Editorial – Size up GOP candidates for state Senate

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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Suffolk voters might just determine the balance of power in the Virginia Senate this fall.

The city will have outsized influence in the new 17th District, one of a handful of swing districts that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans hold the majority in the Senate come 2024. Suffolk is by far the largest population base in a district that spans all of Western Tidewater and westward into Emporia, Greensville County and Brunswick County.

Our newspaper is proud to give voters a chance to size up the two Republican candidates vying to advance to November’s general election and face state Del. Clinton Jenkins, D-Suffolk, who is unopposed for his party’s nomination in the 17th.

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Thursday night in Franklin, we will join The Smithfield Times, The Tidewater News and Windsor Weekly in hosting a forum with state Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and Emporia businessman Hermie Sadler. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Camp Community College Workforce Development Center, with former News-Herald Publisher Steve Stewart as moderator.

We’re eager to see Brewer and Sadler side by side on the same stage talking issues after a feisty start to their race, filled with party in-fighting and even a lawsuit that forced a Richmond judge to settle a heated debate over whether the GOP nominee should be decided in a primary or a convention.

The judge ordered a primary, which will be held on June 20. Early voting begins May 5.

Much is at stake in the race. Currently, Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate, which serves as a check on Republican control of state government. Republicans control the House of Delegates, and a Republican, Glenn Youngkin, resides in the Governor’s Mansion.

A Republican victory in the 17th Senate District might just flip control of the Senate and give the party a trifecta of power that clears the way for Youngkin to fully implement his conservative agenda, reversing many of the signature initiatives of his predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam.

On the other hand, a Democratic win in the 17th this fall could secure the party’s control of that chamber for four more years and stymie Youngkin and House Republicans.

Party power aside, the newly drawn 17th is a chance for Suffolk and Western Tidewater to flex some political muscle in Richmond. For a decade, the region has been sliced and diced among Senate districts whose population bases were metropolitan Hampton Roads and the Peninsula. We’ve been largely an afterthought for elected representatives who didn’t really need our votes.

Whatever the outcome this November, Western Tidewater will now have a state senator focused completely on this region and its needs. That’s a good thing.