The Wash
Sample ballots for Alexandria voters
Here are sample ballots for Alexandria voters (Cameron Adams/The Wash)

Experts split on whether uncontested races benefit Democrats

Three of the four political offices serving Alexandria don’t have a Republican running.

Alexandria voters face a ballot full of Democrats heading into next month’s state election, but which party this will benefit in contested races has divided experts.

The predominantly blue district has not voted Republican in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan, according to city data. Incumbent Democratic Delegates Charniele Herring and Elizabeth Bennett-Parker are running unopposed for the Fourth and Fifth District House seats, respectively. The Third District will come down to a Democratic incumbent and an Independent challenger. The only member of the GOP appearing on a 2023 Alexandria ballot is Sophia Moshasha for Virginia Senate. There are no referenda.

“I would suspect that the conditions in the House of Delegates races would benefit the Democratic Senate candidate since Democratic voters have two meaningful elections to weigh in on, while Republican voters have only one,” said Rand Institute researcher Samuel Absher in an email. “And two carrots incentivize better than one.”

Adam Ebbin would be the beneficiary of this incentive structure. The longtime representative served as a House Delegate from 2004-2012 before winning the 30th Senate District of Virginia, a post he continues to hold. Due to redistricting, he will be running for “the new 39th district,” according to his website. Ebbin did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Lopez and Ebbin election signs
Signage for Lopez and Ebbin found in Alexandria (Cameron Adams/The Wash)

On the other hand, Absher hedged his two-carrot prediction.

“Republican voters were not particularly responsive to the flexibility of state election processes in 2020…They voted regardless of whether they had to vote in person or it was onerous to vote by mail,” Absher said. “Which might suggest that regardless of the number of carrots in front of them, Republican voters turnout at relatively consistent levels.”

Turnout consistency might be a significant factor as Virginia will be one of only four states to hold state elections in November, according to Ballotpedia. This year occupies a slot that took dips in the last three election cycles. Alexandria voting turnout peaked during Presidential elections, dropped off for Gubernatorial/U.S. Congressional years and cratered for state-only election years, as seen in the graph below.

Votership is lowest during state only election years
(Data courtesy of City of Alexandria)

The smaller-than-normal sample size could “favor a dark horse Republican candidate,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.

The timing also favored Moshasha in ways beyond sample size randomness, according to Bonjean. Not “attaching yourself to the top of the ticket” as in a presidential election year allowed her “to come across moderate in tone.”

Moshasha could focus on “local solutions to local problems,” Bonjean said. “If you talk about being a Republican, you’re gonna lose immediately.”

Moshasha’s campaign material emphasized her Alexandria roots and Virginia Commonwealth education. She said small businesses played a “pivotal role…in driving economic growth” on her website. Further, she complemented the messaging Bonjean theorized with her advocacy for technology, education and community engagement, according to her website. Moshasha did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Alexandria’s Third District

The Third House District rests mainly in neighboring Arlington but does cover a small portion of northern Alexandria. This contested seat comes down to incumbent Delegate Alfonso Lopez and Independent Major Mike Webb.

Webb runs an active, free stubstack page. Many of his posts begin with, “Live from the world’s newest banana republic. . .” Webb did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Delegate Lopez has a sign
A sign for Delegate Lopez (Cameron Adams/The Wash)

Del. Lopez said he was not worried about the unusual ballot, saying, “We want to talk about the issues and problems that matter most to the residents of the district, and they are consistent regardless of whether there are referenda or other contested races on the ballot or not.”

“My top priorities in this election are promoting affordable housing, pushing for sensible gun violence prevention, and working to make it more affordable to live and raise a family in the 3rd District and Virginia as a whole,” Lopez said.

Early voting began on September 22, 2023. Here, voters can find their district and nearest polling places for the November 7 general election.

Cameron Adams

Cameron Adams is an emerging journalist covering Alexandria, Virginia for the Wash. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Journalism at American University.

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