HomePoliticsWhy Virginia's 2023 state elections could have national implications in November 2024

Why Virginia’s 2023 state elections could have national implications in November 2024

Virginia may be the nation’s modern bellwether, with voters having a near-perfect record in choosing recent national election winners. But before the national election can officially begin, voters and activists from both parties in the state say they are focused on winning first this year.

They say their focus is on November 2023, when senators and representatives from the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates will all be up for re-election for the first time in four years, because they know what the 2024 results could mean.

Even Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin told USA TODAY that he is “incredibly focused” on his state, despite rumors and some megadonors’ dreams of a presidential bid from the political newcomer.

Youngkin and other Virginia Republicans hope to retain their majority in the state House and turn their Senate red, just as the national Republican Party aims to retain the U.S. House of Representatives and regain the majority in the Senate.

Good or bad, the outcomes in Virginia in less than two months will impact Youngkin’s national image and could influence whether he decides to enter the race for president.

Two years ago, Youngkin captured national attention when his victory in the 2021 gubernatorial race was seen as President Joe Biden’s first report after his 2020 election. Democrats and Republicans alike know how Virginia’s elections in an odd year can boost political momentum to influence. until 2024, and they are investing accordingly.

National dollars are pouring into the Old Dominion State

The Democratic National Committee recently invested $1.2 million in the state party, “at the direction of President (Joe) Biden,” according to a local news outlet.

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“We are proud to have made these unprecedented investments in Virginia and across the country, which will not only help Democrats win in 2023 but also build on the infrastructure we need to support President Biden and Vice President to re-elect President (Kamala) Harris next year,” DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison wrote in a statement to the outlet.

At $1.5 million, the DNC’s total investment in the state is 15 times what they spent in Virginia in 2019, the last time members of both chambers were all up for re-election.

Virginia Republicans have also received their share of money from out of state. Billionaire Thomas Peterffy, a former donor to Ron DeSantis, wrote his second $1 million check to Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee in August.

While Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives have together outraised their Republican Party counterparts by about $5 million, Youngkin’s PAC has broken fundraising records, thanks in large part to megadonors like Peterffy, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Because Virginia is one of the few states to hold elections in odd-numbered years, national interest is “common and understandable,” said Denny Daugherty, chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee.

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“The difference is there is more national interest on the Republican side this year, thanks to the governor’s active involvement,” Daughtery told USA TODAY.

Youngkin for president? Democrats are concerned about the governor’s next move

The national donations partly reflect the growing attention around Youngkin from both sides of the aisle, said Heidi Dragneff, who helped found the COVA Coalition, an organization that advocates for progressive women in coastal Virginia.

Its co-founder Carrie Short said she is confident the governor will enter the presidential race after the state elections.

“I mean, it’s pretty obvious,” Short said. “If he gets a win here this fall, he will definitely throw his hat in the ring. Absolute. We have no doubts about that.”

Republicans’ success in Virginia would give Youngkin “credibility on a national level,” Short said. Adding to his advantage, Dragneff said, is that Youngkin is more approachable than other candidates.

“He’s basically DeSantis in a sweater vest and nicer packaging,” Dragneff said. “He’s more gentle, he doesn’t seem to get angry… kind of like the football dad type. So he is friendlier. And I know people will vote based on how they feel about a person, rather than on policy.”

Voters there have told USA TODAY that despite the more attractive, toned-down personality, they don’t believe their governor is ready to run the White House.

“He’s basically a big unknown,” Curt Seright, a 41-year-old minister in Blacksburg, Virginia, said last month. “And unknown things can sometimes look quite attractive when other people’s known things are in the news.”

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Virginia law prohibits anyone from serving consecutive terms as governor, meaning Youngkin cannot run again in the 2025 gubernatorial election. Because of this rule, the office of Virginia governor is often “a springboard” for a presidential or Senate campaign , Dragneff said.

In a hypothetical 2024 Senate contest between Youngkin and incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., polls show Kaine with a 2- to 5-point lead over the governor.

Sign of success: Youngkin-backed candidates sweep the primaries

Youngkin is off to a good start so far, with all six candidates he supported before the June primaries winning the Republican nomination.

But of those six, four face competitive general elections, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, including House candidate Lee Peters and Senate candidate Tara Durant, both of whom are running in districts around Fredericksburg.

Only one Youngkin-backed candidate, Buddy Fowler, is a sitting president. His House district, just north of the state capital Richmond, is rated “strongly Republican.” Voters there have elected Republicans to various levels of office in recent years, including former President Donald Trump in 2016 and Youngkin in 2021.

Bill Woolf’s Senate race in northern Virginia, where Daughtery and his committee sit, is the only one in this cohort that leans left. Daughtery said another candidate in the Prince William County area, John Stirrup, has benefited from Youngkin’s support.

“Governor Youngkin’s support galvanized voters to support John Stirrup and, just as importantly, raised money to deliver John’s message,” Daughtery said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why Virginia’s 2023 election could predict the chances for November 2024

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