The eight battleground elections for control of the Virginia Senate

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 29, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Virginia Senate battleground elections to watch
  2. Rhode Island special elections are one week away 
  3. North Carolina governor vetoes elections bill—and other elections news from around the country

Virginia Senate battleground elections to watch

On Nov. 7, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia will hold state legislative elections. Control of the Virginia state Senate is likely to be determined by what happens in the battleground seats. 

We’ve identified eight battleground districts in the Virginia Senate based on media coverage and race forecasts. Of the eight battleground districts, Democrats and Republicans currently represent four each. Incumbents are running in four of these races, while the other four are in open districts, meaning no incumbents are running. 

Our battleground designations rely, in part, on election forecasts from two nonpartisan organizations—CNalysis and the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). 

Democrats currently have a 22-18 majority in the chamber, which holds elections every four years. Ten incumbents did not seek re-election in 2023. This was the largest number of retirements since 2011, and a 113% increase from the average of 4.7 retirements per cycle between 2011 and 2019.

We’ll look at Districts 4, 16, 17, 22, 24, 27, 30, and 31.

Virginia Senate District 4

Incumbent David Suetterlein (R) is running against Trish White-Boyd (D). Suetterlein assumed office in 2016. White-Boyd has served on the Roanoke City Council since 2021. 

CNalysis rates Senate District 4 as Very Likely Republican and VPAP as Leans Republican.

Virginia Senate District 16

Incumbent Siobhan Dunnavant (R) is running against Schuyler VanValkenburg (D). Dunnavant assumed office in 2016. VanValkenburg is a member of the House of Delegates, District 72, where he assumed office in 2018. 

CNalysis rates Senate District 16 as Lean Democratic and VPAP also rates it as Leans Democratic.

Virginia Senate District 17:

Clinton Jenkins (D) is running against Emily Brewer (R). Both currently serve in the House of Delegates. This district is open. Incumbent Bryce Reeves (R) was redistricted into District 28.

CNalysis rates the district as Lean Republican and VPAP rates it as Competitive.

Virginia Senate District 22

Incumbent Aaron Rouse (D) is running against Kevin Adams (R). Rouse and Adams ran against each other in the special election for Senate District 7 on Jan. 10. Rouse won the election with 50.8% of the vote to Adams’ 49.1%.

CNalysis rates Senate District 22 as Solid Democratic and VPAP rates it as Leans Democratic.

Virginia Senate District 24:

Incumbent T. Monty Mason (D) is running against J.D. Diggs (R). 

CNalysis rates the district as a Toss-Up and VPAP rates it as Competitive.

Virginia Senate District 27:

Joel Griffin (D), Tara Durant (R), and Monica Gary (independent) are running for election. This district is open. Incumbent Jill Vogel (R) did not seek re-election.

CNalysis rates the district as Tilt Republican and VPAP rates it as Competitive.

Virginia Senate District 30

Danica Roem (D), a member of the House of Delegates, is running against William Carroll Woolf (R), principal of The Woolf Group. Roem completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. 

CNalysis rates Senate District 30 as Very Likely Democratic and VPAP rates it as Leans Democratic

Virginia Senate District 31

Russet Perry (D) is running against Juan Pablo Segura (R). This district is open. Incumbent Barbara Favola (D) was redistricted into District 40.

CNalysis rates the district as a Toss-Up and VPAP rates it as Competitive.

Learn more about all eight Virginia Senate battleground elections at the link below.

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Rhode Island special elections are one week away 

We’re only a few months away from Nov. 7, the biggest election day of the year. But between now and then, we’re still covering plenty of elections across the country. Check out our election calendar to see upcoming races.  

Rhode Island is holding a few special primary elections on Sept. 5. Let’s get caught up on what’s at stake. 

Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District

On May 31, U.S. Rep. David Cicillin (D), who represented Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, resigned to become CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. Cicillin’s departure from Congress triggered one of the four congressional special elections scheduled so far this year. From 2013 to 2022, 67 special congressional elections were held during the 113th through 117th Congresses, an average of about 13 every two years. 

The 1st Congressional District includes much of Providence, the state’s capital. In 2022, Cicilline defeated Allen Waters (R) 64% to 35.8%. 

