Democrats Eyeing 17 House Seats in Virginia. What Will it Take to Win?

Jun 23, 2017

This fall, Democrats plan to focus their attention on 17 House of Delegates districts where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump, but money for those races may not flood in. Michael Pope explains why.

17 Democratic candidates will be running in Republican-held House of Delegates districts where Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton. That’s three open seats and 14 incumbent Republicans they hope to unseat. But those Democratic candidates won’t all receive money from the House Democratic caucus.

“The first and most important thing that a candidate has to demonstrate is that they have the ability to raise money.”

The state's Democratic House Caucus only has so much money to spread around to 17 candidates.
Credit vahousedems.org

That’s Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University.

“The egg does come before the chicken or the chicken before the egg, whichever way you want to characterize it. But in this case, you do have to demonstrate your ability to raise money or to put your own money into it.”

Even then, raising money isn’t the only metric that Democrats will be looking at. They’ll also want to see polling data that shows a candidate can win. And they’ll want to see a growing base of volunteers knocking on a growing number of doors.

Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says the competition for money is wider than the 17 GOP-held districts that Clinton won last year.

“In 2013, Terry McAuliffe carried 51 House districts in his election for governor and he still only won 34 House seats. So just winning up ballot does not necessarily translate to a victory down ballot.”

Part of the reason that Democrats need to focus their attention on a limited number of races is that they have a limited amount of money, probably about $6 million. So they’ll need to invest that money in races where the candidates have a chance of winning rather than throwing it at districts where just the demographics look good.