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Regional snapshot of Richmond Metro Area Virginia House of Delegates races

Regional snapshot of Richmond Metro Area Virginia House of Delegates races

Now that I have written a complete set of profiles for every Republican-held House of Delegates (HoD) seat in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I want to take a look at different regions around the state. The Prince William County Clerk of Courts Special Election victory on Tuesday, April 18th provided a fantastic example of the power of candidates working together across an entire area. With that in mind, I will be turning my attention to other regions across the state.

I have done one other regional piece discussing the cross-ballot dynamics you see in the Virginia Beach area and the potential value of contesting every race in a given region. With this post, I am turning my gaze to the Richmond Metro Area. I thought it was a good place to start as it is the capital region of the state. The focus of this post is to review aggregated date from any House of Delegates district where at least some of the district falls in the metro area boundaries found on the map below. A few HoD seats cover a lot of ground and are part of other regions of the commonwealth as well. That said all have at least a few precincts in the Richmond Metro Area.

Richmond Metro Area Snapshot

  • Number of HoD Districts = 21
  • Number of Active Registered Voters = 1,034,686
  • Total in-person votes in 2015 = 292,433
  • 2015 total Republican votes cast = 197,217
  • 2015 total Democratic votes cast = 94,418
  • Republican-held seats = 15
  • Democratic-held seats = 6
  • Number of seats not contested by Republicans = 6
  • Number of seats not contested by Democrats = 10

The Richmond area HoD districts are not that hotly contested. I suppose the most concerning element when reviewing the snapshot above is that the only seats held by Democrats are seats Republicans did not run for in this region. On the flip side, Democrats only challenged for 1/3rd of the Republican-held seats.

The encouraging news is that Democrats have candidates in 17 of these districts so far this cycle. Only Districts 55, 61, 65, and 97 still need a Democratic candidate. Republicans have not fielded any challengers in the Democratic-held seats in Districts 63, 69, 70, 71, 74, and 75.

It is fantastic to see so many people rising to the challenge. Let's take a look at some other data to see what the dynamics were and are in the region. We will start with Active Registered Voters in these HoD Districts. The red bars are the Republican-held districts, the blue the Democratic-held seats.

Aside from the fact that Republicans control 15 of these 21 districts, this chart is a bit discouraging for other reasons. The Democratic-held districts are six of the eight smallest number of Active Registered Voters. That is a sign of weakness in organizing. There may be some other factors at play as well, but when you consider Republican seats have higher registration numbers no matter if it was a contested seat or not, well, it is not a good sign to have the lowest active voter levels.

With that in mind, let's see the vote distribution in the last general election in all of these races.

Reviewing this chart uncovers various key take away points. First, as noted above, the Democrats only hold seats that were not contested by Republicans. That in itself is not a sign of strength in the area. We already knew that, however. I think the most important lesson to note is the importance of challenging for every seat.

How does the vote share chart demonstrate the importance of contesting every race?

The Republicans largest vote totals are all in uncontested races. While there is some split ticket voting, it is typically a small share of the ballots cast. So, being that these no contest seats have the highest vote totals in the region, there were likely impacts on other races as well. 

This dynamic becomes evident in the few contested races. Democrats, of course, gain the votes they drew in, but there is also a reduced number of votes for Republicans. The impacts on races cross-ballot as well as up-ballot will likely be significant, an important factor in a gubernatorial year like 2017 for sure. So while this historical vote share data is sobering, the fact that Democrats are challenging 55% more races in the area bodes well this fall.

It is time to turn our gaze to turnout data.

This chart just reinforces the findings when looking at Partisan Vote Share. Almost all of the lowest turnout contests are the Democratic-held seats. That is not a good sign. The Did Not Vote bars in the graphic with the light blue tinge are the Republican-held districts that Democrats competed for last time. Those races were four of the top five highest turnout races. Competition matters, running a Full SlateTM of candidates matters.

I decided to include the scatter plot of Republican and Democratic votes versus Active Registered Voters by precinct. It is a little hard to read, but it does reveal a point or two worth consideration.

I know the scatter plot above is not all that legible precinct by precinct. There are more than 600 precincts in the districts in this area. I decided to post it to highlight two things.

  1. Neither party does particularly well in the largest precincts. The dots below the line are the precincts with the weakest support. Most of the dots further right fall below the line. That is not a good sign for either party.
  2. In the context of this election cycle, that is very good news for Democrats. It is not great that Democrats underperform in the precincts with the most voters, but we can exploit the Republicans weakness here since we are challenging six more seats than we did in the last cycle. That means we have clear targets to go after across the region. 

See the individual republican-held District Profiles linked below to learn more about the opportunities in these districts.

Some conclusions looking at the Richmond Metro Area data

The task ahead of us is daunting. We did not contest enough seats last cycle; we did not seek the vote of 517,087 active registered voters in this region alone. Those districts have 801,000 constituents we did not wish to represent. Far too often we on the liberal side ask ourselves how people in "Red America" can keep voting against their interests.

Voters in "Red America" are not voting against their own interests; they are simply voting for those showing any interest in them.

It is exciting to see so many Democrats stepping up to the plate this cycle. It is important to show people everywhere the basic respect of asking for their vote, of demonstrating our concern for their issues by seeking to represent them. The act of running itself is a powerful statement of principle.

We may not win every race, but every race we run will win us more support. That additional support will help us build the party, win other cross-ballot or up-ballot races, and eventually win in areas we wrongly consider "unwinnable" at this point.

The only thing I know for certain is that we can not claim victory in a seat unless we run for that seat. We should always run a full slate of candidates; we should always contest every race.

Republican-held District Profiles

Visualization: Money Gap Narrows, but GOP Has Big Lead - from VPAP.org

Visualization: Money Gap Narrows, but GOP Has Big Lead - from VPAP.org

Forget Georgia. Virginia Democrats say victory in obscure local race signals end of Trump. - by By Fenit Nirappil

Forget Georgia. Virginia Democrats say victory in obscure local race signals end of Trump. - by By Fenit Nirappil