Northern Virginia will again be a battleground in the upcoming elections for the House of Delegates as Dems try to capitalize on the 2008 election performance of President Urkel in an effort to try to wrest majority control of the House. It increasingly appears that their hopes to cling to the year-old coattails of a president whose policies are meeting with stiff resistance amongst the electorate are fading. Meanwhile, the opportunities for Republicans to expand their majority are growing as they lay a withering fire against outrageous spending increases, fiscal mismanagement and astronomically growing public debt. While the last several election cycles have been pretty unfavorable for Republicans, this next one may decisively demonstrate that the corner has been turned and that will have a strong impact on the outcome of several key races in Virginia.
Here’s a look at some of the more interesting races where the dynamics have changed remarkably since 2007.
13th District (Prince William and Loudoun): Delegate Bob Marshall (R) vs. John Bell (D)
Bob Marshall comes into this race with the momentum from his near victory as the Republican nominee to face John Warner in the U.S. Senate. He is absolutely loved in his district by the base that are sure to work hard for him this cycle and show up big in November. Bell, while a likable guy, is a complete neophyte and has picked up the Bruce Roemmelt playbook, giving Marshall plenty of ammo in the very social issues that have energized Marshall’s base. Bell is cannon fodder here despite his DailyKos backing, a mere placeholder for Dems to say they’re making challenges in Prince William County, and should be handily brushed aside by someone who should be running for federal office rather than giving Speaker Howell fits when he departs from the conservative playbook. What’s interesting here is the outlook on 2010, more than 2009.
32nd District (Loudoun): Delegate David Poisson (D) vs. Tag Greason (R)
Poisson has seriously underperformed in this district after unseating Dick Black, and Greason looks to be just the candidate to give him a strong run for his money, if Greason can get the funding needed to run a strong race. Greason is hugely more likable than “the fish”, and running a pretty effective ground game at this point. Winning races like this one will be key for Republicans this November, and this one is definitely winnable for Greason.
34th District (Fairfax): Delegate Margi Vanderhye (D) vs. Barbara Comstock (R)
Comstock is raising money well and running a superb campaign against an incumbent that hasn’t connected with her district anywhere near to what should happen inside the Beltway. An unabashed conservative, this agressive policy-driven campaign should give Vanderhye fits as the national mood turns sour on socialism and out of control spending. Vanderhye is going to have to heavily draw on support from Richmond in order to retain this seat in what may turn out to be one of the most expensive races in the Commonwealth. It still is going to come down to a good ground game in November, and Comstock seems to be ready for it.
35th District(Fairfax): Jim Hyland (R) vs. Mark Keam (D)
Steve Shannon left this seat open in order to run for AG, and Mark Keam survives a difficult primary to run against Republican nominee Jim Hyland. Keam blew through a ton of money in the primary, most of which came from out of state, and is now at a financial disadvantage. This is a potential flip for Republicans, but it’s going to take a lot of work and much more funding.
42nd District (Fairfax): Delegate Dave Albo (R) vs. Greg Werkheiser (D)
Albo may be somewhat vulnerable from the “abusive driver fees” issue which Dems are certain to push, but is a strong fundraiser with a good operation in Fairfax County and a strong base of supporters. Werkeiser again has his hands full here, and brings little more than a “D” next to his name that will be increasingly less valuable as the campaign goes on, although he is leading the pace in fundraising. This could be an interesting race, which Dems will certainly focus a lot of effort on in which the statewide races are going to have a significant impact.
44th District (Fairfax, Alexandria): Delegate Kris Amundson (D) vs. Jim McConville (R)
Amundson is about as far-left as you can get in the House, and McConville poses a great challenge here. McConville is raising money and running a strong campaign in a district where the Dems are very complacent. The state and national political climate will have a big impact here, and if Republicans in general develop some good momentum this seat could potentially flip. Ousting the head of the House Homosexual Caucus would be a great outcome this election cycle.
46th District (Fairfax): Delegate Charniele Herring (D) vs. Sasha Gong (R)
Herring stepped in to replace Brian Moran in a special election this year and this is her first run at a full-blown campaign. Sasha Gong is perhaps one of the most fascinating Republican challengers in Northern Virginia, and has everything it would seem needed as a candidate in order to flip this seat to the Republican column. Everything, that is, except a strong campaign. While Herring is potentially vulnerable here, this seat isn’t going to change unless Gong mounts a first-class campaign with plenty of funding. So far, that doesn’t seem to be happening. If it does however, this could be a Republican pick-up.
50th District (Manassas, Manassas Park, Prince William County): Delegate Jackson Miller (R) vs. Jeanette Rishell (D)
This third match-up on the heels of a twenty point thumping by Miller on Rishell last election is almost comedic. Rishell has nothing new to offer, and is counting on people who voted for Obama and Congressman Frank Wolf last election to show up again and vote for her. Darned unlikely. While Rishell mounts a strong fundraising operation (albeit with rather few donors in the district) and voter lists from the perpetual Obama campaign, she’s got heavy baggage with the electorate from last cycle that will be hard to overcome.
51st District (Prince William County): Delegate Paul Nichols (D) vs. Rich Anderson (R)
Anderson is making a very strong bid here to replace freshman Democrat Paul Nichols in a match-up between two pretty strong and likable contenders. At this point in the campaign it seems that Anderson is out-working and out-fundraising Nichols, and if he can keep the pace up this is a strong potential flip. The district narrowly favors Republicans, will have the neighboring unchallenged Scott Lingamfelter lending his assistance, and is certain to see a blizzard of mailers from both sides as they try to raise their name recognition in what I expect should be a positive race.
52nd District (Prince William County): Raphael Lopez (R) vs. Luke Torian (D)
Jeff Frederick’s open seat will be the battlground for two new faces to slug it out in a race I expect is going to be very interesting to watch. Torian is one of the vanishingly rare religious leaders who would like a part-time job as a legislator as well, is raising (and spending) cash quickly, and is probably seen as the front-runner by many. I’m not so sure. Even though Lopez comes across to me as more of a squishy moderate than the outgoing Jeff Frederick who has done so well here in the past, and isn’t much of a fundraiser at this point, he should connect rather well in this district especially if Jeff Frederick lends more than simply moral support to the campaign.
67th District (Fairfax, Loudoun) - Delegate Chuck Caputo (D) vs. Jim LeMunyon (R)
Caputo underperformed in this seat in 2007, winning only 53-47 against the seriously under-funded Marc Cadin. Now he will face another challenge, this time from entrepreneur Jim LeMunyon. LeMunyon lags in fundraising but is running a strong campaign, and backed by the base supporting Marc Cadin last time could well win this race. LeMunyon should make this a very difficult race for Caputo with the right support, and the state and national climate in November may have a strong influence here.
There are lots of opportunities for Republicans to pick up seats in Northern Virginia, while the pickings for Dems are fairly slim. Added to this mix is a change from the last two election cycles in the House favoring Democrats, to what is looking to be a pretty good year for Republicans. The slim opportunities for Dems are in the 42nd and 52nd Districts, while Republicans could well pick up the 51st and perhaps three others from from among the 32nd, 34th, 35th, 46th and 67th Districts. This is the year for Republicans to go on offense, and with a great state-wide ticket and some strong challengers in the Dem’s backyard all it’s really going to take are volunteers to get out there and help these candidates out.
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