Election 2017: A reader's guide to Tuesday's big Election Day in Virginia

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Virginia currently has two Democratic senators and a Democratic governor, but in tonight's gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Ed Gillespie is seeking to turn the state red.

However, the office of Lt. Governor, Attorney General, as well as local delegate seats, are also up for grabs.

What are some major races Tuesday night?

Tuesday will be the first regularly scheduled Election Day since President Trump's victory in November 2016. And while off-year elections typically benefit the party that does not control the White House, Republicans are looking to win a big gubernatorial race in Virginia.

On Tuesday night, all eyes will be on the Old Dominion, where Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam is facing off against Republican Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and adviser to George W. Bush.

They're fighting to see who will be the next governor of Virginia, and while the race has always looked like it was Northam's to lose, Gillespie could pull off the upset.

Why is Virginia such a big deal?

From 1968 to 2004, Virginia was rather solidly Republican and always voted for the GOP candidate in GOP years. But the state's changing demographics have since made it much more friendly to Democrats; it voted for President Obama twice and was the only southern state Hillary Clinton won in 2016. In addition, the state's current governor is a Democrat, as are its two U.S. senators.

Gillespie, who was thought of as a traditional Republican conservative, surprised onlookers when he nearly beat Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2014. Now Republicans are bullish on his chances of beating Northam, who has run a lackluster race that has highlighted Democrats' difficulty in reaching rural voters.

Gillespie, meanwhile, has been running not so much as the establishment Republican he has been in the past. He's come out strongly for keeping the state's memorials to the Confederacy, preventing sanctuary cities, and keeping out immigrant gangs.

President Trump offered his thoughts via Twitter on Ed Gillespie and Virginia's gubernatorial race:

While Hillary Clinton took to Twitter as well to voice her support for Northam and Democratic incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring and Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax:

The latest RealClearPolitics polling average gives Northam a tiny 3-point lead, meaning the gubernatorial race could easily go either way on Tuesday.

What about the Lieutenant Governor's race?

Democrat Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, faces off against Republican state Sen. Jill Vogel in a race that -- somewhat unusually -- is decided separately from the top of the ticket.

Most states elect governors and lieutenant governors together as part of the same ticket. Still, in Virginia, this race is likely to match whichever party wins the governor's race.

A Roanoke College Poll released Nov. 3 suggested Virginia voters are evenly split on the race, with each candidate polling at 45%.

"We are the first major statewide election in the nation since the inauguration of the current President," Justin Fairfax told Democratic volunteers in Chesterfield County recently, " the eyes of the world are on us."

Fairfax is framing the election as a fight for economic opportunity and equal rights, and a referendum on the policies of President Donald Trump.

Republican Jill Vogel says it's all about choosing experienced conservative leadership to move Virginia forward.

"I think that this is our time," Vogel told WDBJ7 in a recent interview. "And the decisions we make in this election, this November, will define Virginia for a generation."

Mark Herring and John Adams face off for Attorney General

WDBJ7's Joe Dashiell covered the two candidates for Attorney General, Democratic incumbent Mark Herring and his Republican challenger, John Adams.

Herring touts his work as Attorney General to curb the opioid crisis, fight gang activity and eliminate the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits waiting to be tested.

Adams, a Richmond attorney, has focused on Herring's decision not to defend Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage.

On Herring, Nov. 3:

Mark Herring was preaching to the choir when we caught up with him last weekend at a campaign office near Richmond.

"You know four years ago, I asked you all to come on a journey with me to fight for justice and equality and opportunity for all Virginians," Herring told the volunteers, "and you all took up that challenge and together we made a historic win."

He encouraged the local Democrats who were working the phones and heading out to knock on doors, and he reminded them how close the results were in 2013.

"And so you don't have to win an election by as narrow a margin as I did to know every vote matters," Herring said.

On Adams, Nov. 3

Republican challenger John Adams delivered a similar message in Loudon County as he campaigned alongside Subba Kolla a candidate for the House of Delegates in northern Virginia.

"And you've got to find everybody that you work with. All of your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers," Adams told that gathered for the Saturday morning rally. " You've got to get 'em out to the polls because that's what this is all about."

Adams, a Richmond attorney, has focused on Herring's decision not to defend Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage.

"He has been in the public eye for the last four years, but often it's been for things that Virginians weren't in favor of," Adams told WDBJ7 in an interview. "And so there's been I think a hunger in Virginia for somebody to come in, to be an Attorney General that will put the law of Virginia first and not a personal political agenda, but the law of Virginia. And I've made that commitment."

"The attorney general is the people's lawyer. I'm accountable to Virginians," Herring countered. "They're the ones who elect the Attorney General. The Attorney General should be accountable to them and that's what I've been doing. Out protecting communities, making sure we have safe successful communities all across Virginia, standing up and protecting the rights of all Virginians. That's what an attorney general should be doing."

