The Virginia House of Delegates could go either way.  Nearly all of the commentary and attention focused on Virginia’s 2021 elections has been directed at the race for governor.  But an even closer contest is playing out in districts across the state – the battle for control of the Virginia House of Delegates. 

Recent state-wide elections have seen Democrats win relatively commanding state-wide majorities.  For instance according to the official counts from the 2020 election, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by roughly ten percentage points, and Warner defeated Gade by twelve points.  Thus, to win the state-wide contests, Republicans need to gain at least five percent more of the two-party vote (while Democrats lose at least an equal amount of the two-party vote) relative to the most recent election.  

A recent Politico article noted the fact that the Virginia House of Delegates may well be in play for Republicans in 2021.  While the article discusses a few examples, it failed to put them into a comprehensive context.  Put in context, it is clear that the House of Delegates races start from a point of real opportunity for Republicans. 

 Of course, if the House of Delegates races go just as they did in 2019, Democrats will retain their majority.  And a very small shift in vote margins wouldn’t change much.  If Republicans win one percent more votes than 2019 and Democrats win one percent less, it would give Republicans one additional district (the 83rd district in Virginia Beach).  A two point swing would give them three, and still no chamber majority.  However, a mere two and a half percentage point gain for Republicans (paired with a parallel loss for Democrats) would give Republicans enough seats to claim a majority in the chamber.   Thus, the gap Republicans need to make up to gain control of the House of Delegates (relative to the last election) is half of the gap that would have to be closed to win the state-wide races. 

Just where do most of these races stand today? 

Most of them have no publicly released polling, so it’s hard to know.  However, with the caveat that any such extrapolation carries uncertainty, the state-wide polling of the gubernatorial race and the House of Delegates race suggests Republicans may well have the support needed to claim a majority in the House. 

The current polling in the governor’s race tends to suggest McAuliffe and the Democrats are narrowly ahead in the state-wide races (albeit within the margin of error and with margins seemingly narrowing).  The polling average on Real Clear Politics as of 10/27/21 gave McAuliffe a 0.8 percent lead, which is nine percent less than the lead enjoyed by Biden in the 2020 election. 

This raises the real possibility that even if Youngkin does not become governor, his campaign’s coattails could help give Republicans a narrow majority in the House of Delegates.