Suffolk races could tip balance of power

Published 10:10 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

With the potential to swing the balance of power in the General Assembly, every seat in the House of Delegates and state Senate are up for election this year, including six races that affect Suffolk.

Republicans have control of the General Assembly by a razor-thin margin, with a 51-48 majority in the House, and a 20-19 margin in the Senate. Each chamber currently has a vacancy.

Four Senate seats and two House seats are in play for Suffolk voters this November, though just two of the Senate seats will be contested.

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Absentee voting began Friday, and Election Day is Nov. 5.

The House 76th district race figures to be closely contested, with a redrawn district shifting the balance to a majority-Democratic district. Incumbent Republican Chris Jones, who announced last week he was closing his Bennett’s Creek Pharmacy, is running against Democrat Clinton Jenkins. The district takes in a small part of Chesapeake and a sizeable portion of Suffolk.

Jenkins, who has a background in subcontracting and at the shipyards and currently manages his own real estate firm, said he plans to work on expanding health care and increased funding for education.

Jones, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, supports strategic investments in workforce development and has touted his work to expand Medicaid for 400,000 Virginia residents, though Democrats have criticized Jones on that point, saying he fought against Medicaid expansion until last year.

Jones, a former Suffolk mayor, has a sizeable fundraising advantage, having raised $721,062 overall and $164,821 in the most recent filing period, to Jenkins’ $150,626 overall and $86,208 in the two-month filing period that ended Aug. 31.

In the House 64th district race, Republican incumbent Emily Brewer of Smithfield, who owns the downtown wine shop Uncork’d, is up against Democrat Michele Joyce. The district takes in parts of Suffolk and Franklin, as well as Isle of Wight, Southampton, Surry, Sussex and Prince George counties.

Brewer holds a sizeable fundraising advantage, raising $91,929 overall to Joyce’s $19,196, according to VPAP. In the most recent filing period ending Aug. 31, Joyce raised $10,368, more than half of her overall total, while Brewer raised $22,055.

Brewer has been focused on reforming the adoption and foster care system, while Joyce wants to increase affordable access to health care.

It figures to be a tough race for Democrat Herb Jones in the Senate’s 3rd district as he faces off against incumbent and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment of James City County. The 3rd district spans from the Peninsula — parts of James City, York, New Kent, Gloucester, King & Queen and King William counties, as well as Poquoson and Hampton — to the Southside, with parts of Isle of Wight and Surry counties, as well as Suffolk.

As of Aug. 31, Jones, a military veteran who has worked in finance and served as county treasurer in New Kent, has raised just $66,798 to Norment’s $1.6 million overall, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, and in the most recent filing period, covering July 1 through Aug. 31, Jones has raised just $13,902, with 108 of the 146 financial contributions to his campaign being $100 or less. Norment, on the other hand, raised $136,170 during the same period, with 58 of his 65 contributions being more than $100.

In the Senate’s 14th district, incumbent Republican John Cosgrove has an overwhelming fundraising advantage over Democratic challenger Rebecca Raveson, with Cosgrove having raised $283,619 to Raveson’s $330, all of that coming since July 1. Cosgrove, in the most recent reporting cycle, has raised $17,750. The majority of voters in this district come from Chesapeake, with the 14th also representing areas of Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Franklin, as well as Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

Cosgrove ran unopposed in 2015 and in a special election in 2013, won with nearly 88 percent of the vote.

The two uncontested Senate seats have Democratic incumbents running unopposed — Monty Mason of Williamsburg in the 1st district and Louise Lucas of Portsmouth in the 18th district.

The first district is mostly on the Peninsula, spanning parts of Newport News, Williamsburg and Hampton, along with James City and York counties, and then part of Suffolk. The 18th district covers parts of Portsmouth, Suffolk, Emporia, Franklin and Chesapeake, as well as Southampton, Isle of Wight, Sussex, Greensville, Surry and Brunswick counties.