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November Elections Sees Surge In Democratic Candidates

Virginia Public Access Project

Virginia’s legislative elections this fall are drawing a record number of competitive races, according to a new analysis from the Virginia Public Access Project. 

In the 2015 elections, 62 out of 100 House of Delegates races were uncontentested, with voters stuck with a single candidate in all of those races.

This year, over two-thirds of House districts have at least two candidates, and 63 seats are in play among both major parties -- the most since VPAP began tracking the data in 1997. 

The surge is driven heavily by Democrats. They’re contesting 91 out of 100 House seats, up from just 56 seats in 2015. Democrats have a record number of candidates in the Senate, while Republicans have a record low since at least 1999.

Republicans were able to maintain control of the House of Delegates in 2017 by a single seat after election officials drew a GOP candidate’s name from a fish bowl to decide the outcome of a particularly close race. 

Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, says that boost in candidates is “an early indicator that Democrats are still engaged.”

“One of those early warning signs for Republicans in 2018 were how many Democrats wanted to run for office,” Bitecofer said of last year’s midterm elections. 

It remains to be seen whether Democrats can maintain that enthusiasm in what is traditionally a low turnout, off-year election, with no statewide races to push turnout.