Will Democrats Flip Virginia in 2019? 20 Races to Watch

Ryan Quinn
Nov 1 · 9 min read

Our guide to Virginia’s November 5th election.

Every year is an election year in Virginia, and Election Day 2019 is almost here. For the past five months, Swing Left and Flippable have been working together as one united organization, including in support of 20 amazing candidates in competitive races for the Virginia General Assembly. Critically, the November 5th election is our best chance to secure a Democratic majority before redistricting in 2021. With all 100 House of Delegates seats and 40 state Senate seats on the ballot, Democrats need to net two red-to-blue flips in each chamber to flip the entire state legislature.

As a Political Analyst at Swing Left, I have worked closely with our candidates as they’ve navigated the ins and outs of a high-stakes election cycle in Virginia. Alongside our partners and volunteers on the ground, these candidates have been voices for change in a state where true progress has been delayed for decades. They know that Virginia voters have rejected what the GOP has to offer: blocking dozens of gun reforms, failing to fund schools and environmental programs, preventing equal rights for women, passing restrictive voting policies, and drawing gerrymandered voting maps. In our candidates, Virginia voters can see new potential for a brighter future in the Commonwealth.

From Prince William County to Henrico to Virginia Beach, our candidates have led inspiring campaigns and mobilized powerful teams with one big goal in mind — flipping Virginia blue on November 5th. Keep your eye on these races to watch:

Blue seats to hold

In 2017, Virginia Democrats flipped a record 15 seats in the House of Delegates, bringing the GOP’s 66–34 control of the chamber down to a two-seat majority. These Democrats — including seven candidates who Flippable supported — achieved a serious victory, paving the way for Virginia to become the 33rd state to expand Medicaid in 2018. Importantly, these 2017 wins also put a new majority within reach in 2019. As it stands, Republicans hold a slim majorities in both the House of Delegates (51–49 seats) and the state Senate (21–19 seats). On Tuesday, Democrats will need to net just two flips in each chamber to flip the entire General Assembly blue. But to do it, they’ll need to defend vulnerable districts, too.

These are the six defensive targets we’re watching on Election Night:

Delegate Wendy Gooditis

Loudoun County

In 2017, Delegate Gooditis flipped her seat by 1,136 votes in a competitive race for House District 10. Once elected, Del. Gooditis introduced and co-sponsored multiple bills to expand voting access, like requiring schools to provide eligible students with voter registration materials.

Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler

Virginia Beach City

With her 2017 win, Delegate Convirs-Fowler became one of the first two Asian-American women elected in Virginia, along with Flippable alum Del. Kathy Tran. This year, Del. Convirs-Fowler is running for reelection so she can continue to fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and gun reforms.

“I knew I had to be the change I wanted to see in the world. I knew I owed it to my daughters to do more than just march. So I ran and I won. I will continue fighting for families in Virginia.” — Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler

Delegate Dawn Adams

Chesterfield & Richmond

As a first-time candidate in 2017, Delegate Adams flipped House District 68 by just 345 votes. Since then, Del. Adams has co-sponsored bills to make absentee voting more accessible. This is critical in Virginia, since there’s no early voting and voters have to meet limited criteria to vote absentee.

Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg

Henrico County

Delegate VanValkenburg has been a teacher in Henrico County for 14 years and has been a staunch advocate of increasing education funding in Virginia. He’s running for reelection in House District 72, which has become slightly more favorable to Democrats since redistricting this year.

Rodney Willett

Henrico County

Rodney is running to succeed Delegate Rodman, who’s now running for the Virginia Senate. Rodney believes every Virginian deserves affordable health care that covers pre-existing and chronic conditions. In House District 73, he’ll also work to make prescription drugs affordable and help fund mental health and addiction treatment.

Alex Askew

Virginia Beach City

Alex is running to succeed Delegate Turpin, who vacated House District 85 to run for the state Senate. Alex has been involved in local politics for over a decade now, most recently as a legislative aide in the House of Delegates, and he’s a Virginia Beach native. Alex will fight for safer communities by passing universal background checks.

Red seats to flip

Now that we’ve covered defense, let’s get into offense. Our offensive targets in the Virginia General Assembly include nine House of Delegates districts and five state Senate districts. These are our 14 best opportunities to flip a total of four GOP-held seats, and ultimately achieve unified Democratic control of Virginia’s state government.

Here are the 14 offensive targets we’re watching in Virginia:

Larry Barnett

Chesterfield County

On Tuesday, Larry will face the same GOP incumbent who held onto this seat by just 128 votes in 2017. House District 27 remains highly competitive: while Trump won by 2.3% in 2016, Democratic Governor Northam carried the district by 3.3% in 2017. By flipping this seat, Larry can replace a GOP lawmaker who voted against Medicaid expansion and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Josh Cole

Stafford County

When Josh ran for House District 28 in 2017, he was the youngest and first black nominee in the district. Josh lost by just 82 votes. If Josh wins his 2019 race, he’ll flip a seat that’s been held by the GOP since the 1980s and help bring change to Virginia, from gender equality to a living wage to criminal justice reform.

