Well, that was quick. It took all of 34 hours into the new year for Election 2019 to take an interesting turn.
Firebrand state Sen. Dick Black, widely known for his fervent opposition to abortion rights and LGBTQ equality and his support of brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, announced Wednesday he would be retiring from his 13th District seat.
Observers suspected Black would have a taxing re-election ride, but you have to imagine the Dems would rather stare down a fresh face than the two-term incumbent and Black political machine.
Whether the conservative stalwart and Purple Heart recipient stayed in the race or hung 'em up, the 13th District was and is bound to be one of the tightest, most-expensive contests in the commonwealth, and it'll be among the most intriguing local races to keep an eye on in this whirlwind of a political year in Loudoun.
Voters across the county have more than 30 local races before them this year – 11 General Assembly seats, nine Board of Supervisor seats, nine School Board seats and four of the five constitutional officers.
It'll be a wild one for us here at your local newsroom, but here are four races that have our immediate attention at the start of 2019.
Senate 13th District
Black's brand of conservatism is no doubt going out of style in his northern Virginia district, but he still had a shot at defeating whomever the Democrats put up.
With Black's retirement, the front-runner is now state Del. John Bell, an Air Force veteran who has already won two races in what has been a swing House district since the 2010 redistricting. Bell has challengers for the nomination, but given his name recognition and a line of high-profile party supporters, the 13th seat is his to lose.
The most alluring question is who will step in and seek the GOP nod. Ambitious young county supervisor Ron Meyer, who flirted with the idea of running for the seat in 2014, is an obvious suspect. As anyone who pays attention to Loudoun politics knows, it's unlikely Meyer will be content hanging around the Board of Supervisors' chamber for long.
Additionally, the rumors have long been flying that former School Board member Eric DeKenipp is weighing a bid – although that doesn't compute with his more family time reasoning for stepping away from the School Board.
There's a band of current Republican office-holders in the 13th Senate District, including Del. Dave LaRock (33rd), county Vice Chairman Ralph Buona and supervisors Matt Letourneau, Tony Buffington and Geary Higgins, so there could be some entertaining intraparty politicking in the months ahead.
Dick Black (R ) 52.4 percent; 25,898 votes
Jill McCabe (D) 47.6 percent; 23,544 votes
Board of Supervisors Chair
If the 2018 developments are indicators, the race for the chairman's post could be a fast-paced, potentially chaotic cage match.
Energetic incumbent Chairwoman Phyllis Randall, a Democrat, is looking to secure a second term, but it will be a more difficult race than 2015 if Republicans can rally and unite around a single candidate – something that didn't happen last cycle following the Scott York-Shawn Williams-Charlie King kerfuffle.
It's not breaking news that the county is more blue now than it was in 2015, and Randall is well-liked by the Democratic base and moderates, so she's the smart bet for re-election.
But while she may be the smart bet, she's far from a sure bet, especially if former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck throws his hat in the ring, something many party insiders are banking on.
Two Republicans, Treasurer Roger Zurn and School Board member Jill Turgeon, were expecting to campaign for chairman in 2019 but have reconsidered and bowed out.
We anticipate a Randall-Whitbeck match-up being a loud, in-your-face contest featuring two passionate, ambitious politicians who aren't backing down from a fight at this stage in their careers. Cue the Michael Jackson popcorn GIF.
Phyllis Randall (D) 37.4 percent; 24,613 votes
Scott York (I) 30.2 percent; 19,891 votes
Charlie King (R) 29.1 percent; 19,218 votes
Tom Bellanca (I) 3 percent; 1,973 votes
Board of Supervisors Algonkian District
The Algonkian District in Sterling and Lowe's Island can expect to see plenty of political signage and dueling over the summer and into fall. Two-term incumbent Suzanne Volpe (R) is matching up against Juli Briskman, the local activist best known for flipping off President Donald Trump's motorcade as it was leaving his Trump National Golf Course in Sterling two summers ago.
Volpe has long been one of the most prolific and active Loudoun GOP cheerleaders, frequently stumping for candidates like Ken Cuccinelli, Mitt Romney and Barbara Comstock over the years.
Briskman's finger, meanwhile, and her embrace of the spotlight have awarded her the opportunity to raise a considerable amount of money.
Demographically, the Algonkian District should probably belong to the Democrats in 2019, but prognostication is tricky in low-turnout, off-year elections.
Look for the Republicans to paint Briskman as an extremist with no interest in governing and Democrats to underscore Volpe's cushy relationship with the development and building community.
Suzanne Volpe (R ) 52.2 percent; 4,119 votes
Andrew Resnick (D) 47.7 percent; 3,765 votes
House of Delegates 10th District
The blue wave in Virginia's 2017 General Assembly elections wasn't a complete stunner given President Trump's unpopularity in the commonwealth. But make no mistake: then-Del. Randy Minchew's loss to newcomer Wendy Gooditis (D) was among the most shocking results of the night.
We suspect Minchew, a longtime Loudoun Republican and well-connected land use attorney, blames his loss on the anti-Trump backlash – something that's hard to dispute. Perhaps he's correct in presuming that sentiment won't be so strong three years on from Trump's election.
With the pace of Washington's politics in the Trump area – and Loudoun's proximity to the District – who knows how the Trump factor will play come November, but we wholly expect to see Minchew launch a campaign to reclaim his seat.
If Gooditis can defeat Minchew a second time, that's a huge indicator of just how blue Loudoun and on west has become.
Wendy Gooditis (D) 51.9 percent; 15,161 votes
Randy Minchew (R) 48 percent; 14,025 votes