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Democrats in Virginia are heading to the polls tomorrow to select a candidate for lieutenant governor, and the stakes are high.
Control of the state Senate is on the line because the body is evenly split: 20 Democrats, 20 Republicans. That means that the next lieutenant governor could be the tie-breaker on a lot of votes to come, ultimately deciding which party has control. University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth says the Republican candidate, E.W. Jackson, is viewed by many as a weak candidate who would have a very hard time winning a statewide race.
"Certainly within Northern Virginia, there are gong to be a significant number of Democrats who say here's the chance to move in a very liberal direction," he says.
That could mean former chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra benefits from the dynamics of the race, even though his opponent in the Democratic primary, state Senator Ralph Northam, has a legislative record and institutional support.
"Whether they will be enough to move the party's nomination struggle away from an established state senator is going to depend on the turnout on primary election night," says Farnsworth.
Running for lieutenant governor is seen as a stepping stone, so whichever candidate emerges as the winner Tuesday night will be viewed as a likely candidate for governor in 2017.