Speaker of the House of Delegates, Bill Howell, will face an opponent for the 28th District seat. Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman George Schwartz announced that he will run for the Virginia House of Delegates. Schwartz said:
"My term as supervisor is coming to a close. I think I've accomplished what I set out to do. I have every confidence that the board will continue on the track it is presently on next year, and the time is right to take on this next challenge."
As speaker, Bill Howell hasn't been quite the Darth Vader that his predecessor was, but sometimes it is close. At any rate, on the key partisan issues, House Republicans usually march in carefully controlled lockstep to Howell's marching orders. Signs of a crack - some GOP delegates (along with some tobacco Democrats) watered down the restaurant smoking ban agreed to by Governor Kaine and Speaker Howell.
There will be an open seat 52nd District. Jeff Frederick who wears three hats - delegate, Virginia GOP chair, and dunce - announced he won't seek reelection. He's pushing his wife, Amy, to run for the seat. Many observers think this Prince William district, which is trending Democratic and embarrassed by Frederick's strange behaviors, will flip this year.
Here, in the most Republican area of the commonwealth, the central Shenandoah Valley, it looks like Republicans will face challenges in most districts.
In the 24th District, Jeff Price has been on the campaign trail for months and appears to be the likely nominee to take on Ben Cline. Price is a businessman and family man whose wife is a school teacher. From what I can tell, Price wasn't too political in the past, at least not in a partisan way. But, he became frustrated with the extreme Republican dogma, gridlock in the House of Delegates, and with the inept representation provided by Cline. He's run an energetic and creative campaign for the past six months meeting with small groups in Amherst, Rockbridge, and Augusta.
In the 26th District that comprises Harrisonburg and part of Rockingham, Gene Hart is taking on Matt Lohr. Like Cline, Lohr is a party line type guy. Hart calls for "Leadership That Works" which seems to mean ending partisanship and seeking practical solutions. Hart is an attorney with a solo practice in Harrisonburg and his wife is a special education teacher.
In the 25th District, Steve Landes will certainly face an opponent - two Democrats are apparently seeking the nomination which will be decided at the June 9 primary when the statewide candidates will be chosen. James Noel began gathering signatures on petitions a month or so ago and has visited local committees. More recently, Dr. Greg Marrow has expressed interest in running; he's a laser eye surgeon and a cofounder of Seven Generations. The 25th includes Waynesboro and the NE part of Augusta, eastern Rockingam, and a few western Albemarle precincts. Noel is from Augusta; Marrow from Rockingham.
The 20th District includes Staunton, Highland, parts of Augusta and Rockingham, including Bridgewater and Massanetta Springs. At this point, the very partisan incumbent, Chris Saxman, is unopposed as no Democrat has announced intentions to run. Not too surprising since the 20th is a gerrymandered district with solid Republican leanings in the rural areas. But, Democrats point to Staunton becoming increasingly blue and inroads in other areas as well. Some local party activists are hopeful that Bruce Elder might jump into the race. It sounds enticing, but Elder seems to be enjoying his influential role on Staunton City Council. While other names have surfaced and one individual seems to be actively weighting the pros/cons, there haven't been any announcements. Yet!
Similar Democratic activity can be found around the state and there is a good chance many Republican delegates will face real opposition. All of which bodes well for the Democrats picking up the half dozen seats necessary to control the House of Delegates.