RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Political observers say this fall's elections for Virginia's Republican-controlled House of Delegates could be an early referendum on President Donald Trump's first year in office and a bellwether for the 2018 midterms.

They also will be a test of whether Republicans can hang on in increasingly diverse, populous and liberal-leaning northern Virginia.

A surge of Democratic candidates unlike the party has seen in years is going up against Republican incumbents, even in deeply red pockets of the state. But many of the most hotly contested races are in Washington's growing suburbs, where changing demographics and Republican retirements have put many seats in play.

Republicans say they're confident in the strong community connections and records of their candidates. The party also a significant fundraising lead.