Elections are underway across the Old Dominion, and this article is designed to help readers make more sense of it.
First, who is not being voted on?
Since federal elections are held on even-numbered years, Virginians are not sending any new representatives to Washington now. So, votes regarding president; US Senator Tim Kaine (D); and the Congressmen from Central and Western Virginia, Republicans Ben Cline, Morgan Griffith, and Bob Good; won’t take place until 2024.
What Virginia offices are up for grabs now?
In contrast to elections for federal office and most other states, Virginia holds elections in odd-numbered years. This fall, all 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for grabs. The General Assembly is the legislative branch of state government that writes all the laws. It consists of two houses: the 40-member Senate and 100-member House of Delegates.
What key races are here in the Roanoke region?
The highest-profile race is that for the newly-created Senate District 4, pitting Sen. David Suetterlein (R) against Roanoke City Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd (D). This district includes all of Democrat-leaning Roanoke City, Salem, much of GOP-leaning Roanoke County, and eastern Montgomery County.
Another key race is for the 41st House of Delegates seat, covering Republican-leaning parts of Roanoke and Montgomery Counties plus the Democrat-heavy Virginia Tech area. The candidates are Democrat Lily Franklin facing Republican Chris Obenshain.
Since these two districts have large numbers of supporters of both parties, competition is expected to be keen and the outcome close.
What local races are being voted on?
Many county-level seats are being voted on. In Roanoke County, Vinton Supervisor Jason Peters (R) is seeking to unseat the locality’s last Democrat officeholder, Commissioner of the Revenue Nancy Horn, 78. The School Board seat representing Cave Spring is also contentious, with Mary Wilson and Shelley Clemons facing off.
Since Roanoke City had its council elections last year, it does not have any this year.
Why do the lines and candidates seem new this year?
Every ten years, the US has a census and new district lines are drawn, in order to try to reflect changing growth patterns and keep each district roughly the same population.
Since 2020, Virginia citizen panels failed to create mutually-agreeable districts so state judges had to. As a result, they created many new districts with new lines and numbers. Thus, in some cases several incumbents were placed in the same district while other areas had no incumbent, so many familiar names have retired and new faces are either running in new districts or are running for office for the first time. Simply put, it was a big shake-up.
Why are so many seats unopposed?
In keeping with the saying, “demography is destiny,” and since many people now choose to live in places with like-minded neighbors, more and more areas skew heavily toward one party or the other. As a result, many candidates do not even try to run in a district where they think they have little chance of winning. This means, many seats are uncontested.
For example, Roanoke City is so heavily-Democrat, Del. Salam “Sam” Rasoul is running for re-election unopposed. Likewise, the newly-created 39th House District, covering all of Franklin and part of Roanoke County, leans so heavily Republican that Will Davis is running unopposed there too.
In Roanoke County, Republicans are running without opposition for a slew of offices, including sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, clerk of court, Cave Spring supervisor, etc.
It may seem “undemocratic” to vote and not have more than one candidate to choose from, but in many regions, that’s the reality.
Why should I care and vote?
Even though most attention focuses on presidential elections, the issues that most-affect our daily lives are decided at the state and local levels. These include school quality, law enforcement, property taxes, etc. Plus, the General Assembly is closely-divided, so a flip of only two or three seats could have huge consequences on Virginia’s continued direction.
Moreover, there’s an old saying in American politics: “As Virginia goes, so goes the nation.” With only a few states voting this year, the rest of the country will be watching our results to see if voters want to reward or rebuke the Biden administration for the path it has put America on.
When will voting end?
Early voting is going on now and the last day to cast your ballot is Tuesday, Nov. 7.
How else will The Roanoke Star help in this process?
To help foster an informed community and engaged electorate, The Roanoke Star has reached out to candidates for all the major offices involved and asked them to answer some relevant questions. Those interviews will be posted soon.
How do I find my polling place, check my voting status, etc.?