Special Elections: Could Virginia's Senate Flip?

Dec 27, 2016

Republican Tom Garrett (left) and Democrat Donald McEachin (left) are both state senators who will be moving on to Congress in the New Year.
Credit Steve Helber / AP

Think the election season is over? Think again. Voters in central Virginia are about to head to the polls for two special elections. And, as Michael Pope reports, control of the state Senate is at stake. 

Last month, two state senators were elected to Congress — Democrat Donald McEachin and Republican Tom Garrett.

McEachin’s seat is almost certain to be held by Democrats because no Republican will be on the ballot. But Garrett’s seat in the state Senate is a hotly contested race, and if Democrats are able to pick it up, they will take control of the state Senate.

Robert Denton at Virginia Tech says that’s unlikely though.

“The 22nd has a pretty strong Republican base, a pretty strong active core there. But certainly surprises can happen, especially if it’s a cold or bad weather day can make a difference of a couple of percentage points,” says Denton.

Are you eligible to vote in the special elections? Click here to find out if you live in the State Senate's 22nd or 9th Districts. 

But it’s not just the uncertainty of a low-turnout special election in January. There’s another wild card.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington points out that a third candidate in the race could help Democrats and hurt Republicans.

“What you see in this district as well is an independent conservative third-party candidate, and if that candidate gets a significant share of the vote that would otherwise go to a Republican, there maybe the possibility for a Democrat to win first out of three,” says Farnsworth 

Voting? Learn more about the candidates here.

The Democrat in the race is former Fluvanna Sheriff Ryant Washington. He’s running against Republican Mark Peake and independent conservative Joseph Hines. 

Election day for the two Senate seats is January 10th.