Virginia is serving as a test case for both parties’ political messaging ahead of next year’s elections as abortion and crime take center stage in the state’s legislative races, reports The Hill. Democratic state House and Senate candidates have zeroed in on abortion as a key messaging tactic, painting their Republican opponents as extreme Republicans have hit Democrats for being too lax on crime. The election comes as both parties navigate a post-Roe v. Wade world that has seen crime become an increasing concern for voters. “It really is the Democratic message vs. the Republican message and seeing which of those is resonating more,” said Abhi Rahman of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Rahman noted that of the 10 most competitive House of Delegates races in Virginia, seven are open seats, while five of the most competitive state Senate seats are open seats.
In July, Virginia House Republicans launched a six-figure ad buy targeting 12 House Democrats, painting them as extreme on crime and taxes. Democrats have sought to capitalize on the party’s successful attacks on Republicans over abortion in the last cycle. Republicans are continuing to zero in on kitchen-table issues, like education, crime, and the economy. On crime, Republicans are seeking to peel away from the support Democrats are trying to win in the suburban enclaves in Northern Virginia, outside of Richmond, and the greater Virginia Beach. “There is an understanding out there that persuadable voters are concerned about inflation and they’re also concerned about crime,” said Garren Shipley, spokesman for House of Delegates speaker Todd Gilbert. “The closer you get to an urban area, the more concern about crime pops up.” Political analyst Bob Holsworth noted that many of the Republican attacks on crime in Northern Virginia are linked to the election of progressive prosecutors. “The crime issue is one which is really an attack on the progressive prosecutors, which they’re hoping will rub off on the Democrats,” he said. Democrats say they also are focused on running on kitchen table issues, including public safety. “Voters are really concerned about what happens at their kitchen tables,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, a Democrat. “Yes, they’re concerned about crime. They’re concerned about what’s going on at the federal level, but they’re more concerned about what’s going on in my neighborhood, what’s going on in my community.”