Amid reports of meager early voter turnout in the 2nd District House of Delegates special election, candidates and political committees are scrambling to get voters to the polls by Jan. 5.
As of Tuesday, Dec. 29, fewer than 200 people had cast early votes in the election. The district is home to about 52,000 eligible voters.
Democratic candidate Candi King and Republican Heather Mitchell are vying to represent the district, which covers parts of eastern Prince William and Stafford counties. Current 2nd District Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D) announced in early December that she was resigning to focus on her gubernatorial run.
The Jan. 5 special election to fill Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy’s 2nd District seat in the Vir…
"This election is all about Democratic turnout, so low turnout numbers are concerning," King said on Tuesday. "Families have been busy with the holidays, but our team is having great conversations with people who are excited to vote once they hear there is an election.”
Both candidates were selected through their local nominating processes in mid-December, leaving them a small window of time to campaign before the election.
Drive-thru early, no-excuse absentee voting is under way for the Jan. 5 special election to …
Mitchell said Tuesday that she was not surprised that early voter turnout has been low, given that the election is occurring during the holiday season – and was critical of Foy’s decision to resign the seat on such short notice.
“The citizens of the 2nd District did not expect their delegate to use their position as a steppingstone for higher office and to quit on them during a time of need, so many view the occurrence of the election as shocking,” Mitchell said.
King and Mitchell said that their campaigns will be door-knocking, phone banking and connecting with 2nd District voters by mail this week. Both campaigns are receiving support from local and state political committees, the candidates said.
Prince William County Electoral Board Secretary Keith Scarborough said he expects a “modest” turnout, and noted that special elections at odd times of the year “always have lower turnout” and are typically more unpredictable than a regular election cycle.
"We've got the holidays, the fact that some people have sort of tuned out since the presidential election and they're focusing on their family and other things and have sort of checked out of social media and politics,” Scarborough said. “It's a challenge for the candidates now to break through the clutter and let people know, ‘Hey, we've got an election going on.’”
Scarborough compared the 2nd District special election to the 46th District special election in 2009, when former Del. Brian Moran (D) resigned his seat to focus on his gubernatorial run. In that election, Del. Charniele Herring, D-46th, eked out a win over her Republican opponent by only 16 votes in a Northern Virginia, inside-the-beltway district that is typically a safe win for Democrats.
The 2nd District is a “lean Democratic” district based on 2016 presidential and 2017 gubernatorial results, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Foy beat Mitchell in the 2019 election by 22 points.
But Prince William County Democratic Committee Chair Colin Robinson, who is resigning from the committee after the special election, said Tuesday that it is “not an election we can take for granted.”
“I think anytime you’re in one of these, you’re nervous because they have a very short window, little prep time and you don’t know how much of the vote that you can normally count on to get out,” Robinson said. “... We could well lose it and that would be a terrible thing.”
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