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Virginia Wesleyan University professor weighs in on Virginia's 7th District Senate race

Democrat Aaron Rouse is facing off against Republican Kevin Adams for the seat.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Democratic Virginia Beach Councilman Aaron Rouse and Republican Navy veteran Kevin Adams are vying for Virginia’s 7th Senate District seat in a special election. There are a lot of big issues on the table, including abortion.

Although Democrats will hold a majority in the Senate, regardless of who wins, there is a real concern among voters about how this race could affect policy changes surrounding abortion, according to Virginia Wesleyan University Political Science Associate Professor Dr. Leslie Caughell.

“One of the things that is of interest in this particular race is one of the Democrats in the Democratic coalition that’s currently holding the majority is a pro-life Democrat," she said. “There’s a real question about a policy change that might be affected by this race being the possibility of being an abortion ban or abortion restrictions that are more stringent.”

Dr. Caughell explained if Adams wins this seat, Democrats will only hold a slim majority in the Senate 21 to 19. This could be problematic for Democrats' efforts to protect abortion rights because Democratic Sen. Joe Morrissey has indicated he’s pro-life. 

So if he votes with Republicans on abortion restrictions, that would leave the senate in a 20-20 tie with Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears as the tie-breaker.

“People should be concerned," Dr. Caughell said. "And they should be concerned, in part, because it’s very clear right now the Virginia governor would have some interest in moving forward with legislation that is more restrictive.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has already called on Republican lawmakers to introduce legislation on abortion when the General Assembly returns. His spokesperson said he will seek a 15-week abortion ban.

“There is a very, very, very real possibility if you have all the stars line up in a way that makes it a possibility for the governor to move on that, then, in fact, he’s eager to move," Dr. Caughell said.

Who is likely to win the election?

The special election will take place on Jan. 10, but Tuesday, Jan. 3 is the last day to register to vote.

Dr. Caughell said the race is anyone's game and the likelihood of either party winning the seat is up in the air.

“I wouldn’t bet money on this district going in one direction or another," Dr. Caughell said. “I think it’s up in the air, in part because it’s a swingy district.”

She noted that both Republicans and Democrats have won this district in the past, at times, in close races.

"Kiggans won by less than a point," she said. "Joe Biden won in the district by 10 points and Youngkin won by under five.”

Dr. Caughell said it is possible Rouse can flip this seat, given voters might be more familiar with him. He’s already involved in local politics and has a past career in the NFL.

“In the sense that name recognition gives you a leg up, he has that over Kevin Adams," she said. "Can Democrats flip it? Absolutely.”

You have until midnight to register to vote online on the Virginia Department of Elections' website.

Early voting ends Saturday, Jan. 7. You can do that at the Virginia Beach or the Norfolk Board of Elections.

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