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Political News in Virginia

Virginia’s Newest 18th District Highlights Two Seasoned Senators

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

During the last weekend in August, the Greater Hampton Roads Black Democrats hosted a fundraising and endorsement event at the Upscale Restaurant and Lounge, a Black-owned venue in Virginia Beach, for 2nd District U.S Congressperson Elaine Luria.

Luria is the Democratic incumbent in the district. She will face off with Republican State Senator Jen Kiggans, in the November Midterm General Election on November 8.

This race could impact which party will control the U.S. House of Representatives.

Among the other heavy-weight politicians at the event was 3rd District Democratic incumbent Rep. Bobby Scott, who is facing a challenger on November 8.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who is not facing election this cycle, was in the house with local state Democratic legislators to include House Minority Leader Don Scott, Delegates Cliff Hayes, Clint Jenkins, and Nadarius Clark, who all will face voters in their respective districts next year.

Virginia Beach City Councilman Aaron Rouse, who is running for a new state Senate District 22 next year, was busy shaking hands.

So was Portsmouth City Council member Lisa Lucas-Burke who is running for reelection this year.

Beach Commissioner of the Revenue Phil Kellam, Chesapeake School Board member Patricia King (who is running for Chesapeake City Council), and Vernon Tillage, who is running for Portsmouth City Council, were among the crowd.

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According to the Online Newspaper site, Black Virginia News, Scott and Kaine have spent the last few days announcing federal money they’ve worked to bring to Hampton Roads.

Also in attendance were two of the area’s most seasoned and popular state legislators—Senators Louise Lucas and Lionell Spruill—who have worked together for all of their political careers. Come 2023, however, the two have been forced into a primary election to determine which one of them will represent the Democrats in the General Election next November 2023.

The quagmire is a result of the state’s most recent 2020 Redistricting that moved the 5th Senatorial District and created a new 18th District that placed Lucas and Spruill in the same new 18th District. Also, a new 17th District was created.

Under the old 2010 redistricting, Lucas was lodged in the former 18th District made up of a large portion of Portsmouth, where she lives, and parts of cities of Ivor, Franklin, and South Hampton Counties.

Spruill was drawn into the old 5th Senate District, which encompassed a large section of Chesapeake where he lives and the city of Norfolk.

However, under the 2020 post-Census Redistricting, a new 18th District was drawn to include parts of Portsmouth and over 60 percent of the voting precincts of Chesapeake.

That decision was made by a Democratic and Republican Master, appointed by the State Supreme Court after a bipartisan Redistricting Commission that had been created by a referendum was deadlocked and failed to do the job.

Before then, the majority political party in the state legislature, consulting with the minority, controlled the redistricting process after the Census.

One of the big benefits of the old process was assuring the majority party got the most seats. Another was protecting the incumbents to assure they would not run against each other.

Now, however, under the change, Spruill and Lucas are located in the same district, and they have launched their 2023 campaigns for the new 18th District.

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Friends close to their camps say neither is taking past party or voter loyalties for granted.

But the two candidates are confronted with waging political war against a longtime friend and political ally whose support is similar on a long list of money and policy issues.

They have amassed big war chests and hired campaign staff. They are both seeking endorsements from allies and friends from the broad local and state political Democrat family and pressing the flesh at an endless political and civic events.

Both are hoping their leadership positions in the Senate and their record of “bringing home the bacon” to Hampton Roads and Virginia will help their cause.

Lucas, the first Female City Council member of Portsmouth, has been in the Senate for 30 years. She leads the Senate Chamber as the President pro tempore and sits on some of the most powerful money and policy committees in the body.

Spruill was in the House of Delegates for 22 years before he won a special election to the Senate in 2016 to replace Kenneth Alexander who was elected mayor.

He, too, is a senior member of the Senate who sits on powerful committees and, like Lucas, is not reluctant to use his clout politically to respond to the needs of his constituents back home in Hampton Roads.

Both come from humble beginnings personally and worked up from the civic leagues to the council to the halls of power in Richmond.

When a reporter from the GUIDE asked which one has the better chance of winning the primary next year, political and social friends and allies would not betray their stands

One powerful Democrat said the electorate and the political community “are torn” as to whom they will support and are careful not to show which side they may be leaning.

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“We have two of the most powerful and respected Black politicians who have unfortunately been forced to run against each other,” said one high-ranking Black elected official. They did not their position or name used but offered insight into what they see and hear from the opposing camps.

“They differ in personality and style. There is very little daylight between them, so far as policy and their support of the state, Black community and their party,” the unnamed source said. “They have brought a lot to the region and their districts. I am lucky I don’t have to vote for them. But one of them will fall short, the other will win. But I think with either one, we can win. It will be up to them to persuade the voters which one deserves it the most.

Next Week the GUIDE will examine the political careers and the forthcoming campaign from the perspectives of the two political leaders.

In recent interviews with the GUIDE, the two are aware of the stakes

The post-2020 Census Redistricting changed the state legislative political landscape. There are a number of other House and Senate incumbents who may be running against each other in both parties.

Some House incumbents are moving to other districts to compete where there is not an incumbent but may favor a Democrat or Republican.

Further, the post-2020 census redistricting reduced the number of Black Members of the House. Currently, there are 17 members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. That could be halved if Black candidates fail to get support and traction in the new district without an incumbent.

Currently, Lucas and Spruill are two of the four Black Senators in the Senate. That number could increase with Black Democrats winning the new 21st Senate District in most of Norfolk and the 22nd in Virginia Beach.

Norfolk House Delegate Angela Williams Graves and Norfolk City Councilperson Andria McClellan have announced they will run for the 21st District primary next year.

Aaron Rouse, a Beach Councilman has announced he is running for the nomination in the new 22nd Senate District which is centered in Virginia Beach.

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