Control of Virginia Senate at Stake in Special Election

August 19, 2014

Virginia voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide four special elections, including three races for open seats in the General Assembly and a town council election in central Virginia where new voter identification requirements will be in place for the first time.

The election for the 48th District in the House of Delegates pits Richard “Rip” Sullivan (D) against David M. Foster (R) for the remainder of a term vacated by former delegate Robert Brink (D).

As a Republican, Foster is considered the underdog in the Democratic-leaning legislative district, which includes Arlington and parts of McLean.

Both Sullivan and Foster have pledged to fight for more money for schools and transportation, but they largely disagree on other issues, including abortion, Medicaid expansion and gun control. Foster hopes his opposition to the $333 million Columbia Pike streetcar project strikes a chord with voters. Sullivan believes he aligns more closely with voters on a broader range of issues.

The outcome of the race will not alter GOP dominance in the House, where Republicans hold 68 of 100 seats. But in rural southwest Virginia, the outcome of the race for the state Senate seat formerly held by Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) has broad statewide consequences.

Puckett caused a firestorm when he resigned in June from the 38th District seat — just in time to shift control of the evenly divided Senate to Republicans and weaken Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s chances of expanding Medicaid to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

Puckett was the only Democratic state lawmaker representing any district west of Roanoke. The Republican vying to replace him, Del. A. Benton Chafin Jr. , is widely favored to defeat Democrat Mike Hymes. A Chafin win would cement GOP control of the Senate, 21 to 19.

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