Election Day is here: What’s at stake in Virginia today

By: - November 2, 2021 12:04 am

An election official wipes down a table after every voter in Buckingham County, Nov. 3, 2020. (Parker Michels-Boyce / For the Virginia Mercury)

More than one million of Virginia’s nearly 6 million registered voters have taken advantage of early voting to cast ballots for today’s election, when voters will select a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and all 100 members of the House of Delegates.  For those voting today, polls open 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. (If you’re in line by 7, you can still vote.) To find your polling place and access other information, go here.

The main event

The campaign for governor has been particularly combative, with former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe battling GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity executive, in a race that has narrowed dramatically over the final months and is being closely watched across the country because of what it might portend for national politics, particularly next year’s congressional midterm elections.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama campaigns with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at Virginia Commonwealth University October 23, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia gubernatorial election, pitting McAuliffe against Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, is November 2. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

McAuliffe has been determined to try to make the contest about former President Donald Trump, whose deep unpopularity with voters here proved devastating for Virginia Republicans, who lost control of the state Senate and House of Delegates during his four years in the White House. With Youngkin, though, a first-time candidate who has lasered in on culture war debates, particularly racial equity controversies gripping school systems, they see themselves within striking distance of the executive mansion for the first time since Bob McDonnell was elected in 2009.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin campaigns in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Lieutenant governor

Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, is vying with conservative firebrand Winsome Sears, a former Republican state delegate, for the lieutenant governor job, a largely ceremonial office that involves presiding over the state Senate and breaking ties in that chamber.

Republican nominee for lieutenant governor Winsome Sears speaks during a GOP rally at Eagles Nest Rockin’ Country Bar in Chesapeake, Va., June 5, 2021. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury)

No matter who wins, history will be made. No woman of color has ever held statewide office and there has never been a woman lieutenant governor.

Del. Hala Ayala, D-Prince William, applauds on the floor of the House during the opening day of the 2020 legislative session. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Both women are attempting to leverage personal narratives — Ayala as a single working mom and child of an immigrant father and Sears, an immigrant from Jamiaca who became the first Black woman Republican elected to the House of Delegates — to an office often see as a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion.

Attorney general

 Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, backed away from a gubernatorial run to seek a third term in his current job. He’d be the first attorney general to win election to a third term since 1945. His opponent, Republican Del. Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach, has his own shot at history.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Republican nominee for attorney general Jason Miyares, a state delegate from Virginia Beach, speaks during a GOP rally at Eagles Nest Rockin’ Country Bar in Chesapeake, Va., June 5, 2021. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury)

If he wins, the conservative son of a Cuban immigrant would be Virginia’s first Latino attorney general. They offer dramatically different visions for the office, with Miyares vowing a crackdown on crime and Herring pledging to continue to defend progressive legislation passed by the Democratic majority in the General Assembly. 

Control of the House

Will the conservative momentum that has made the statewide races so competitive carry over into the battle for the House of Delegates? Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority they won two years ago that allowed the passage of an array of progressive priorities, from a minimum wage increase, gun restrictions and criminal justice reforms to easing voting restrictions and reducing carbon emissions.

Democrats on defense as their new House majority faces its first electoral test

Republicans are targeting vulnerable Democrats in 10 competitive districts that Democrats hope to hang onto whilst ousting a few incumbent Republicans elsewhere.

Also on the ballot:

In Virginia Beach, the commonwealth’s largest city, residents will vote on a referendum asking if they support a real estate tax increase to pay for up to $567 million in flood protection projects that would be rolled out over the next 10 years.

In the most vulnerable city on the East Coast to sea-level rise, the measure will be a big indicator of whether and how much residents are willing to pay to protect themsleves.

And in Richmond, voters will consider a referendum that would allow a hotly debated casino project to move forward.

For more of the Mercury’s 2021 election coverage, click here.


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