Virginia’s odd-year election schedule is an outlier among the states, with its gubernatorial and legislative races held right after the nation’s presidential election. The only other state voting for its chief executive this year is New Jersey.
Fair or not, Virginia’s gubernatorial election will be seen as a poll on the popularity of the Biden administration’s first year, as well as an early predictor of the 2022 midterms.
The commonwealth is also the only state that does not allow its governor to run for reelection.
FiveThirtyEight calls the Virginia gubernatorial race “the biggest election of 2021,” noting that although no Republicans have won statewide since 2009, when “Bob for Jobs” McDonnell was elected to the office first held by Patrick Henry, “the race could be close if the national environment gets more favorable for Republicans.”
Both Democrats and Republicans in Virginia are (unsuccessfully) trying to keep internal squabbling between their gubernatorial candidates out of the public spotlight until one is nominated.
But Democrats have to explain why they are supporting a 64-year-old white retread over two qualified Black female legislators, while Republicans need to figure out how to stop their “Trump in heels” from trumping the GOP.
And since Republicans only need to flip six seats in the House of Delegates to stall the Democrats’ progressive agenda, there’s a lot on the line in November.
What’s not on the line is the actual lines themselves.
Virginia’s new Redistricting Commission said earlier this month that although the commissioners will get new census data delayed by the coronavirus seven weeks earlier than anticipated, legislative candidates will still have to run under the old maps first drawn up by a Republican majority in 2011 and altered by the courts in 2019.
That’s because the commission is required by the state Constitution to submit new redrawn district maps to the General Assembly “not later than 45 days” after receiving the 2020 census data. Since that will likely be at the end of July, it will be after the Republicans’ May 8 virtual convention and the Democrats’ June 8 primary.
The six-month delay in receiving census data could also result in House of Delegates elections not only this year, but also in 2022 (based on the new redistricting maps) and then again in 2023. Nobody yet knows which party will benefit more from the churn.
Democrats, who currently control both houses of the General Assembly and the top three statewide offices, find themselves on the defensive this year as they try to protect the seats they won in the 2018 “blue wave” election.
But Donald Trump is not in the White House this time, and Democrats now have a legislative record to defend, which the Republican Party of Virginia is eager to exploit.
“Keeping school doors closed and prison doors open isn’t what Virginians want,” said RPV Chairman Rich Anderson. “Voters will make that abundantly clear in November when they vote out these partisan and ideological extremists.”
The “biggest election of 2021” promises to be an epic battle between progressives and conservatives, old school politicians and ambitious newcomers, competing agendas and conflicting personalities.
But at least Virginia voters won’t have to figure out what legislative districts they’re in.
The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star