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Virginia House of Delegates Races ñ
Pre-Election Analysis

Despite unprecedented attention on Virginiaís November 1999 state legislative elections, the campaign funds being raised from out-of-state and the electionís potential significance, most eligible Virginians are unlikely to vote for a simple reason. Most of them live in delegate districts without a contest, and only one in ten live in districts with any real chance of shifting parties.

The Center for Voting and Democracy is a non-partisan organization that analyzes elections and electoral reform. The Center has reviewed Virginiaís elections to the House of Delegates over the past decade and has found revealing information about the lack of real choices in Virginiaís elections. Below are some of our findings; for details on each race, please go to the district-by-district listings.

1997 Elections

In the 1997 elections, there were 48 Republicans, 51 Democrats, and one independent elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. During the term, one of those Democratic seats went to a Republican, making the breakdown 49 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and one independent

  • 84 of 100 won by landslide in 1997 (over 20% margin of victory)
  •        49 of those 84 were completely unopposed
  •        12 more had no major party opposition, but 
            had a contested election by an independent.
  • 7 won comfortably (by a 10- 20% margin)
  • 9 -- only 9 -- were won by less than 10% of the vote and could be considered vulnerable (and not all of those are necessarily vulnerable)
  • There also were 9 open seats in 1997; in those 9 races, only 1 seat changed parties (the 96th went from a Democrat to a Republican). The other open seats in 1997 were: 35th, 37th, 48th, 58th, 71st, 76th, 79th and 86th.

The 1990s

  • Throughout the 1990s (1991 ñ 1997), 75% of Virginiaís state legislative elections have been landslides (299 out of 400 races).
  • Only 3% of 300 races have resulted in a partisan shift in 1993-1997; see below for a list of some potentially vulnerable districts for 1999.
  • Throughout the 1990s (1991 ñ 1997), 38% of Virginiaís state legislative elections have been uncontested (153 out of 400 races).

1999 Elections

This November's elections to the House of Delegates are particularly critical. The immediate key question is whether the Democrats will maintain their slim, one-seat house majority or whether the Republicans will finish their sweep of state government. Looking to the next decade, control of state and federal redistricting hangs in the balance. As Sen. Chuck Robb said earlier this fall (Washington Post, B1, October 1, 1999), "How we vote this fall will determine who gets to draw the lines and determine who gets elected to the General Assembly for the next 10 years."

Yet few Virginians in fact will play a meaningful role in determining these elections: we see only six incumbents as likely to face serious challenges, and only three open seats look particularly competitive. These 1999 predictions are made solely on the basis of past results, without looking at who the challengers are in 1999 and how much money has been raised. Predictions can be safely made by past performance because most districts have been carved to lean heavily toward the major party currently controlling the seat. For example:

  • 61% of 1999 races have already been decided, with an incumbent or open seat nominee facing no competition from a major party candidate.
  • There are only 6 potentially vulnerable incumbents (4 Democrats and 2 Republicans) based on the 1997 results and whether they have opposition in 1999.
  • There are six open seats. Three of the four seats currently held by Democrats bear watching.

Incumbent Races to Watch:

  • 5th (1997 Democratic)
  • 14th (1997 Democratic)
  • 35th (1997 Republican)
  • 43rd (1997 Democratic)
  • 86th (1997 Democratic)
  • 96th (1997 Republican)

Based on the 1995 election data, these additional five districts also could bear watching:

  • 34th (1995 Republican)
  • 58th (1995 Republican)
  • 61st (1995 Republican)
  • 64th (1995 Democratic)
  • 94th (1995 Democratic)

Open Seat Races

  • 7th   (Republican -- landslide wins, 1991-97)
  • 15th (Republican -- landslide wins, 1991-97)
  • 30th (Democratic -- narrow win, 1997)
  • 44th (Democratic -- easy win, 1997; closer wins, 1991-95)
  • 91st (Democratic -- easy win, 1997; close wins, 1993-95)
  • 99th (Democratic -- easy wins, 1991-1997)

The Washington Post has a page of Virginia election links.

District by district results:
A Lock On Elections In Virginia
__*Post-Election Analysis*
____Introduction, October 1999
______Press Release and Key Findings
________1st District ñ 25th District
__________26th District ñ 50th District
____________51st District ñ 75th District
______________76th District ñ 100th District

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