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House of Delegates Races Yield Few True Challenges - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

House of Delegates Races Yield Few True Challenges

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You might notice something missing on the ballot this November: challengers, running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Almost all delegate seats in the NBC29 viewing area will go uncontested, and political analysts say that's no coincidence.

Depending on who you ask, you'll get different answers about why. Some say it's too difficult to unseat a popular incumbent, or making just $18,000 a year as a part-time lawmaker isn't an attractive idea. But political analysts say the issue goes deeper.

Delegate Rob Bell (R) 58th District isn't worried about losing his seat in November - because he won't. He's one of 81 incumbent delegates analysts say will win their seats without much contest. But thinking back to his first campaign in 2001, it hasn't always been this easy.

"It was a competitive seat, so people saw it as one of the races that could go either way," Bell said.

Bell has faced competition over the years, but he's held the seat ever since.

"I hope that it means people are satisfied with the job that I'm doing," he said.

University of Virginia political analyst Geoff Skelley says there are a few reasons why people like Bell are running unopposed in 2013. First, beating an incumbent is hard. Also, the work itself can be difficult.

"It's very hard, I think, to be both a legislator and have another job. And they only get paid $18,000 a year," Skelley said.

But Skelley says there's another, more political reason for the trend. "If districts are overwhelmingly Democratic or overwhelmingly Republican, you generally speaking only have one choice," Skelley said.

The one choice in the Charlottesville area will once again be House Minority Leader David Toscano (D) 57th District. But Toscano says he'd prefer not to run unopposed.

"That doesn't bode well for a democratic process, and it is one reason why we should have more opposition, not less," Toscano said.

Toscano blames Republicans, who controlled redistricting in 2011, for the relatively few competitive races this year. To promote more district diversity, he and others want a non-partisan commission in charge of redistricting. But that proposal failed in the House of Delegates this year, and analysts say that's unlikely to change any time soon.

"It's very difficult to convince legislators that they should basically limit themselves," Skelley said.

After this year's election, Skelley says Republicans will undoubtedly retain control of the House of Delegates. He says Democrats could pick up a few seats depending on how the candidates on the top of the ticket fare, but that's far fewer than the 19 needed for Democrats to retake the majority.

You might notice something missing on the ballot this November: challengers, running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Almost all delegate seats in the NBC29 viewing area will go uncontested, and political analysts say that's no coincidence. 

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