There are 100 districts in the Virginia House of Delegates, and both Republicans and Democrats are running candidates in nearly all districts. According to unofficial data compiled by The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), Republicans have 99 candidates, and Democrats have 97. The State Board of Elections is scheduled to certify results from the June primaries on Tuesday, June 22.
“[O]ur unofficial list shows both political parties are close to fielding candidates in every House district — something that has never happened before,” VPAP states.
Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), who is being challenged by Democrat Annette Hyde in November, told The Virginia Star this represents a strategy shift.
“The Democrats have been far better in the past at getting candidates to run in difficult districts. This year we went from letting dozens of seats go unchallenged to getting candidates everywhere,” Freitas said.
A VPAP visualization shows races going back to 1995; before 2015, neither Democrats nor Republicans had more than 90 candidates in that period. Democrats jumped from competing in less than 60 districts in 2015 to 88 in 2017. Republicans ran in 72 districts, according to Ballotpedia, and Democrats flipped 15 seats, just shy of the 17 needed to take control of the House. In the next election in 2019, Democrats fielded candidates in 92 districts and won the majority. That year, Republicans again ran in 72 districts, so their current crop of 99 candidates is an increase similar to the Democrats’ 2017 jump.
That was one of the goals Republican Party of Virginia Chair Rich Anderson listed to The Star shortly after he was elected.
“In 2019, I think a factor in our losses was that we just didn’t run people in almost three dozen races between the House and Senate. So those were guaranteed pickups for the Democrats,” Anderson said in August 2020. “We absolutely have to put people on the field and let them compete.”
Young Republican Federation of Virginia Chairman Jessi Blakely said in a tweet, “We are unofficially at 100 as we have a candidate who will be labeled [I] on the ballot, but is a lifelong Republican and will be endorsed by his local committee. We are working miracles this year with lots of grassroots energy and hard work!”
Freitas said the shift in strategy extends beyond traditional participants in Republican politics.
“That represents a shift both within the party and the voting public,” he said. “Getting candidates to run is not simply an exercise in asking. You need people concerned enough to put themselves out there.”
When asked what it would take for Republicans to win given similarly high Democratic involvement, Freitas said in a text message: “More votes. Lol.”
He explained, “We are used to more Democrats running than Republicans. But that isn’t the case this time. The momentum is on our side.”