The State Capitol. Photo by Markus Schmidt.
The State Capitol. Photo by Markus Schmidt.

The Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond houses the archives of many of the state’s most historical figures — George Washington, George Mason and, of course, Lady Luck.

Those of a certain age may remember the Virginia Lottery commercials featuring Lady Luck, a somewhat whimsical mythical figure portrayed by Los Angeles actress Melanie MacQueen. Her character was never intended to be a recurring character, but proved so popular that she stayed in the role for 23 years until her retirement in 2013 — whereupon much of her memorabilia (wand, tiara, the works) was donated to the museum. Because, you know, history isn’t just all old guys in powdered wigs.

Lady Luck might be gone but some of her sparkly fairy dust must have gotten sprinkled on a few Virginia politicians — because some have gotten very lucky indeed. Here are a few:

Former Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg

Lashrecse Aird.
Former Del. Lashrecse Aird

Aird was a rising Democratic star when she was upset by Kim Taylor amid a Republican surge in 2021. Taylor’s win was a classic case of the “coattail” effect of Glenn Youngkin’s win. Two years later, though, Aird found an opportunity. She was drawn into the same state Senate district as the controversial state Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond. (If you need an explanation for just why Morrissey is controversial, I suggest you try The Google.) Aird challenged him and went on to a landslide win with 70% of the vote. She faces a Republican opponent this fall — Eric Ditri — but he is lightly funded and she has the advantage of a district that tilts 56% Democratic. Barring something completely unexpected, Aird will be back in the General Assembly, this time as a rising star in the state Senate — and with a safer district. 

Jed Arnold, R-Smyth County

Jed Arnold. Courtesy of the Arnold campaign.
Jed Arnold

Make that soon to be Del.-elect Jed Arnold. Arnold has not only gotten a free ride into the General Assembly, he’ll find himself more than a third of the way up the seniority list come January. Here’s how: In April, Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Smyth County, announced he would not seek reelection. Within minutes, his legislative aide, Arnold, announced he would run. At that point just five days remained before the filing deadline to seek the Republican nomination, and in that strongly Republican district, the Republican nomination was all that mattered. There were multiple rumors of multiple candidates but in the end, no one else filed — so Arnold won the nomination by default. Then the deadline to file for the general election passed, and no Democrat or independent entered, so Arnold was guaranteed a seat in Richmond. 

Then he got luckier. A judgeship opened up, and Campbell was named to the bench. That meant resigning his legislative seat, which triggered a special election to fill the remainder of his term. Not surprisingly, Republicans made Arnold their nominee, and Democrats once again failed to field a candidate. That means Arnold will win the special election – being held today – by default. Furthermore, we’re seeing an unprecedented wave of turnover this year. Because of retirements and primary defeats and whatnot, at least 32 delegates in the 100-member House will be new. If there are some more defeats this fall, that number could go higher. By getting elected early, Arnold will be ahead of all of them in seniority. That edge will grow more important as the years go by and he moves further up the legislative ladder.

Del. Jason Ballard, R-Giles County

Del. Jason Ballard. Photo by Markus Schmidt.
Del. Jason Ballard

The new legislative lines are the first ones that weren’t drawn by the majority party; they were drawn by two court-appointed mapmakers who ignored where legislators lived and set out to draw more geographically logical districts. Those new lines were decidedly inconvenient to some incumbents. State Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax County, wound up in a district where 93% of the voters were new to him — which helps explain why he didn’t win his primary. Ballard, though, got very lucky.

He was elected in 2021 in a New River Valley district that had swung back and forth between Republicans (Joseph Yost) and Democrats (Chris Hurst). No legislator lasted very long in that district. The mapmakers, though, drew a map that put Ballard’s home in Giles County in a district that’s 66% Republican. He had to put up with a challenger for the Republican nomination but Ballard easily brushed that opponent aside and now is unopposed for reelection. He’s gone from one of the most vulnerable seats in the legislature to one of the safest. I suspect some legislators on both sides of the aisle are very jealous.

Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt County

Del. Chris Head

Head’s case indicates how quickly fortunes can change, something Lady Luck taught us decades ago. Head was initially unlucky: Mapmakers put him in the same House district as Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt County, a logical enough pairing but something that Republicans would surely have avoided if they’d had their way. However, Head also wound up in a state Senate district with no incumbent. He announced for that seat early on. This was a valuable nomination — a Republican nomination in a strongly Republican district with no incumbent. When the same thing happened in a seat in the northern Shenandoah Valley, no fewer than eight candidates ran. Here, it was just Head and he won the nomination by default. 

Senate District 3

How’d he get so lucky? I’m sure hard work played a part — Head was out campaigning early and effectively cleared the field. Sometimes you make your own luck. One other candidate entered, and then dropped out, before there was even time to report his candidacy. Another factor was that state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County, said he might move into this district. Hanger had wound up on the unlucky side of redistricting, winding up paired with fellow Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain of Rockingham County. Hanger’s possible move probably wound up freezing other possible contenders, particularly from the northern part of the district where Head was least-known. Still, this is a big district, sprawling more than 111 miles from Waynesboro to Craig County, and I’m surprised that no one else entered. He ended up winning the nomination by default. He still has to win the general election over Democrat Jade Harris, but this is a 68% Republican district. 

State Sen. Dave Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County

State Sen. David Suetterlein

Mapmakers drew him from a strongly Republican district into a competitive one. That doesn’t sound too lucky until you consider this: Democrats had wanted a state Senate district that united Democratic-voting Roanoke with Democratic-voting Blacksburg. The mapmakers, though, drew Democratic-voting Roanoke in with Republican-voting Christiansburg on the geographically logical reasoning that Christiansburg is closer. The result: Senate District 4 is still competitive, but it’s on the edge — these precincts voted 54.7% Republican in the 2021 governor’s race. If the Democratic proposal had been adopted, and Blacksburg were part of this district, it would be a lot more competitive. Suetterlein will face a worthy opponent in Democrat Trish White-Boyd, a popular member of the Roanoke City Council, but he’s lucky that the mapmakers drew in Christiansburg and not Blacksburg.

Senate District 4. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.
Senate District 4. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.

(Those Democratic voters in Blacksburg, meanwhile, are decidedly unlucky, because they were drawn into a Senate district that’s one of the most Republican in the state. The precincts that are now part of Senate District 5 voted 71% Republican in 2021. In a column earlier this summer, I looked at districts where a concentration of members from one party are “trapped” in a district dominated by another. This is one of those.)

There are no doubt other legislators who have gotten lucky in one way or another. State Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg County, got lucky when a Democratic party activist, who was gravely ill and later died, mistakenly sent candidate Trudy Berry’s paperwork to the wrong address. The State Board of Elections later declined to act on Berry’s appeal. Ruff, though, has a strongly Republican district; he wouldn’t have been endangered if Berry had made the ballot. (She’s now running as a write-in.) Same for Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, who is running unopposed because local Democrats declined to nominate a candidate who wanted to run, Jasmine Lipscomb. In some ways, every legislator who has wound up in a district whose politics are lopsided to their party’s advantage is lucky. Luck, though, comes in varying degrees. By my reckoning, these are the five luckiest legislative candidates in the state this year. 

Yancey is editor of Cardinal News. His opinions are his own. You can reach him at