Welcome to the Tuesday, October 19, Brew.
By: Doug Kronaizl
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- State race spotlight: Virginia House of Delegates District 66
- Beth Barts, subject of Loudoun County, Va., school board recall effort, resigns
- Democrats gain majority in the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives after special election
State race spotlight: Virginia House of Delegates District 66
The Virginia House of Delegates is one of three state legislative chambers holding general elections this year. All 100 districts are up for election, with Democrats holding 55 to Republicans’ 45, making this the first time since 1999 where Democrats are defending a majority in the chamber. Ballotpedia identified 22 battleground House races based on four criteria, which can be found here.
Today, let’s take a closer look at the battleground race for Virginia’s House District 66 between Mike Cherry (R) and Katie Sponsler (D). Both candidates are Air Force veterans. Cherry has worked as a pastor and head of a parochial school while Sponsler has worked as a park ranger and physical trainer.
The district’s incumbent, Del. Kirk Cox (R), is not seeking re-election this year. Cox ran for governor instead and lost in the May 8 Republican primary. Cox was most recently re-elected in District 66 in 2019, winning 52-47%, his closest race since at least 2009. In 2020, Joe Biden (D) won the 66th district, defeating Donald Trump (R) 55-44%.
Both Cherry and Sponsler completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey, which gives candidates a chance to speak directly with voters. Our survey goes beyond issue questions to elicit thoughtful responses from candidates on what they care about and hope to achieve. Responses allow voters to access their candidates and identify those that best align with their values.
Here’s a look at Cherry and Sponsler’s responses to two questions from the survey, reproduced here verbatim:
Question: Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?
- When Mike entered the USAF, he took an oath to protect our constitutional rights. He believes all Americans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- Mike believes a strong and safe Virginia is only possible with a strong police system.
- As an educator, Mike has a very clear understanding of what is going on in today’s education system.
- Education should be public, equitable, and fully funded to serve the needs of diverse communities and a wide range of abilities
- Economic Justice is central in every American family’s needs. Without reliable, fair, and safe employment our communities and families can not thrive.
- Our environment is not just climate change, it is the landfills and factories in our our [sic] backyards. We must address the air, water and soil pollution in our district.
Question: What is your favorite book? Why?
The Bible. It is the most impactful book in the history of mankind. It is the instructions for a successful life.
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
It’s [sic] discussion of the human experience and how that forms us in different ways causing a deep internal look no matter how many times I read it and that is what I think all the best books do.
According to recent campaign finance reports, Cherry had $165,162 on hand and Sponsler had $176,751. Cherry’s largest single donor is the Republican Party of Virginia, which contributed $17,552 to his campaign. Sponsler’s largest donor is Clean Virginia, a political organization focused on energy and government ethics, which contributed $50,000.
Beth Barts, subject of Loudoun County, Va., school board recall effort, resigns
In other Virginia news, here’s an update that came late on Oct. 15. Beth Barts, the Leesburg District representative on the Loudoun County Public Schools school board in Virginia, announced her resignation effective Nov. 2. Barts was the subject of a recall effort that included five other members of the board.
Barts’ announcement comes 10 days after Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Jeanette Irby ruled the recall could advance to a full trial. At the Oct. 5 pretrial hearing, Irby denied Barts’ motion to dismiss the recall petition against her since an attorney did not sign her motion. In Virginia, recall efforts are determined in circuit court rather than through a public vote.
Barts was first elected on Nov. 5, 2019, receiving 54.8% of the vote. Though school board elections in Virginia are nonpartisan, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee supported Barts.
In her resignation announcement, Barts said, “This was not an easy decision or a decision made in haste. After much thought and careful consideration, it is the right decision for me and my family.” Her attorney said he expected the recall case against Barts to be declared moot.
The school board will select Barts’ successor, who must be a qualified voter living in the school board’s Leesburg District.
Supporters of Barts’ recall are also circulating petitions against five other members of the nine-member school board in Northern Virginia.
Ballotpedia has tracked 81 school board recall efforts against 209 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts tracked in a single year. The next-highest year was 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.
Democrats gain majority in the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives after special election
On Oct. 16, Corina Magofna (D) defeated Grace Sablan Vaiagae (R) in a special election for District 3 of the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives. Magofna’s victory changed the party control of the seat, which Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R) represented from 2017 until his death on July 23, 2021.
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is one of five unincorporated, organized U.S. territories. An unincorporated territory is a self-governing entity subject to the federal government. CNMI’s legislature consists of a Senate and House. There are 20 House members—18 elected from Saipan and the islands north of it, one from Rota, and one from Tinian and Aguiguan. Representatives serve two-year terms and are not subject to term limits.
The special election tipped the partisan scales in the House. Heading into the election, Democrats and Republicans both held eight seats with independents representing three. Magofna’s victory gives Democrats nine seats to Republicans’ eight. Of the three independents, one is affiliated with Republicans and two are affiliated with Democrats, giving the Democratic-Independent bloc a governing majority in the chamber.
As recently as 2019, there were no declared Democrats serving in the territorial House.