Voters walk through a sea of campaign signs at a polling station in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. All seats in the Virginia House of Delegates and State senate are up for election.
Photo: AP Photo/Steve Helber
Photo: AP Photo/Steve Helber

Why Georgia Democrats will be watching Virginia tonight

And a closer look at the down-ticket Georgia races up for grabs

It’s Election Day and the national media will be looking at the hints that races in Kentucky and Virginia offer for 2020. 

In the former state, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has closed the gap against Democrat Andy Beshear with an intense focus on his ties to President Donald Trump.

But with the attention swarming the presidential race and Georgia’s two senatorial campaigns, we’ll mention again that one of the most important 2020 contests in Georgia is the fight over control of the state House. 

A victory would give Democrats a seat at the table in the 2021 redistricting session. That’s why both parties have backed multi-million fundraising efforts to fight over about two dozen competitive seats. 

It’s also why so many Georgia Democrats will be closely watching the balloting in Virginia tonight. From the New York Times: 

Republican majorities of 20-19 in the State Senate and 51-48 in the House of Delegates are threatened by demographic changes that have remade the state.

A transfer of power would enable Democrats, who already hold the governor’s mansion, to advance liberal priorities including gun restrictions and civil rights protections for women and L.G.B.T. people, and, most crucially, to draw new voting districts in 2021. Polling shows voters agree with Democrats on expanding background checks to all gun buyers, banning assault weapons and protecting abortion rights. 

The prospect of a change in ideological direction has attracted a torrent of money on both sides, with 16 candidates raking in more than $1 million each and warring TV ads airing in the most competitive races. Outside interest groups are a big factor.  

This could be a taste of what’s to come in Georgia, where Democrats need to flip 16 legislative seats to take control of the chamber for the first time in nearly two decades. 

***

Yes, Stacey Abrams was in Iowa on Monday. No, she’s not running for president. 

But she was on the phone after her evening speaking gig, putting in some long-distance calls to Georgia voters – who will decide municipal and a handful of other contests throughout the state. Among the races we’re watching:

-- The four-way contest in Savannah that pits Mayor Eddie DeLoach, the first Republican to win the nonpartisan seat in decades, against three Democrats: Alderman Van Johnson and two former candidates, Regina Thomas and Louis Wilson Sr. Locals expect a runoff between DeLoach and Johnson in December and some predict upheaval in council contests, too.

-- Another four-way mayor’s race in Valdosta, where Republican early voter turnout appears to be strong. 

-- Five candidates are on the ballot to replace Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon, who along with his father has led the city for four decades. He’s endorsed Mayor Pro Tem Derek Norton, a lobbyist for the Medical Association of Georgia, but four other candidates are distancing themselves from the Bacon dynasty.

-- In Dunwoody, the race for mayor may test how much the city’s politics have changed. Democrats have performed well in recent races, with Jon Ossoff, Stacey Abrams and state Rep. Mike Wilensky carrying most of the city’s precincts. The contest pits Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch, who is targeting more Democratic and moderate voters, against Councilman Terry Nall, whose base of support tends to skew more conservative. 

Our AJC colleague Tyler Estep has even more details about the choices voters face today

Insider’s note: This item was lifted and expanded from today’s Morning Jolt

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