Virginia House Democrats launched a $90,000 digital campaign to try to unseat two House Republican leaders who have been forced into Democrat-leaning districts after a court-issued redrawing of the maps in January. A judge ruled that the old maps had been racially gerrymandered.
House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and House Appropriations Chair Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, were in safe Republican districts before the new maps were redrawn. Cox won his seat in 2017 by 27 percentage points, but the new district shifted toward Democrats by 32 percentage points for the 2019 election. Jones won his seat unopposed in 2017, but the maps shifted the district toward Democrats by 27 percentage points.
The maps put six Republicans into Democrat-leaning districts, but did not shift any Democrats into Republican-leaning districts. Republicans currently have a narrow 51-49 majority in the House after Democrats picked up 15 seats in 2017.
As Democrats seek to gain control of the House, they hope they can also oust the two Republican leaders from House District 66 (Cox) and House District 76 (Jones).
“After our 15 pick-ups in 2017, Democrats are poised to win the majority in the House of Delegates for the first time in 20 years, and this time, Republicans can’t hide behind their racial gerrymandering,” House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Trevor Southerland said in a news release. “With our early investment, we will be able to communicate to the new voters in HD-66 and HD-76 their incumbent representatives’ history of blocking access to affordable healthcare and suppressing voting rights.”
The advertisements will focus on Jones’s and Cox’s opposition to Virginia conformity with the Affordable Care Act and their stances on abortion. Small business owner Sheila Bynum-Coleman will be running for Democrats to try to unseat Cox and Army veteran Clinton Jenkins is running against Jones.
Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesperson for Cox, told The Center Square via email that Cox will launch a grassroots campaign to hold onto the district.
“It’s no secret that Democrats are going to be well funded by millionaires and outside groups,” Slaybaugh said. “We’re going to run an underdog grassroots campaign focused on building relationships rather than political rhetoric. Just this weekend we hosted nearly 500 people at a free community cookout and Speaker Cox has knocked on more than 2,100 doors since March.”
Jones was unavailable for comment by the time of publication.
House Republicans still maintain the position that the districts were not racially gerrymandered.