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Democrats, let's take the fight to Virginia Beach!

Democrats, let's take the fight to Virginia Beach!


Democratic candidates are challenging in 79 Virginia House of Delegates Districts this fall. That is a remarkable number already, since the last cycle they fielded candidates in just 56 races. There is still time to add candidates to the slate as well, let's make it a full slate of Democrats running for the House of Delegates in 2017. More importantly, let's turn Virginia Blue!

While it is exciting that all of these great people are stepping up, picking up our banner, broad swaths of Virginia have historically been very red. The term blood red district has come up in a few conversations I have had trying to learn more about the lay of the land. It is my goal to dig into the data in these red areas and find an opportunity to exploit. It is not always easy. As noted above Democrats far too often do not even compete in many of these races, so it is tough to draw conclusions from what data there is.


I am a firm believer in using data to find opportunity, and this afternoon I turned my focus squarely onto the Virginia Beach races to see what areas Democrats can exploit to their advantage.

Virginia Beach Fast Facts
Population = 437,994
Active Voters = 255,961
% Active Voters = 58%
Current office holders in key Virginia Beach area offices up for election this fall
Sheriff = Republican Ken Stolle
Commonwealth's Attorney = Republican Colin Stolle
Commissioner of Revenue - Democrat Philip Kellam
Treasurer = Republican John Atkinson
Governor = Democrat Terry McAuliffe
House of Delegates District 21 = Republican Ron Villanueva
House of Delegates District 81 = Republican Barry Knight
House of Delegates District 82 = Republican Jason Miyares
House of Delegates District 83 = Republican Patrick Stolle
House of Delegates District 84 = Republican Glenn Davis
House of Delegates District 85 = Republican Rocky Holcomb
House of Delegates District 90 = Democrat Joseph Lindsey

Just looking at the partisan make-up of these seats tells you a bit of what you need to know about how red this area has been. If you have a keen eye, you have likely noticed that there is a name that pops up repeatedly, Stolle. The Stolle family appears to run the Republican party in the area. It is a well-protected dynasty in the region. I hear they are not afraid to wield their position to the advantage of the family and party. That has made challenging for these seats in this district somewhat daunting.

The good news is people are stepping up! But before we talk about them, let's plumb some data and see what opportunities are in Virginia Beach for Democrats.


To begin to understand the dynamics in Virginia Beach, I began by lumping together the precincts by House of Delegates District. First up, share of Active Voters by District:

Districts 21, 82, 84 and 85 are the largest totals of Active Voters in Virginia Beach. If you are running for one of the Virginia Beach wide races forming a strong partnership with Democratic House of Delegates candidates in these four districts, in particular, would be useful, although frankly cracking this area will be an all hands on deck enterprise.

The next bar chart breaks down partisan vote shares by race listed above based on House of Delegates district. The data is from 2013 since that was the last cycle all of these races ran in the same election. The number on the horizontal axis label is the House District. The office sought follows the District number.

I originally was not going to include this graphic as it does not seem to reveal too much. It did lead me to the realization where we can look for weak spots for the Republicans in the area. You will notice Democrats lost every race in the Virginia Beach area except for the seats where Republicans did not field a candidate, the Commissioner of Revenue and House of Delegates District 90. That does not bode well.

The longer I looked at it, though, the more opportunity I saw. The Republican vote is not as stable as it looks. First, the Libertarian running took the vote away from the Republican candidate almost exclusively. While you might expect that, it also serves as a sign of willingness to move away from the "family" that dominates the local scene. Second, The Democrat that ran uncontested for Commissioner of Revenue sure won a lot of votes. 

Noticing that second point prompted me to look at vote totals per race. For this bar graph, I lumped all of the House of Delegates votes into one total.

Once you look at the votes this way, you realize that in what seems like a very red area in Virginia Beach, that the person that drew the most votes for any office in the locality was a Democratic candidate. While it is clear that Republicans enjoy the advantage here, this one reality shows that their dominance is not as stable as it might seem.

Realizing this, I asked myself how we can use this knowledge to our advantage? How can we find the weak spots? To that end, I decided to compare the uncontested Sheriff race since the titular head of the Stolle Republican machine holds that uncontested seat to the Democratically held Commissioner of Revenue race. The next chart is simply the vote margin favoring the Democrat from the left to the Republican on the right in all 94 precincts.

I know, looking at uncontested races is not a typical approach. But, when you are attacking a stronghold you must seek for where the weakness is. The precincts to the left show the most dissatisfaction with the status quo in my estimation. If I were challenging for this Sheriff seat, I start with Baker, Seatack and Newtown precincts and work my way to the right on the above bar graph. The fact that those are where the largest margins are means that there is at least some level of dissatisfaction with the status quo to be exploited.

The last bit of data serves to help target the areas of softest support for the Republican.

It is not typical in head to head races for the lines to be so close to each other. We ought to expect this alignment since we are comparing two uncontested races. The utility in looking at the scatterplot rests in that fact that those red dots under the red line and furthest to the right are the precincts with the weakest support for the Republican. Since Republicans hold a dominate position in Virginia Beach, in general, these softer support precincts make an ideal target.


Virginia Beach will be a tough nut to crack. That does not mean there is not a  significant opportunity here for us this fall. The fact that Democrats are running in every House of Delegates District with Virginia Beach precincts in them is exciting. The energy throughout the area is abundantly evident as demonstrated by the active resistance to the Trump agenda with Indivisible 757 garnering national attention.

You can win these races by finding the cracks in the wall of support for the Stolle family machine. The cracks are there, we just need to wedge that crowbar into the crack and begin pulling them apart precinct by precinct, heck, street by street. We can't back down, we must take the fight to them, let's turn the tide in Virginia Beach this fall.

You can not win unless you run, let's take a look at the House of Delegates where folks have already announced their run this fall. You will find links to the candidate's pages by clicking on the District in question. You will also find a data snapshot from the 2015 campaign in that district as well.

The challenge in this area is huge, the conditions are right to give a fantastic chance to break through in this red stronghold. It will take all of us working together to make that happen.

Ranking the Competitiveness of Virginia’s House of Delegates Districts - by lowkell on BlueVirginia

Ranking the Competitiveness of Virginia’s House of Delegates Districts - by lowkell on BlueVirginia

Joshua Cole & Karen Hyland compete for Democratic banner for District 28 Virginia HoD - Data Sanpshot

Joshua Cole & Karen Hyland compete for Democratic banner for District 28 Virginia HoD - Data Sanpshot