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Voters heading for the polls in Virginia
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Voters heading for the polls in Virginia

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The commonwealth’s highest office, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates, a smattering of constitutional officers and other local races all appear on the ballot when Virginians head to the polls today.

The regional weather forecast calls for cool temperatures and clouds but a scant chance of rain. The forecast calls for a chilly morning in the lower 40s when polls open at 6 a.m., with temperatures rising to an afternoon high of 50 before dipping back into the upper 40s when polls close at 7 p.m.

Localities just wrapped up more than a month of early voting.

“We expect about a 40% turnout based on historic figures. There is interest in this election,” Bristol General Registrar Penny Limburg said Monday.

The city recorded 1,716 early votes, including 1,200 in person and 504 who returned ballots by mail, Limburg said.

In Bristol, there are two contested constitutional officer races — for sheriff and commissioner of revenue.

Tyrone Foster, 63, is running as an independent against Republican Charlie Thomas, 56, to become the next city sheriff.

Incumbent Commissioner Cloe Eva Barker, a Democrat, is challenged by Republican Steven Gobble Jr. and Vice Mayor Neal Osborne.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jerry Wolfe and Treasurer Angel Britt are running unopposed.

In Washington County, District B Board of Supervisors incumbent Randy Pennington is unopposed, as is School Board member J. Sanders Henderson III. In District E, Board of Supervisors incumbent Mike Rush is unopposed while School Board incumbent Thomas Musick is being challenged by Debbie Anderson. In District G, Board of Supervisors incumbent Dwayne Ball is unopposed while the vacant School Board seat features a contest between Jenny Nichols and Tracey Mercier.

A Damascus Town Council special election pits Robert Van Vuurst against Charles Fields.

“We had over 6,500 people vote early, both by mail and in person, which is about 17% of registered voters in Washington County,” Registrar Derek Lyall said. “There is quite a bit of interest in this election.”

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Around the region, Norton voters have a contested sheriff’s race between Mark Caruso and Jason McConnell and select a City Council seat between Sarah Davis and R. Dalton Emerson. Revenue Commissioner Mary Hagy and Treasurer Barbara Muir are unopposed.

In Smyth County, three Board of Supervisors districts are on the ballot, but only one features a contested race, as Jackie Branson faces Mike Call in the Saltville district. Two School Board seats are unopposed.

In Tazewell County, the southern district Board of Supervisors race pits Aaron Gillespie, Bill Bunch Jr. and Mike Hymes for that seat.

There is one contested Wise County Board of Supervisors seat, as Robert Anderson meets Randy Carter. District three features a School Board race between Stephanie Kern and Lorenzo Rodriguez. There are also Town Council races in Big Stone Gap and Pound.

Polls show the gubernatorial contest between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin is a virtual tossup entering Election Day. McAuliffe, who previously served one four-year term as governor from 2014-2018, has led from the outset according to polls, but that has shrunk to single digits and now to within the margin of error.

Although Youngkin is the overwhelming favorite in GOP-leaning Southwest Virginia, he barnstormed through the region nonetheless Sunday, attending events in Gate City, Lee County and Abingdon, accompanied by Winsome Sears, candidate for lieutenant governor, and Jason Miyares, candidate for attorney general.

McAuliffe spent the weekend campaigning across the state, with a series of rallies featuring Del. Hala Ayala, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, and incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring.

A Roanoke College poll released over the weekend shows McAuliffe with a 1 percentage point lead over Youngkin, 47% to 46%, with 6% of voters undecided, while the other races are also in the 1% to 2% range.

“Turnout, turnout, turnout. With both candidates claiming more than 90% of the votes from their party, it is a question of who votes,” said Harry Wilson, senior political analyst of the Roanoke College poll. “Youngkin leads among independents, so McAuliffe needs to turn out more Democrats. Virginia Democrats have done that for several elections in a row, but the significant enthusiasm gap suggests they may not be able to do it in 2021. It could be a very late election night … or week.”

Democrats currently hold the governor’s seat, majorities in the state House and Senate and both U.S. Senate seats. No Republican has won a statewide race in Virginia since Bob McDonnell captured the governor’s race in 2009.

“A Republican win statewide would reflect in part Virginia continuing its pattern of voting against the party of the newly elected president, which has happened every election since 1997 except 2013. It also might suggest the effects of President Biden’s declining approval and relatedly of a drop in enthusiasm and energy among Democratic voters,” according to Karen Hult, a political science professor at Virginia Tech University.

Conversely, a Democratic statewide win “would provide evidence of the possible impact of ongoing worries about former President Trump’s continuing influence over the Republican Party, including over public education, reproductive rights, access to the ballot and climate change. Nationally, Democrats likely would breathe enormous sighs of relief while Republicans return to the campaign drawing board,” Hult said.

Spending on the top race is also nearly even with McAuliffe and Youngkin raising about $57 million apiece. Youngkin’s war chest included a $20 million personal loan while about $25 million of McAuliffe’s funding has come from an assortment of Democratic political action committees, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Statewide, Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the House of Delegates, but all of the Republican Southwest incumbents are running unopposed, including Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City; Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol; Del. Will Wampler, R-Abingdon; Del. Will Morefield, R-N. Tazewell; and Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Marion.

dmcgee@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2532 | Twitter: @DMcGeeBHC | Facebook.com/david.mcgee.127

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