Decision Virginia: A look at what’s at stake in the upcoming General Assembly elections

On the minds of Virginia voters this year: a sluggish economy, rising crime concerns, improving mental health services and women's reproductive rights
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 10:07 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 2, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On the minds of Virginia voters this year: a sluggish economy, rising crime concerns, improving mental health services and women’s reproductive rights.

“For the Democrats, the issue, probably number one, number two and number three, is abortion rights,” said Larry Sabato, UVA Center for Politics executive director.

Sabato isn’t wrong. Abortion and access are a top talking point for area democrats.

“We are the only southern state that does not ban abortion,” said Susan Swecker, Democratic Party of Virginia.

Abortion is currently legal in Virginia for any reason up to the end of the second trimester, or about 26 weeks.

With abortion rights now a state issue, the General Assembly this January will likely see a host of bills targeting the issue. It’s something we’ve already seen from state Republicans, who are hopeful for a 15-week ban.

“The Republican position is we want reasonable standards for abortion as with any medical or surgical procedure and that is focused on a 15-week bill,” said Rich Anderson, Republican Party of Virginia.

Sabato says Virginia has been substantially blue for the last decade, until 2021, when Republicans swept state-wide offices for the first time since 2014. Turnout, which can be low for legislative races, will make all the difference.

“If the Republicans end up taking both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, it means that Virginia could potentially be competitive in 2024, and it means that Governor Youngkin will get virtually his entire agenda,” said Sabato.

One of those bellwether races is Senate District 16′s match-up between Schuyler VanValkenburg and Siobhan Dunnavant.

Meanwhile, House District 57 could also determine control. That’s a competitive race between Susan Gibson and David Owen.

“If the Democrats can reclaim the House of Delegates or at least hold the state Senate, then it suggests that Democrats are probably in good position for 2024,” said Sabato.

Virginia’s General Assembly results will make headlines across the country.

“It’s to hold, flip and save. Hold the House. Flip the Senate. Save the commonwealth. So it’s a high-stakes election. There’s no two ways about it,” said Anderson.

And a potential pulse of how those heading to the polls in 2024 may feel.

“The extreme MAGA Republicans, if they are allowed to fully take over, will roll back all of the progress that we have made. So everything. Everything is on the line,” said Swecker.

Early voting is underway. Election Day is Nov. 7.