Off-year elections — those held in odd-numbered years when neither a presidential election nor a midterm election takes place — don’t tend to get a lot of national attention. Only five states, most of them in the South, conduct statewide elections on off years: Virginia and New Jersey in the year after presidential elections, and Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the year before presidential elections.
This year, however, Virginia’s off-year gubernatorial election is front and center among politics watchers, as beleaguered Democrats look for signs of hope ahead of next year’s midterms. In 2018, all seats are up for grabs in the US House, which Republicans now control by a margin of 227 to 192. Democrats nationwide will also have a chance to gain ground in legislatures ahead of the 2020 census, after which state lawmakers will draw new congressional and legislative district lines.
“We’re Ground Zero,” as Virginia Democratic Party chairperson Susan Swecker told the Washington Post. “All eyes are on us.”
But off-year wins don’t necessarily translate to midterm and presidential victories: In 2013, for example, Democrats swept Virginia’s three statewide elections only to lose the US Senate a year later.
For Virginians, the upcoming election couldn’t be more important as they will be deciding not only on a new governor but also a lieutenant governor, attorney general and representatives in the state House of Delegates. Elsewhere around the South, several major cities are holding mayoral elections in November, with Atlanta’s primary followed by a likely runoff in December and heated runoffs underway in New Orleans and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Here are seven key races to watch around the South, all of which will be held on Nov. 7 except for New Orleans’ Nov. 18 runoff:
Virginia Governor: “Ground Zero” for Democratic Hopes
Pitting current Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam against former Republican National Committee chair and lobbyist Ed Gillespie, Virginia’s open…