Early voting begins Sept. 17 for Virginia’s top posts

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 9/16/2021, 6 p.m.
The future direction of Virginia’s government is now in the hands of voters, with early voting cranking up on Friday, ...

The future direction of Virginia’s government is now in the hands of voters, with early voting cranking up on Friday, Sept. 17 – 45 days ahead of the official Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

In Richmond and across the state, those casting ballots will fill the state’s three top offices — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — and select their representatives to the 100-member House of Delegates.

In Richmond, voters also will elect a commonwealth’s attorney, sheriff and treasurer and decide whether to allow Black media giant Urban One to develop Richmond’s first casino on a 100-acre site at Commerce Road and Walmsley Boulevard in South Side, adjacent to the Bells Road interchange of Interstate 95.

The Richmond Voter Registrar’s Office has announced that the city’s registered voters can vote early in person at its main office at 2134 W. Laburnum Ave., on the first floor of City Hall and at the Hickory Hill Community Center, 3000 E. Belt Blvd. in South Side.

Residents can also request absentee ballots they can either return by mail or deposit in drop boxes at several sites, including City Hall and at the voter registrar’s office on Laburnum Avenue.

Topping the list for those casting ballots is the decision on who will replace current Gov. Ralph S. Northam, who cannot seek re-election.

Based on Virginia’s location near the power centers of the East Coast, the governor’s election is being viewed partly as a mini-referendum on the Biden Administration ahead of the 2022 midterm elections that will decide control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

The main contestants in the Virginia race are political veteran and former Gov. Terry R. McAuliffe, 64, who is carrying the Democratic banner, and businessman and political newcomer Glenn A. Youngkin, 54, who is the Republican standard bearer.

Polls show that Mr. McAuliffe, who preceded Gov. Northam as the state’s chief executive and is now seeking essentially a second term, is slightly ahead in Virginia, a battleground state now rated as leaning Democratic.

Mr. McAuliffe, whom polls also indicate is most popular among African-Americans, women and college-educated people, is trying to ensure a third straight win of the governorship for Democrats in a campaign touting his ability to continue the economic progress and reforms that have overhauled the state.

Mr. Youngkin, who gained wealth as an executive with the Carlyle Group private investment firm but who resigned when he reportedly flopped after being promoted to president and co-chief executive, has campaigned on pulling Virginia out of what he calls “an economic ditch” and is touting a plan to reduce income taxes and provide tax rebates as the way to do it.

Democrats have sought to portray Mr. Youngkin, who expressed pride in his endorsement from former President Trump, as an extremist who would support Texas-style abortion restrictions, roll back progress on voting rights, undo criminal justice reforms and undermine state financial support for public education, public safety and health care with radical tax cuts.

Republicans have sought to portray Mr. McAuliffe as a free-spending liberal who would bust the budget with his proposals.

Also on the gubernatorial ballot is the largely unknown Princess L. Blanding of the Liberation Party, whose campaign is largely a protest of the 2018 police killing of her brother, Marcus-David Peters, when he attacked a Richmond Police officer while suffering a mental breakdown.

The lieutenant governor’s race features two women of color, Prince William Delegate Hala S. Ayala and businesswoman and former Republican Delegate Winsome E. Sears. The winner will make history as the first female to secure the No. 2 spot in state government.

Abortion has become a major issue in their race, with Delegate Ayala noting that as the state senate’s presiding officer, she could protect the reproductive rights of women. Ms. Sears, on the other hand, is touting her support for banning abortion after six weeks as Texas has done.

Separately, Democratic Attorney Gen- eral Mark R. Herring is seeking to win an unprecedented third, four-year term as the state’s lawyer and is facing off against conservative Republican Delegate Jason S. Miyares of Virginia Beach, who is giving up his seat in the General Assembly to bid for the office.

According to the polls, both Ms. Sears and Mr. Miyares are trailing their Democratic opponents.

One of the city’s major ballot items is a referendum on the casino. Urban One has been advertising heavily in seeking voter support for its proposed gambling establishment. A small but vocal anti-casino opposition has surfaced, but the opponents are being outspent 100 to 1 in a campaign touting the planned casino and resort hotel as future gusher of jobs and tax revenue after it opens in 2024.

In the House of Delegates races, there are contests in virtually every district, with only seven seats uncontested.

In the Richmond area, the hottest race appears to be in the 68th District in the

western part of the city where incumbent Dawn M. Adams is seeking re-election against Republican challenger Mark L. Earley Jr., son of the former attorney general who lost the governor’s race in 2001 to current U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner.

Most others in the area are facing longshot challengers. In the 69th District, Democratic incumbent Betsy B. Carr is facing little known Republican Sheila Furey. In the 70th House District, another veteran Democratic incumbent, Delores L. McQuinn, is facing an independent, David Vaught.

In the 71st House District, incumbent Democratic Delegate Jeffrey M. Bourne is being challenged by Republican newcomer Nancye A. Hunter.

The chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Delegate Lamont Bagby, is facing a challenge from lightly regarded Republican James L. “Jimmy” Brooks in the 74th House District, while incumbent Democrat Schuyler T. VanValkenburg is facing a challenge from Republican Chris- topher T. Holmes in the 72nd District.

Incumbent Democrat Delegate Rodney Willett is facing one of the tougher chal- lenges in his rematch with Republican Mary Margaret Kastelberg in the 73rd District.

In the Petersburg area, incumbent Democrat Delegate Lashrecse Aird is seeking to keep her seat against a challenge from Republican challenger Kim Taylor in the 63rd House District.

In races for the city’s constitutional offices, Sheriff Antionette V. Irving is seeking a fresh term against a longshot Republican challenger, Michael R. Dickinson, while incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette W. McEachin is unchallenged.

Incumbent Richmond Treasurer Nichole Richardson Armstead is facing a challenge from former City Councilwoman L. Shirley Harvey.