A Roanoke College Poll released Nov. 3 showed Herring and Adams tied, with each polling at 46 percent.

Democrat and former WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst is looking to unseat Republican Incumbent Joseph Yost as the 12th District delegate

WDBJ7's Justin Ward spent a lot of time covering the two candidates looking to champion the district based in the heart of the New River Valley.

On Yost, Nov. 1

Incumbent Joseph Yost, a Republican, is hoping to win the seat for a fourth term, while Chris Hurst, a Democrat and a former WDBJ7 Anchor, is looking to turn the district blue.

Issues voters thought would be at the forefront, like gun control, aren't playing a central role. This campaign has become anything but predictable.
"I've tried to just keep my head down and plug along and get the job done and continue to working on the issues that are important to me," Yost said.

After six years as a delegate, representing an area he was born and raised, Joseph Yost wants to keep his seat and continue his work.

"I think there's always been a perception that the state line stops at Roanoke or Charlottesville or even farther east and so I want to advocate for the area that I love and provide a voice on issues that are important to this area," Yost said.

The issues he's held strong to through the years like mental health, education, and transportation, are ones that are important to him this election.

On Hurst, Nov. 1

While Yost is focusing on staying in office, his opponent has other plans.

"This is a very important election across the commonwealth and this is a very important race an so we want to make sure for the final few days we're making sure people know when to vote, how to vote, where to vote," Hurst said.

Reoccurring topics like gun control aren't playing a central role in this election, instead, Hurst is pushing for more attention and resources for the New River Valley.

"What matters most to me is that the New River Valley has a louder, stronger voice in Richmond. We've seen tremendous growth happening in the Roanoke Valley, the New River Valley has been doing well but I there is a tremendous amount of potential. This area is primed for growth," Hurst said.

Combined, the two candidates have raised more than a million dollars.

In the eighth district, voters will be deciding between Greg Habeeb and Steve McBride for the house of delegates.

WDBJ7's Christian Heilman spent time covering the two candidates for the eight district seat in the house of delegates, Republican incumbent Greg Habeeb faces Steve McBride, a teacher, and scientist who works at Virginia Tech.

Heilman on the candidates, Nov. 3

“You know, I looked at the general assembly and who is working in the general assembly and I saw a lot of lawyers and I felt like that wasn't really representative of Virginians.”, says McBride

The Democratic candidate says he's running to make sure those groups are represented in Richmond.

“We have to focus on our people,” said McBride.

The Hampton Roads native says his goal is to pare back SOL testing.
He also wants to promote a living wage by pushing education, including vocational school and apprenticeships.

McBride said, “Virginia is a good place for businesses to come. But now we've got to start working on the middle class, making sure it's a good place for workers to be too.”

Greg Habeeb, House of Delegates – 8th District, said, “Over the seven sessions I've been in Richmond, we've really done amazing things.”

Republican Greg Habeeb has been representing the 8th district since 2011.

“We've passed balanced budgets every year with no tax increases,” said Habeeb. “We reformed our transportation funding system to get more money here for our roads, we've totally reformed SOLs and the way we evaluate teachers and schools.”

Heilman also spent time covering the two candidates running for the 17th district seat, Republican incumbent Chris Head and Democratic challenger Djuna Osborne.

Heilman on Head and Osborne

Most people figuratively run for office - but not Djuna Osborne.
She's running door to door campaigning. The Democratic candidate decided to hop into the race after organizing the Roanoke's women's march in January.

“I could see that so many people wanted a voice, wanted representation and I simply had the time and space to do it.”

Osborne says her main priority is education and paying teachers more.

“But we need to make a more competitive wage so that teachers want to come to Roanoke City Schools and Roanoke County Schools,” said Osborne.

She's also talking with voters about her background. She has spent 11 years as a clinical social worker with a focus on community mental health.

“The system is not working well for those people,” said Osborne. “We do not have adequate services, we do not have adequate funding, and we don't really prioritize mental health issues.”

Delegate Chris Head is campaigning on his accomplishments over the last five years. He points to economic development progress, including Deschutes, Eldor, and Virginia Tech Carilion's Research expansion.

Chris Head said, “Those things are going to lead to great economic development, but we're just getting started.”

Head says his next steps in Richmond are building on workforce development and peeling back regulations in the industry, including healthcare.

“That's really the main thing is getting out of people's way,” said Head. “We spend so much money on healthcare and so much of it ends up getting wasted because of the regulatory burdens.”

If he's re-elected, Head says he'll continue to use his experience as a senior care business owner to serve the 17th district.

Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 7 for Virginia's gubernatorial race.

To see what's on your ballot and where to vote, click here.