The general election will be held Nov. 7. 

Eleven candidates are running in the Democratic primary, while two are running in the Republican race. 

Among the 11 Democratic candidates are Rhode Island’s lieutenant governor, three incumbent state legislators, one local official, two former state representatives, and a former White House aide. The Democratic candidates who have received the most media attention and endorsements are:

  • Gabe Amo, a former special assistant to President Joe Biden (D) and deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. The Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Amo.
  • Sandra Cano, who has represented Rhode Island Senate District 8 since 2018. The National Education Association Rhode Island and United Nurses & Allied Professionals endorsed Cano.
  • Sabina Matos, the state’s lieutenant governor. Emily’s List, the Latino Victory Fund, and Elect Democratic Women endorsed Matos.
  • Aaron Regunberg, a former state representative. U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed Regunberg.

On Aug. 27, Don Carlson, a business leader, attorney, and professor, suspended his campaign and backed Cano. 

Stephanie Beauté, Walter Berbrick, Stephen Casey, Spencer Dickinson, John Goncalves, Ana Quezada, and Allen Waters are also running in the Democratic primary.

Terri Flynn and Gerry Leonard are running in the Republican primary.

According to Roll Call’s Daniela Altimari, the Democratic primary “has sparked interest from national groups who view it as a proxy battle for the ideological soul of the Democratic Party.” Candidates have staked out varying positions on law enforcement, climate change, defense spending, immigration, and more. 

The 1st Congressional District leans heavily Democratic—the last Republican to represent it was Ronald Machtley, who left office in 1995. Daily Kos calculated what the results of the 2020 presidential election in this district would have been following redistricting. Joe Biden (D) would have defeated Donald Trump (R) 63.8% to 34.7%. 

Click here to read more about the special election for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District.

 Rhode Island Senate District 1

On Sept. 5, voters will also decide primaries for a special election for Rhode Island Senate District 1. The former incumbent,  Maryellen Goodwin (D), died on April 15. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 7. 

Democrats control the chamber 32-5. 

Four candidates are running in the Democratic primary, while one candidate is running in the Republican one. 

In an interview, Providence College political science Professor Adam S. Myers said District 1 is “a racially diverse, working-class urban district—the kind of district where Democrats overwhelmingly have an advantage.”

So far, 49 state legislative special elections have been scheduled this year in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2021, an average of 74 special elections took place each year. 

Click here to learn more about this special election. 

Click the link below to read more about both of Rhode Island’s upcoming elections. 

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North Carolina governor vetoes elections bill—and other elections news from around the country 

Although this is a relatively quiet time of year for state legislative bill activity, last week saw the 35th election administration bill vetoed in 2023. Here’s what happened. 

On Aug. 24, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed S747, a bill that would make a number of changes to the state’s election laws. The bill includes provisions expanding the role of election observers, including allowing the chair of each political party in a county to appoint two registered voters of that county as election observers at each polling location and up to 10 registered voters as observers at any polling location in the county.

In his veto message, Cooper said Republicans “know that younger and non-white voters tend to vote more by absentee ballot or by early voting, so they shortened the time your absentee votes can arrive and still count, and they made it easier to throw them out.”

State Sen. Warren Daniel (R) said, “We are creating a secure election system that makes it easy to vote and protects election integrity. But Gov. Cooper wants his handpicked partisans running our elections and he apparently feels threatened by North Carolinians observing what happens in their polling places.”

Republicans control both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly, holding a 72-48 majority in the House of Representatives and a 30-20 majority in the Senate. Three-fifths of members present in both chambers must vote to override a veto. As of this writing, the General Assembly had not voted to override Cooper’s veto. Republicans have successfully voted to override Cooper’s vetoes on several occasions this session.  

Governors have vetoed 35 bills this year, compared to 17 at this point in 2022. To see all bills vetoed in 2023, click here. States have enacted 305 election-related bills in 2023, compared to 216 at this point last year. To see all bills approved this year, click here.

Readers of The Ballot Bulletin, our weekly digest on election administration, learned about this story on Friday. Click to subscribe for the latest updates on election policy around the country, including nationwide trends, legislative activity, and updates on notable lawsuits and policy changes.

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