ANALYSIS — Virginia Republicans caught the country’s attention when Glenn Youngkin captured the commonwealth’s governorship in 2021. The GOP hopes to continue the trend by picking up a House seat or two in the 2022 midterm elections as it seeks a net gain of five seats to take the majority.
Democrats have enjoyed a seven-to-four advantage in the House delegation since taking over three seats previously held by Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. And Democrats held on to that advantage during a more tumultuous 2020 cycle.
This cycle, Virginia provided a great example that shifting redistricting authority to a commission doesn’t guarantee a smooth process. Back in the fall, the bipartisan redistricting commission failed to agree on new lines, so two special masters, including Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics, drew the new map at the direction of the state Supreme Court.
The result produced new 2nd and 7th districts that would have voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 elections and Youngkin in 2021, making them the marquee races to watch in the commonwealth.
2nd District (Elaine Luria, D)
This Virginia Beach-anchored district is a top GOP target. Biden won it by 2 points in 2020 and Youngkin by 12 points in 2021, according to calculations by Bradley Wascher of Inside Elections.
Republicans have been excited about state Sen. Jen Kiggans, a Navy veteran, for much of the cycle, but she had a modest $342,000 in the bank on Dec. 31. Former U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, who lost to Luria in 2018 amid ethics questions and again in 2020, is considering another run. Jarome Bell, an acolyte of Donald Trump who previously campaigned for the seat in 2020, is also running, but he had just $16,000 on hand at the end of the year.
Even if Republicans fall short of a sizable wave in the fall, this is the type of district and race that the GOP should be able to win. Luria, who is serving on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, had $2.3 million in her campaign account at the end of the year but could face a difficult political environment that money can’t fix. Initial Rating: Toss-up.
7th District (Abigail Spanberger, D)
Spanberger is no stranger to competitive races. She was first elected in 2018 by 2 points over GOP Rep. Dave Brat and reelected in 2020 by 2 points over Republican Nick Freitas. Those results attracted a crowd of GOP challengers.
But the final lines give the congresswoman a little bit of breathing room. While Spanberger currently represents just 25 percent of the newly drawn 7th, it got about 5 points better for Democrats, according to Wascher.
The initial crop of Republican candidates thinned because of the new geographic boundaries, and new challengers have less time to ramp up their campaigns. The top GOP contenders are former Green Beret Derrick Anderson (who had $212,000 in the bank on Dec. 31), state Sen. Bryce Reeves ($225,000) and Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega, who entered the race after the latest Federal Election Commission deadline. And Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman Crystal Vanuch announced her campaign recently as well.
Spanberger will be ready. She had a considerable $3 million in the bank at the end of the year and has tried to cultivate a moderate image separate from her liberal colleagues in the House. But this election will test whether that work matters. Considering Biden would have won the new district by 7 points in 2020 and Youngkin would have won it by 6 points in 2021, this is a lower tier takeover opportunity for Republicans. But it’s within reach for the GOP under the current conditions. Initial Rating: Tilt Democratic.
Races rated Solid Republican
- 1st District (Rob Wittman, R)
- 5th District (Bob Good, R)
- 6th District (Ben Cline, R)
- 9th District (Morgan Griffith, R)