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Democrat Francis Stevens steps up in District 65 for the Virginia House of Delegates race this fall.

Democrat Francis Stevens steps up in District 65 for the Virginia House of Delegates race this fall.

A Democrat has now stepped up to challenge for the District 65 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates race as yet this fall. Republican Lee Ware currently holds this post. The Republican was able to secure 19,842 votes in this uncontested district the last cycle. Lee has been in the post since a 1998 special election, and this seat has been in Republican hands since at least 1982.

This Republican district is pretty stable. 20,000 votes is a brisk turnout in an uncontested race.

The Democratic challenger this fall will be Francis Stevens. This means all of the districts in Chesterfield county now have Democratic candidates.



Residents = 80,010
Active Registered Voters = 55,121
Percent Registered = 69%
Total Vote in Last Race = 20,390
Participation Rate = 37%
Total Vote for Republican = 19,842
Total Vote for Democrat = 0
Total Vote Other = 548
Localities = Chesterfield, Fluvanna, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties

District 65 has a total of 29 precincts with 12 in Powhatan County, 10 in Chesterfield County, 5 in Goochland County, and 2 in Fluvanna County. The 69% Active Registered Voters represents a strong registration number. While no one challenged for this seat in the last cycle, it has been very competitive compared to other red districts in Virginia over the last 20 years, with challengers in 6 of 10 races.

The interesting thing to note is that years in which there is a challenger, the total vote jumps up to around 30,000 votes instead of the 20,000 we see here. What makes it interesting is the total Republican vote in 2013 came in at around 20,000 votes while the additional 9,000 or so are all for the Democrat. Since there is a Gubernatorial race on in this state, having Francis in this race will pay dividends no matter the outcome here. A deeper dive into the data will help us find opportunities to potentially topple this Republican.

Let's take a look at what happened in the last race.

Here is the share of Active Voters by Locality:

The pie chart makes clear that most of the heavy lifting will be in Chesterfield and Powhatan County precincts. With the relatively high registration rate and participation rate for one of these races, it will require attacking some areas of Republican strength in this district.

This next chart shows partisan vote share of total active voters per locality.

This graphic reveals that Powhatan County is clearly the strongest area of support for the Republican. 46% of the active registered voters there supported the Republican. I know the race was uncontested, but that is a sign of very strong support for an off-cycle election. There are slightly more people that voted for the Republican in Chesterfield overall. However, they made up only 33% of the ballots cast there.

This Republican knows where his strength is and organizes it. That is what the data we have looked at so far tells me anyway. Let's turn to precinct level data and see what that tells us about a potential approach to take in this district.

The next bar graph breaks down Republican margin by precinct. The initial at the beginning of the precinct name is the locality for the precinct. C = Chesterfield, F = Fluvanna, G = Goochland, and P = Powhatan.

This bar graph highlights that we will have to go after some Republican strongholds to win here. Skinquarter, Tomahawk, and Woolridge precincts all have some of the largest numbers of non-voters, but they also have the most votes for the Republican. You will need to go right at the Republican to win because you have to go where the votes are in the end.

The final scatter plot shows actual vote totals versus the Active Registered Voter total per precinct. The weakest support for the Republican will be the precincts below the red line. The narrow range is a sign of an organized campaign at work. That said, there are some encouraging signs found in this chart. The fact that six of the ten largest precincts falls below the line reveals potential targets.

District 65 is going to be a heavy lift. The reality here is that Francis' role here is to simply help secure 10,000 votes for the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate and other up-ballot races, a worthy effort on its own. That said, this Republican does show a measure of vulnerability in the larger precincts, and that gives us a place to target our work as Democrats to flip this seat.

Below are more reasons why we should field a full slate of candidates.

The best way, for a political party, to connect with voters is to ask for their vote. Last cycle, Democrats did not contest 44 out 100 House of Delegates seat in Virginia. Those 44 seats represent roughly 3,520,000 Virginians. It does not matter your view on the issues, if a party does not run candidates in your district, it is less likely you will support that party consistently. If Democrats do not ask for these votes, the message to Virginians living in these mostly rural districts is the Democratic Party is not interested in their concerns.

This issue is not unique to Virginia either. In the last cycle,  Democrats did not compete in 1,479 state legislative races nationwide. The districts we did not compete in represent more that 117,000,000 people. We often ask how people in "red America" can so consistently vote against their interests.

They are not voting against their interests at all; they are simply voting for those showing an interest in them.

As noted above, it is of critical importance we try to field candidates in as many districts as possible. If you can run, please do. These state legislative races are vital to our Democracy. They are the most local seats with enumerated powers in our Constitution. The power to change our Constitution rests in the state legislatures hands, and Republicans only need 24 more seats to control the number of states they need to do just that.

We need people to step up across Virginia. We are doing well contesting 85 of 100 districts this cycle. That said, if we want to start to bridge the rural and urban divide, if we want to represent all people across the state, heck across the nation, we need to step up and ask for their votes. Let's work together to rally around Francis who is challenging for this seat and across the other 14 districts across the state that needs a Democratic challenger as yet. Let's run a Full Slate TM.

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