Virginia voters are deciding Tuesday whether to continue with a partisan divide in the state legislature or give the Republicans absolute power with a new Senate majority.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. across the state and close at 7 for what
election officials estimate will be a very low turnout and more
voter confusion than there has been in years because of district
lines being redrawn during this spring's 10-year reapportionment.
After expensive, intense and exhausting campaigns waged in the
brand new House of Delegates and Senate districts, Republicans
believe they can take the Senate majority from the Democrats.
Republicans already hold the governor's office and a comfortable
A net gain of two seats creates a 20-20 split in the 40-seat
Senate with Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling breaking tie votes.
A GOP net gain of three seats gives Republicans an outright
majority and the right to dominate Senate committees where many
conservative bills have traditionally been killed.
Nine Republican senators are running unopposed compared to only
three Democrats. Conversely, 17 Democratic senators have opponents compared with only four Republican senators.
A half-dozen or so races will likely decide the Senate's partisan ownership. Among them is the marquee race between two incumbent senators, first-term Republican Bill Stanley and veteran
Democrat Roscoe Reynolds in a rural Southside district where
unemployment is high.
Other targeted Democrats are:
-- Sen. Phillip Puckett, who famously renounced President Barack
Obama, after Republican foe Adam Light highlighted the unpopular
cap-and-trade clean energy legislation which is anathema in their
-- Seven-term Democratic Sen. R. Edward Houck of Spotsylvania,
chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, who faces
Republican businessman and former narcotics detective Bryce Reeves
-- First-term Democratic Sen. John Miller of Newport News, who
has been fighting off GOP challenger Mickey Chohany and aggressive television ads in the campaign's closing days from the state Republican Party.
-- Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke, a Democrat who shares the same
name as (but no relation to) the disgraced former North Carolina
senator and 2004 Democratic vice-presidential running mate in a
race against Republican Del. David Nutter of Christiansburg.
-- And Democratic Sen. George Barker, the architect of the 2011
Senate redistricting map, in a close race with Miller Baker in
southern Fairfax County, where there is some confusion over the
similarity of the two men's surnames.
With the House's GOP majority in no jeopardy, the only marquee
race is important only for its symbolism.
House Democratic Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong of Henry County was left without his old district by GOP-controlled redistricting, so he chose to take on Republican Del. Charles Poindexter in a region that's home to some of Virginia's highest unemployment rates.