Jenkins defeats Dillender to retain 76th District seat

Published 11:42 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Democratic incumbent Clinton Jenkins won his bid for re-election to the House of Delegates to represent the 76th District.

A margin of more than 3,000 votes separated Jenkins from Republican challenger Mike Dillender. As of noon Nov. 5, Jenkins led Dillender 53.25% to 44.06%. Independent challenger Craig Warren received 875 votes (2.56%).

Turnout was nearly 29% higher than in the 2019 race that saw Jenkins defeat then-Republican incumbent Chris Jones, with more than 34,000 votes cast this year compared to 26,526 two years ago.

While Dillender received more votes — 15,043 as of noon Nov. 5 — than Jenkins won with in 2019 (14,943), the Democratic incumbent also received more votes in the current election, increasing his vote total to 18,178.

Jenkins picked up more than 75% of the vote among those voting absentee, and more than 60% of the vote in the early voting period.

“I was definitely surprised by the turnout and we’re definitely pleased,” Jenkins said. “We knew that the early turnout would make a difference. We really did.”

Among ballots counted on Election Day, Dillender took the following precincts by sizable percentages: Driver, Ebenezer, Chuckatuck, Lake Cohoon, Kilby’s Mill and Airport. He also won by smaller margins in the Bennett’s Creek, Harbourview, Lakeside, Elephant’s Fork/Westhaven and Wilroy precincts. In all but Bennett’s Creek, he won those areas by less than 10 percentage points.

Jenkins won by significant margins in the Suffolk precincts of Burbage Grant, Huntersville, Belleharbour, John F. Kennedy, Hollywood, Booker T. Washington, Southside and White Marsh. Jenkins won by smaller margins in the Chesapeake precincts of Pughsville and Nansemond, as well as the Suffolk precincts of Shoulders Hill, Nansemond River, Hillpoint, King’s Fork and Olde Towne.

“We are grateful for the people, our constituents right here in the city of Suffolk and the 76th District for the confidence that they’ve expressed and demonstrated in their vote and the work that we’ve done,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins unseated Jones in 2019 with about 56% of the vote as he was part of a blue wave across Virginia that flipped both the House of Delegates and the Senate out of Republican hands, giving Democrats control of both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion for the first time in decades.

Though Jenkins held onto his seat, it wasn’t the same for other Democrats running for re-election to the House of Delegates. And with Republican Glenn Youngkin defeating Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor, and with Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares winning their races for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively, Jenkins will be going back to Richmond in a different dynamic than when he began two years ago. He said his priorities — aural care for all Medicaid recipients, and improving highway infrastructure, particularly on U.S. Routes 58 and 460 — will not change.

“It’s definitely going to be a little different,” Jenkins said, “but compromise is everything. Compromise is the key, and I think as long as people are willing to work to accomplish something, we can compromise and work together and make those necessary adjustments and get the job done. We’re still going to drive forward to get the job done. That’s not going to change.”

Dillender, in a post on his campaign’s Facebook page, thanked his volunteers for the work on the campaign and vowed to continue fighting for people in the city.

“From the beginning of my campaign, I promised to fight with everything I had,” Dillender wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page. “I am proud to have upheld that promise. Though this race did not end as we had hoped and our efforts to take back the 76th District didn’t pan out, the fight for conservative values lives on.”

All results are unofficial until they are certified, which will happen Nov. 15. Provisional and mail ballots were accepted until noon Nov. 5, making results incomplete.

In Suffolk, 11,938 people voted early — 9,262 in person and another 2,676 by mail as of Nov. 1, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.