By:Â David Sherfinski, Washington Examiner
Virginia Republicans need to pick up three state Senate seats in this year’s elections to take full control of the state government, and the party is stepping up plans to field challengers in virtually every district to increase its chances.
Democrats hold a 22-18 edge in the Senate, while Republicans control the governor’s mansion, the offices of the lieutenant governor and attorney general, and the state House of Delegates.
Republicans can pick up as few as two seats and still win an effective Senate majority because Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling casts tie-breaking votes.
“Right now, by our count, we’ve lined up nominees in 35 of the 40 seats,” said Jeff Ryer, a spokesman for the Senate Republican Caucus.
While several districts in Northern Virginia could be competitive, including the new 31st held by retiring Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, D-Arlington, any pickup in the heavily blue region of the state would be seen as a coup for the GOP.
Republicans are looking more closely at districts in the more conservative southwestern part of the state, hoping to knock off incumbent Sens. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Martinsville; Phillip Puckett, D-Buchanan; and John Edwards, D-Roanoke.
The GOP pulled off a bit of a two-step after Democrats drew Sens. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke, and Stephen Newman, R-Bedford, into the same district. Smith will run in the district of Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin. Stanley will challenge Reynolds in the new 20th District.
The Justice Department last week approved the redrawn districts for the General Assembly’s 140 delegates and senators, allowing the state to meet its scheduled Aug. 23 primaries and Nov. 8 general election.
Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran said he was confident Democrats would hold on to the Senate, the No. 1 priority of the party this fall.
“Our existing incumbents are all campaigning hard, and we are very excited about some other races where we have the chance of picking up additional seats,” he said. Moran pointed to the new 13th District, comprised of Prince William and Loudoun counties, even though it still leans Republican.
Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, acknowledged the enthusiasm gap Republicans now enjoy, but points to polls that show people satisfied with the direction of the state government — of which the state Senate is a part.
“At the end of the day, you’re talking about 40 individual races,” he said, “and each one is going to have an individual dynamic.”
To read more at the Washington Examiner:Â http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/virginia/2011/06/gop-only-3-senate-seats-away-controlling-va#ixzz1Q42bkfqf
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