Court-ordered redistricting earlier this year contributed to at least three Republican-held House of Delegates seats flipping over to the Democrats in the Nov. 5 elections. Another Republican-held district impacted by the redistricting is currently too close to call, but is leaning in the direction of the Democrats.
Democrats took control of the House of Delegates after securing 54 of the chamber’s 100 seats. Three other seats are still pending, but two are leaning Republican and the other Democrat. The party also flipped the Virginia Senate from red to blue.
Earlier this year, a court ruled that the House of Delegates seats were unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered and ordered the Republican-led General Assembly to propose new maps, which would need to be signed by the Democratic governor. When the General Assembly failed to reach a deal with Gov. Ralph Northam, the court appointed a special master to draw the lines.
The new maps changed the lines of about two dozen districts, but put six Republicans into districts that gave Democrats an edge. Three were unseated by Democrats, one is still too close to call and two were held onto Republicans in districts that will now be competitive.
The biggest loss for Republicans was Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, in District 76, who lost his seat to challenger Clinton Jenkins. Jenkins received 56.4 percent of the vote and Jones received 43.6 percent. The previous district had a 12.2 point spread in favor of Republicans, but the new district has a 15.4 point spread in favor of Democrats.
Jones had represented his district for 32 consecutive years and chaired the House Appropriations Committee.
Republicans also lost District 94 when incumbent Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, was unseated by challenger Shelly Simonds. Simonds received 57.8 percent of the vote to Yancey’s 40.3 percent. The previous district was competitive with a 4.5 point spread in favor of Democrats, but the new maps gave Democrats an 18.1 spread.
The third district to flip to Democrats was District 91 in which Democrat Martha Mugler defeated Republican Colleen Holcomb in a race with no incumbent. The district’s current delegate is Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson, who retired. The previous district had an 11.5 point spread in favor of Republicans, but the current district has an 8.3 point spread in favor of Democrats.
The race for District 83 is too close to call, but is currently leaning Democrat. The seat is currently held by Del. Christopher Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, and he is being challenged by Democrat Nancy Guy. This district shifted from an 11.5 point spread in favor of Republicans to an 8.3 point spread in favor of Democrats.
The two districts that were held onto by Republicans were far more competitive than they otherwise would have been. House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, kept his seat in District 66 after securing 51.7 percent of the vote to Sheila Bynum-Coleman’s 47.1 percent. This district shifted from a 25.5 point Republican spread to a 6.5 point Democrat spread. Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, held onto his seat with 52.2 percent of the vote to Lenard Myers’s 47.8 percent. This district shifted from a 16.8 spread in favor of Republicans to a 0.7 point spread in favor of Democrats.
Virginia will redraw district lines again after the 2020 census. Currently, the General Assembly and governor decide on district lines, but there are efforts to establish an independent bipartisan redistricting commission.