By Jenny Hellwig
Republicans swept Rockbridge County’s state House and Senate races Tuesday in the first election to use new district maps.
But statewide, Democrats managed to hold onto the Senate and flipped the House.
In state Senate District 3, Republican Del. Christopher Head defeated Democratic challenger Jade Harris by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent, with 91 out of 102 precincts reporting.
“I look forward to getting to work on day one defending our traditional, conservative values in Richmond,” Head said in a statement.
Harris said that last night’s election might have been a loss for the 3rd district, but it represented a victory for all of Virginia.
“We were part of a team that secured the Senate, flipped the House, and emphatically rejected our governor’s self-serving, anti-choice agenda,” she said in a statement.
In the state House, Republican incumbent Del. Ellen Campbell defeated Democrat Randall Wolf 61 percent to 39 percent, with 28 out of 31 precincts reporting in District 36.
Wolf said that he called and congratulated Campbell on the win, and the two agreed to find issues where they might be able to work together.
“I’m disappointed in the overall turnout and feel I underperformed in Waynesboro and Augusta County,” Wolf said in an email. “Democrats have work to do in the Valley.”
Campbell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In state House District 37, Republican incumbent Del. Terry Austin defeated Democrat Stephanie Clark 69 percent to 31 percent with 48 out of 55 precincts reporting.
Austin and Clark did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The state’s new maps were drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court. Rockbridge County is now part of newly-created state Senate District 3 instead of District 25. Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds was elected to represent District 11, so he will no longer represent local voters.
Head, who served as a delegate for 12 years, will be a newcomer to the state Senate. There were no incumbents in this race because state Sen. Emmett Hanger, who represented the 24th district for 27 years, opted to retire rather than move districts.
This is part of a trend of increased turnover due to redistricting. Several legislators chose to retire because their districts drastically changed, according to J. Miles Coleman, associate editor for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Another result of redistricting is that Rockbridge County was split between two state House districts.
Part of the county is in the new state House District 36, which will be represented by Campbell, who is a familiar name for many Rockbridge residents.
She currently represents the county after she won a special election earlier this year to replace her late husband, Ronnie Campbell, who served in the House of Delegates since 2018.
But most of the county will actually be in the new 37th District, which will be represented by Austin. Since 2014, he has represented the 19th district, which did not include Rockbridge County.
On Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats battled over all 140 seats in the Virginia General Assembly and for control of both houses.
Late Tuesday night, Democrats took control of the Virginia General Assembly.
As of 12 p.m. Wednesday, Democrats have 21 state Senate seats and Republicans have 18 seats, with one race too close to call, according to the AP.
In the state House, Democrats have 51 seats and Republicans have 47 seats with two races too close to call.
“I look forward to getting to work on day one defending our traditional, conservative values in Richmond,” Del. Christopher Head said.
Millions were spent on the General Assembly races for this election, Coleman said, in which Democrats were essentially playing on defense.
Republicans had hoped to secure a government trifecta, in which they could have passed legislation on the hotly-contested issue of abortion.
All three Republican legislators elected to represent Rockbridge County Tuesday support pro-life legislation. Head and Campbell both pledged support for the 15-week ban proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Democrats have succeeded in their main goal: to ensure Republicans don’t gain total control in Virginia. But they will still have to contend with Youngkin’s veto power.