Dan Helmer

Fairfax County

Dan’s opponent, the GOP incumbent in House District 40, is an entrenched member of Virginia’s GOP leadership. Since 2002, he’s repeatedly voted with fellow Republicans to deny health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. Dan can bring better opportunities to Virginians, starting with affordable health care.

Sheila Bynum-Coleman

Chesterfield County

Sheila is challenging Kirk Cox, the current Speaker of the House of Delegates and highest-ranking Republican in Virginia, in a district that was racially gerrymandered in 2011. While Speaker Cox won by 27% in 2017, the new House District 66 voted for Clinton, Northam, and Kaine in the last three elections.

“We need fresh leadership for our community and a delegate who actually listens to them instead of corporate donors.” — Sheila Bynum-Coleman

Clint Jenkins

Suffolk & Chesapeake

Redistricted for 2019, House District 76 went from a solidly red seat to a potential Democratic flip. Clint is a military veteran and small business owner who’s running to defeat the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. If elected, Clint will work for higher wages and stronger workers’ protections.

Nancy Guy

Virginia Beach & Norfolk

In the last two years, the health rating for the Chesapeake Bay, which runs the length of Nancy’s district, has dropped from a “C-” to a “D+” due to unclean air and water. As a first-time candidate, Nancy is running to flip House District 83 and embrace renewable energy investments in Virginia, including wind and solar power.

Martha Mugler

Hampton Roads Region

House District 91 is another district that became more friendly to Democrats once courts threw out racially gerrymandered maps. As a member of the Hampton school board for 10 years, Martha’s top priorities for her district include public school funding, teacher pay, and universal Pre-K.

Shelly Simonds

Newport News City

In 2017, Shelly challenged the GOP incumbent in House District 94, but they tied with 11,608 votes each. Infamously, the race was decided by a random draw — and Shelly lost. Undaunted, Shelly is running again and, if elected, she’ll work to improve Virginia’s public school system, which is in desperate need of funding.

“When I’m elected, I’m going to work across the aisle to make a plan for rebuilding these schools across Virginia.” — Shelly Simonds

Phil Hernandez

Norfolk & the Eastern Shore

Phil served as a Senior Policy Analyst under President Obama, specializing in environmental issues. It makes him well-prepared to represent House District 100: In the next 30 years, up to 4,000 homes there could experience extreme flooding. Faced with this threat, Phil will work to strengthen coastal resiliency in his district.

Delegate Cheryl Turpin

Hampton Roads Region

Delegate Turpin has been a public school teacher for nearly 25 years and was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2017. (We’re also supporting Alex Askew, who’s running to take her place in the House.) This year, District 7 is one of two open seats in the state Senate, making it a top target.

Missy Cotter Smasal

Virginia Beach City

Missy’s opponent in Senate District 8 won election in 2015 by 17.8%. After the Virginia Beach shooting, this GOP incumbent criticized those who demanded action for “politicizing tragedy” — and continued to sell guns out of his home. As a former Navy officer, Missy supports common sense gun reforms.

Ghazala Hashmi

Richmond Metro Area

District 10 has been trending more Democratic in recent elections: the GOP incumbent won by only a slight margin in 2015, and Clinton and Northam each won by more than 10 points in 2016 and 2017. If Ghazala flips this seat on Tueday, she’ll become the first Muslim-American woman in the Virginia State Senate.

“I realized I had a choice. I could remain unheard, unseen, and unrepresented; or, I could speak out, be visible, and dare to claim for myself and other marginalized communities the right to full participation in our democracy.”
— Ghazala Hashmi

Delegate Debra Rodman

Richmond Metro Area

Delegate Rodman pulled off one of the biggest upsets of 2017, beating an eight-term incumbent by 3.1%. Now, she’s running for the state Senate, where she’ll continue to lift up the voices of everyday people. (We’re also supporting Rodney Willett, who’s running to take her place in House District 73.)

Delegate John Bell

Loudoun County

Delegate Bell, a retired member of the U.S. Air Force, was first elected to the Virginia House in 2015. This year, he’s running to flip Senate District 13, which has voted for Democrats in the past three statewide elections. If elected, Del. Bell will continue to champion policies to address the opioid crisis.

We’ll be sharing candidate victories and chamber flips in Virginia, plus updates on a key special election in the Texas State House.

Swing Left

We’re flipping the Senate, the White House and key state legislatures by empowering volunteers and donors everywhere to help win critical elections.

Ryan Quinn

Written by

Political Analyst, Swing Left

Swing Left

We’re flipping the Senate, the White House and key state legislatures by empowering volunteers and donors everywhere to help win critical elections.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade