Underdog Republican Sylvia Bryant is facing off against Democrat Angelia Graves today in a special election for Virginia’s 90th House of Delegates District in Norfolk. The 90th district traditionally favors Democrats, but after redistricting in 2019, and with low turnout expected, the district appears slightly easier to win for Republicans, according to former chair of the Republican Party of Norfolk Pam Brown.
“We have a good candidate, her name’s Sylvia Bryant,” Brown said. “She’s one of us.”
Graves has raised $104,769 compared to Bryant’s $10,724, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). But in a special election, few voters usually turn out. Brown expects less than 9,000 total votes, out of a total of 45,998 voters in the district, according to VPAP. So, the Republican Party of Norfolk has been focusing its efforts on a list of hard-core committed, Republican voters in the district.
After the 2019 redistricting, the district shifted 20.5 points to the right, but still favors Democrats 69.7 percent to 30.3 percent, according to VPAP. Brown said Bryant has a chance of getting 4,000 votes, probably enough to win the low-turnout special election.
On Monday, Brown said, “We’ll just wait and see what happens. We’re going to walk it as far as we can, all day tomorrow, and hope we get a miracle tomorrow. It would seriously change the trajectory of the GOP here in Norfolk, I can tell you that.”
Graves is experienced in local politics, having served on the Norfolk City Council since 2010, where she served as vice-mayor from 2013-2016, according to her bio. In her campaign announcement, Graves said, “I look forward to serving this district as Delegate, where I believe I will have the opportunity to advance affordable housing, meaningful criminal justice reform, and quality education across the Commonwealth.”
Bryant is a political newcomer, citing experience as a business administrator for a construction company. She’s campaigning along standard GOP lines as pro-life, pro-second amendment, and pro-military. “We must continue to re-open safely. The stakes are too high, and families cannot afford to continue with these ill-advised shutdowns as well as tax increases and burdensome regulations. I will hold Governor Northam accountable and fight for us in Richmond,” her platform states.
After Democrat Joseph Lindsey was appointed as a Fourth Judicial Court Judge in November, the candidates began campaigning. Graves had a head start fundraising, with close to $30,000 left from running for city council. She’s also received $10,000 from Speaker of the Virginia House Eileen Filler-Corn’s Energized for Change PAC, and $10,000 from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, according to VPAP.
Bryant’s top donations include $2,500 from the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, and a few $1,000 donations. Brown complained that the House Republican caucus didn’t spend any cash on Bryant, preferring to focus resources on the special election in House District 2, which is perceived as more winnable by Republican strategists.
But individual Republican candidates and politicians have donated to Bryant, and Virginia Beach Republicans including Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach), and Senator Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) have helped campaign for Bryant. Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) was campaigning for Bryant on Monday.
Brown said even though there was nothing suspicious about the November General Election in Norfolk, Republican voters still trust day-of voting more. By Sunday, less than four hundred people had voted early for either candidate, according to internal data. On Tuesday, Bryant’s team will follow up with the committed Republicans they’ve identified to make sure they vote.
“It’s all a ground game effort, it’s not a lot of money, you know, enough money for a couple mailers and those kind of things, just the basics,” Brown said. “But I feel good about the campaign and how it’s been run.”
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