What’s at stake in the special elections
Two vacant seats in the Virginia General Assembly are up for grabs in the special elections that will take place on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. The voters in the Southside region of the state will have the opportunity to choose their representatives for the House of Delegates District 9 and the Senate District 38.
The outcome of these elections could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the state legislature, as well as on the policy agenda of the newly elected governor Glenn Youngkin. The Republican governor, who took office on January 13, 2024, has promised to implement a conservative agenda that includes cutting taxes, expanding school choice, banning critical race theory, and protecting gun rights. However, he faces a Democratic majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, which could block or modify his proposals.
The special elections are also seen as a test of the political mood in Virginia, which has been trending blue in recent years. The state has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last four elections, and has elected Democratic governors, senators, and attorneys general since 2013. However, the 2023 gubernatorial race was surprisingly close, with Youngkin defeating former governor Terry McAuliffe by a margin of 1.2 percentage points. Some analysts have attributed Youngkin’s victory to his appeal to suburban and rural voters, as well as to the low turnout and enthusiasm among Democratic voters.
Who are the candidates and what are their platforms
The candidates for the House of Delegates District 9 are Wren Williams and Bridgette Craighead. Williams is a Republican and a lawyer who serves as the chairman of the Patrick County Republican Party. He has campaigned on supporting Youngkin’s agenda, especially on education and tax issues. He has also vowed to defend the Second Amendment and oppose abortion. Craighead is a Democrat and a community activist who founded the Franklin County chapter of Black Lives Matter. She has advocated for expanding health care access, raising the minimum wage, investing in clean energy, and reforming the criminal justice system.
The candidates for the Senate District 38 are Travis Hackworth and Laurie Buchwald. Hackworth is a Republican and a businessman who owns several companies in the coal and construction industries. He has emphasized his support for the coal industry, which is a major employer in the district. He has also pledged to back Youngkin’s policies on education, taxes, and public safety. Buchwald is a Democrat and a nurse practitioner who ran for the House of Delegates in 2019. She has focused on improving health care access and affordability, especially in rural areas. She has also called for increasing funding for public schools, protecting the environment, and expanding broadband access.
How are the races shaping up and what are the challenges
The races for the two seats are expected to be competitive and close, as both districts have a history of splitting their votes between the parties. The House of Delegates District 9, which covers parts of Franklin, Henry, and Patrick counties, was previously held by Republican Charles Poindexter, who died in December 2023. However, the district also voted for McAuliffe in the 2023 gubernatorial race by a margin of 3.4 percentage points. The Senate District 38, which covers parts of Buchanan, Dickenson, Pulaski, Russell, and Tazewell counties, was previously held by Republican Ben Chafin, who resigned in November 2023 to take a judgeship. However, the district also voted for Democratic senator Mark Warner in the 2020 Senate race by a margin of 1.6 percentage points.
The candidates face several challenges in their campaigns, such as raising funds, mobilizing voters, and dealing with the pandemic. The special elections have received less attention and resources than the regular elections, and the candidates have had to rely on their own fundraising efforts and the support of their parties. The voter turnout is also expected to be low, as the elections are held in the middle of winter and during a surge of COVID-19 cases. The candidates have had to adapt their campaign strategies to reach out to voters through phone calls, mailers, and social media, as well as holding outdoor events and door-to-door canvassing. The pandemic has also affected the voting process, as some polling places have been changed or consolidated to ensure safety and staffing.
How to vote and what to expect on election day
The voters in the two districts can cast their ballots in person on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at their designated polling places. They can also vote early in person or by mail until Saturday, January 6, 2024. To vote early in person, they need to visit their local registrar’s office or satellite location and present a valid photo ID. To vote by mail, they need to request an absentee ballot by Friday, January 5, 2024, and return it by mail or in person by 7 p.m. on election day.
The results of the special elections will be announced by the Virginia Department of Elections on its website. The results will be unofficial until they are certified by the State Board of Elections, which is expected to happen by January 23, 2024. The winners of the elections will be sworn in as soon as possible and will join the General Assembly for the remainder of the 2024 session, which ends on February 24, 2024.