This year's midterm elections on Nov. 8 follow changes from redistricting and partisan tensions that have arisen from issues gripping the state such as inflation and reproductive rights.
Thirty-four states are holding races for the Senate, and 36 states will decide their governor this season. Going into this election, Democrats hold a slim majority in the House, and the Senate is evenly split. Democrats only hold a slight majority because of Vice President Kamala Harris' role as the tie-breaker in the Senate.
Republicans are heavily favored to win the House of Representatives, and Democrats are favored to hold the Senate, according to forecasts from FiveThirtyEight, a website that analyzes political statistics. But a recent New York Times article noted that polls could be overestimating the Democrats’ chances in November.
There are no Senate or gubernatorial races in Virginia this year or elections in the city of Richmond, but there are competitive House elections near the University of Richmond’s campus.
Most of the city of Richmond, including most of UR’s campus, is represented by U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D), who was first elected in 2016 and is running for reelection to a fourth term. McEachin is heavily favored to win from the heavily Democratic lean of the district, according to Decision Desk HQ, another website that analyzes and reports electoral statistics.
Several of the changes that have been made to Virginia’s congressional map are in the city of Richmond. Redistricting, which takes place every 10 years after the census is taken, is when congressional districts are redrawn.
UR, which sits on the border between the city of Richmond and Henrico County, previously marked the border between McEachin’s district and another district represented by U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D). Redistricting moved Spanberger’s district north. Much of Henrico County, including parts of UR, is now part of a district represented by U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R).
Wittman’s district is slightly more Republican than it was before redistricting, and he continues to be heavily favored to win reelection against Herb Jones (D), according to Decision Desk HQ. Wittman has been in office since winning a special election in 2007.
The race is now more difficult for Spanberger. Although, her district went from a slight Republican lean to a slight Democratic lean, according to FiveThirtyEight. Spanberger lives just north of Richmond and must move to northern Virginia in order to run in the district. The boundaries of her new district span from the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C. to 30 minutes north of Richmond and north of Charlottesville, according to OneVirginia.
“I think she’s actually rated as one of the most moderate members of the House, if not the most, at least on the Democratic side,” political science professor Anthony Sparacino said. “So, she might be a good fit for the district in certain ways.”
Another race to watch is that of Elaine Luria, a Democratic representative for the Virginia Beach area, who has the exact opposite challenge as Spanberger. She is now in a district with a Republican lean. Republicans view her district as a prime pickup opportunity, as most pollsters rate this district a tossup.
Sparacino, state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi and Abbi Easter, a legislative assistant of McEachin, all noted reproductive health as one of the top issues this year following the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June.
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Democrats and independents appear to be energized by the overturning of Roe. In special elections since the ruling, Democrats have come very close to winning in various special U.S. House elections. This was followed by two Democratic victories in moderate-to-conservative districts: one in upstate New York and one in Alaska, which had been represented by a Republican for 50 years.
Last November, prominent issues included education and inflation. Those two issues seem to still be top-of-mind for voters.
“We have a real schism that continues to grow in this country, and certainly in Virginia, around the concept of education, and the divide is between high-quality public education and a desire to privatize education,” said Hashmi, who represents the 10th District in the Virginia General Assembly, which UR’s campus sits on.
Over the summer, inflation reached a nearly 40-year high, contributing to a drop in Biden’s approval ratings.
“Inflation still seems to be prominent as an issue and for good reason,” Sparacino said.
Hashmi and Easter emphasized the need for young people to participate in the democratic process.
“I’ve been really energized to see the level of engagement from young people,” Hashmi said. “I’m happy to see the passion and the concern and the knowledge that so many young people bring to the issues. That’s a good sign.”
Register to vote at vote.org. If you are from Virginia, you can also use the website to find a polling place or find a dropbox to vote early. If you are from another state, you can use the website to request your absentee ballot.
Contact city and state writer Will Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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