- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2014

After lurching back and forth between Democrats and Republicans in elections over the last six years, 2014 is shaping up to be a year in which incumbent seats in Virginia are largely solidified and the state’s purple-blue bent is confirmed.

The only major statewide race on the ballot is the Senate contest pitting incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.

Two years ago, the Senate race featuring Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen drew tens of millions of dollars in outside spending during a presidential election year. But Mr. Warner, seeking his second term in office, has managed to largely keep this year’s race off the map as other Senate races in states like Iowa, Colorado and even New Hampshire have trended in the GOP’s direction in recent months.

A Roanoke College poll released this week showed Mr. Warner with a double-digit lead and voters struggling to even identify Mr. Gillespie just days before they head to the polls on Tuesday. Thirty-five percent of voters said they still do not know enough about the Republican to have formed an opinion.

“Whether Warner wins by six or seven or nine or 10, I think it’s fair to say in either instance the race never got going,” said Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

In addition to Mr. Warner’s likely re-election, the makeup of the state’s congressional delegation is likely to see some continuity in 2014 after some tumultuous cycles in recent years.

Riding the 2008 wave of President Obama — who became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 — Democrats picked up three seats and took a 5-4 advantage in House members, leading some to wonder if Virginia was trending toward blue-state status after decades of voting for Republican presidential candidates.

But Republicans swept the top three statewide races in 2009 and in 2010 drummed out two of the 2008 Democrats — Reps. Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye — along with longtime Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher in southwest Virginia.

The electorate then reversed course again, electing Democrats to the top three statewide elected offices last year for the first time since 1993, a year after Virginia voters chose Mr. Obama for a second time and elected Mr. Kaine.

This year, Virginia will see at least three new freshman House members, though Republicans’ 8-3 advantage in the state’s delegation is likely to remain intact — even with the retirements of longtime Northern Virginia members Frank R. Wolf, a Republican, and James P. Moran Jr., a Democrat.

Former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, a Democrat, is expected to hold Mr. Moran’s seat against Republican Micah Edmond while Del. Barbara Comstock, a Republican, appears poised to hold off Democrat John Foust in Mr. Wolf’s district.

In fact, part of Ms. Comstock’s closing pitch in her race relies on continuity.

“This district needs somebody who will be in the majority,” she said. “I’ll be able to hit the ground running from day one.”

Mr. Foust, meanwhile, is trying to poke away at Mrs. Comstock’s argument that she’d be a good shepherd of Mr. Wolf’s longtime work on area issues involving transportation and the federal workforce.

“Barbara Comstock is no Frank Wolf — period,” Mr. Foust said in a recent interview. “The biggest problem in Washington today is that members of Congress are pledging allegiance to people like Grover Norquist and special interests. Barbara Comstock’s done that; Frank Wolf has denounced that.”The third congressional seat guaranteed to change hands is that of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was handed a stunning defeat in the June GOP primary by Dave Brat. But national Democrats have shown little interest in boosting their candidate, Jack Trammell, in the Republican-leaning district near Richmond.

Virginia voters on Tuesday will also decide on one proposed constitutional amendment this year allowing the state legislature to exempt spouses of members of the military killed in action from local property taxes.

Polls in the state are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Election Day, with Saturday the last day for in-person absentee voting.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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