Originally in the Loudoun Times

Many Loudouners may not be aware, but for Virginia politicos, it's no secret: The state Senate's 13th District, located predominately in Loudoun, is the hottest race of the state's 2015 cycle.

State Sen. Dick Black (R), a former Marine and Pentagon lawyer, is seeking re-election in the 13th against Democratic newcomer Jill McCabe, a doctor and the medical director of Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Pediatric Emergency Department. 

The Black-vs-McCabe match-up has weighty ramifications for public policy in the state and Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's one and only term. Republicans currently have a one-seat advantage in the upper chamber, with 21 members to Democrats' 19. Thus, if Democrats hold on to their current seats and pick up one, forming a 20-20 Senate, they essentially hold the majority thanks to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam's (D) tie-breaking vote.

The 13th District, spanning western Loudoun south through Leesburg, into parts of Ashburn and down to Prince William, is ground zero for Democrats' hopeful pick-up.

With four months to go before the election, Black has been the subject of repeated robo-calls and email blasts from the Democratic Party of Virginia and interest groups.

The first-term senator's conservative views – he's vocally pro-life, opposes same-sex marriage and has fought vigorously against expanding Medicaid in Virginia – have been injected into the spotlight by pro-choice, female-driven organizations, who says he's “outside the mainstream” for a diverse Northern Virginia electorate.

EMILY's List, a nationally influential group focused on electing women in office, has shown steady interest in the race, announcing in late June that Black is the first state-level candidate the organization has targeted. The group unsurprisingly followed up by officially endorsing McCabe.

The Democratic candidate said she welcomes EMILY's List support because “they are dedicated supporters of the rights of women and children.”

“With their support, I will continue to fight for good jobs here in the community, transportation investments and the world-class schools our children deserve," she said. 

McCabe also has the support of abortion rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

Sen. Black has not responded to numerous attempts in recent weeks to talk about his contest. 

A former member of the House of Delegates, Black has focused his campaign on rallying his base and knocking on doors, while also touting key legislation from this year's General Assembly session.

The Republican helped craft legislation requiring Virginia’s colleges to report sexual assaults to law enforcement as opposed to the school handling it internally. Black also patroned legislation – now law – allowing for more privacy for home-school students.

Black's campaign is comfortably ahead in the financial game, holding more than $240,000 in his campaign coffers at the end of May to McCabe's $137,000. Democrats point out that McCabe only entered the race this year and showed strong in the first five months of the year, taking in more than $160,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Black won the 2011 election against Democrat Shawn Mitchell by more than 14 percent of the vote. In 2014, Republican Ed Gillespie bested Sen. Mark Warner in the 13th District 53 percent to 44 percent (although Warner won the contest overall), and the GOP's Ken Cuccinelli defeated now Gov. Terry McAuliffe 50 percent to 45 percent.

Despite the apparent uphill climb -- or perhaps because of it -- Democrats continue to up the rhetoric.“Dick Black's re-election bid is quickly turning into a dumpster fire,” the Democratic Party noted in a June 7 email. “For two weeks, he's ignored voter questions about his previous support for the Confederate Flag, but that hasn't stopped him from reminding voters about his other offensive positions on everything from women's health, LGBT rights and spousal rape.”

The Confederate flag remark was in reference to Black's 2003 legislation aimed at removing “the prohibition on display of the organization's logo on Sons of Confederate Veterans special license plates.” Black eventually withdrew his bill.

A spokeswoman for Black's campaign, his daughter, Michelle Staton, pointed out the senator has received the support of the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

"Sen. Black has voted on over 10,000 issues that make his positions pretty clear," Staton said. "Yet, no one asks Jill McCabe any serious questions so she can continue along with vague statements of 'common sense' and good education and good transportation."

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