businesses, according to her campaign website. She said that all children should have access to high-quality education, according to her website.
“Investment in education develops new pathways to economic mobility,” Gardner wrote on her website.
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Fundraising is considerable for both sides, Kerr wrote. Gardner has outraised Robinson by $142, 955 thus far, according to the Virginia Public Access Project website. Robinson’s top donor is the Republican Party of Virginia, and Gardner’s top donor is the political action committee, Future Now, according to the VPAP website.
Chesterfield County, which makes up a significant portion of District 27 in population and land mass, overwhelmingly went to Biden in 2020 by 13,609 votes, according to Chesterfield County election results.
“That said, Trump isn’t in the White House,” Kerr wrote. “As one commentator put it, ‘Trump isn’t in the White House but Virginia Democrats are sure acting like he is on the ballot.’ They may be succeeding on that score.”
In the last decade, there have been large shifts in population in Chesterfield County, Kerr wrote. There is a larger minority population than there was in 2010 because more people are moving in who aren’t originally from Virginia, he wrote.
“This is digging into the GOP edge,” Kerr wrote.
The older and more conservative population is aging out in Chesterfield County, Kerr wrote.
“When the seat was drawn in 2010/11 it was designed/drawn/Gerrymandered to be GOP,” Kerr wrote, noting that has been so since then.
Neither campaign responded to requests for interviews despite multiple attempts over more than a week through phone, email and social media.
Contact Capital News Service reporter and news co-editor Ryan Hudgins at email@example.com. Contact Capital News Service reporter and copy staff member Anna Ridilla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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