NORFOLK -- It's a contest that could help determine which party ends up controlling a currently evenly-divided Virginia State Senate. Voters in Virginia's 6th District, which includes all of the Eastern Shore, Matthews County and part of the city of Norfolk, go to the polls Tuesday for a special election to replace Ralph Northam, who was elected Lieutenant Governor in November.
The contestants in this race are Democrat Lynwood Lewis, a 52-year-old lawyer from Accomack County, and Republican Wayne Coleman of Norfolk, a 64-year-old maritime executive. This is Coleman's first bid for elected office. Lewis has served in the House of Delegates for ten years.
The candidates are keeping a close eye on the weather, with forecasts calling for record-low temperatures. In a race in which the two men have agreed on little, they disagreed today on what the impact of the weather could be on voter turnout.
Lewis, who appeared on WHRV-FM's "Hear Say with Cathy Lewis," played down the weather factor.
"I've always been a little suspicious of people who say the weather will keep folks out," he said. "I think most people are going to go vote. A little inconvenience because of the weather? At least it's not pouring down rain. A little chilly, but I think people will do their civic duty to vote because it's an important election."
Coleman, who spent the day at his headquarters calling voters directly, did express concern about the forecast.
"This weather is going to be a tremendous challenge for folks, " he said. "It's going to really test their resolve to get out and vote for the candidate, to make sure their voice is heard to be the next state senator that they want in the state senate there."
If Coleman wins, the Republican party will retain outright control of the Senate. But since the chamber is currently tied 20-20, and because incoming Lieutenant governor Northam is a Democrat, he would represent the tie-breaking vote on most legislative matters.
If Lewis wins, the Commonwealth will have to wait until January 21 to learn which party carries the day. That's the day of the special election in the 33rd District, a seat vacated by Democrat Mark Herring, who is being sworn in Saturday as Attorney General.
Polls open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m.