By: Ray Daudani
While Virginia Republicans hold a commanding lead in the House of Delegates, the margin is just two seats in the State Senate. If Democrats can pick up just one seat to force a 20-20 tie in the Senate, the party would effectively have control with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam casting a tie-breaking vote.
Both parties will be watching several key Senate races which could turn the tide on Nov. 3.
The key race will be in Central Virginia as four candidates are vying to fill the seat vacated by Sen. John Watkins who is retiring after 27 years in the district. While Republicans have controlled the seat for nearly three decades, Democrat Dan Gecker holds a fundraising lead with more than $500,000 in contributions -- more than the other three candidates combined. Republican Glen Sturtevant will try and take the seat for the GOP, but like Gecker, Indpendent Marleen Durfee and Liberitarian Carl Loser, he has never served in statewide office.
Perhaps just as intriguing is the race in Accomack for the 6th District between Democrat incumbent Lynwood Lewis and Republican challenger Richard Ottinger. While Lewis won the seat in 2014, it was an 11 vote victory in a special election. Still, Lewis has outraised Ottinger $270,000 to $151,000 and the district leans left.
John Miller (D- Newport News) should have little to fear is defending his seat against first-time challenger Mark Matney. Matney was a late fill-in after John Bloom missed filing a candidacy form. Still, Miller has never enjoyed a large margin of victory in his two previous elections for the seat.
The best chance for a Republican upset may be in Roanoke where Independent Donald Caldwell may help unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. John Edwards. Caldwell is a long-time Democrat and could steal enough votes to help Republican Nancy Dye take the seat back for the GOP. After 20 years in the seat, Edwards will remain hard to beat.
Another GOP opportunity lies in the open seat out of Northern Virginia where Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish holds a lead over Democrat Jeremy McPike. While the seat was most recently held by Democrat Charles Colgan for nearly 40 years, Parrish could help Republicans take the district for the first time since 1976.
Republican Bryce Reeves flipped this seat for the GOP by taking out Edd Hock in 2011, but he did it by only 226 votes and Democrats hope Ned Gallaway will win the seat out of Albemarle back for the party.
The contest between Republican Bill Stanley and Democrat Kim Adkins is expected to be tight, as well. Stanley holds a substantial fundraising lead and is the incumbent, but won in 2011 by around 1.26 percent.