WASHINGTON (Gray DC) — The ballot you cast this election could help determine which party is in power of Capitol Hill. Our Washington Reporter Alana Austin breaks down some of the Virginia races that are heating up.
The U.S. Senate race in Virginia is not seen as competitive on the national scale. Polling shows Democratic Senator Tim Kaine with a strong lead and experts say Republican challenger Corey Stewart could drag down the rest of the GOP ballot.
"The worry is that his candidacy will depress turnout among Republican voters," explained Georgetown University Professor Michele Swers.
Swers says the controversy over Confederate monuments and past associations to white nationalists have damaged Stewart's chances and might hurt other Virginia Republicans.
"Virginia as a whole has been trending more purple because the northern Virginia area is growing in population and that population tends to be more educated, more racially diverse and both of these groups are starting to lean towards the Democrats," said Swers.
In the fifth district, the forecast is a bit more solid for the GOP but not a guaranteed victory. Republican candidate Denver Riggleman — a veteran and distillery owner — benefits from a red-leaning district.
But Democrat Leslie Cockburn has a high-profile from her days as a network journalist — and challengers to the party in power do well in off-years.
"So that race is surprisingly competitive," explained Swers.
Swers says Virginia Democrats also saw an opening this year with so many Republicans in Congress retiring. She explains that when there's not an incumbent on the ballot, the race tends to be more of a toss-up.
The sixth district has a much stronger outlook for the Republicans. GOP candidate Ben Cline, a state delegate who previously worked closely for retiring Congressman Bob Goodlatte, benefits from a heavily red-leaning district over Democratic opponent Jennifer Lewis.
"He's sort of been groomed for the role," Swers said.
"He's very close to Congressman Goodlatte and can make the argument that he's carrying on the legacy and Congressman Goodlatte is quite popular in the area."
Swers says Virginia Democrats face good odds at flipping seats in other parts of the commonwealth. She says if they win in a number of those races, that sets the Democrats up for potentially taking back control of the House.