Why are Republicans are favored? They have more paths to reclaiming control the state Senate and Democrats are on defense in many places. -- In the 12 GOP districts where Democrats fielded no challengers, one seat could still be problematic for Republicans: In Roanoke, Republican state Sen. Ralph Smith faces former state Sen. Brandon Bell, a Republican-turned-independent who lost a 2007 GOP primary to Smith by 75 votes. Warner and other prominent Democrats have come in to help Bell. Former Republican Rep. Tom Davis said November 4 on WTOP radio that this is "a race that's under the radar for most people," and that at least one poll shows Bell "is way up" over Smith. -- The freshman Barker is running against Republican Miller Baker in a Northern Virginia district stretching from eastern Prince William County though Fairfax County and into the City of Alexandria. This seat is among the most expensive as the state Democrats have dumped more than $700,000 into the seat. Republican groups, meanwhile, countered with close to $450,000. The addition of the Alexandria precincts should give Barker a slight edge in a base-turnout battle in what should be a low-turnout year. McDonnell said he expects between 25 and 35 percent of the electorate to show up, depending on the district. -- Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. John Miller is in for another tough fight this year after winning by a scant 731 votes in 2007 in his Hampton Roads-based district. He has a narrow fundraising advantage over Republican restaurateur Mickey Chohany in a race set to top $2 million in total fundraising. -- Three Democrats that are vulnerable due the ideological tilt of their districts are state Sens. Edd Houck, Phil Puckett and Roscoe Reynolds. Reynolds in particular, is at serious risk of losing. -- Along with Barker, there are four other Northern Virginia Democratic incumbents to watch. If any of these Democrats lose, it could be a long night for the Democrats. State Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Colgan's district in Prince William County shrank significantly and has a minority-majority population. So does state Sen. Toddy Puller's adjacent district, which includes parts of Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties. Additionally, Democratic state Sens. Mark Herring (D) in Loudoun County and Dave Marsden in Fairfax County are doing well financially but could drop in a wave election. -- As for the newly created open seats, Louisa Commonwealth Attorney Tom Garrett, a Republican has the upper-hand in the 22nd district over Democratic businessman Bert Dodson, though the Democrat told the Goochland Gazette, "I'm still confident that we can win. About 44 percent of the registered voters in the district are in the Lynchburg area, and I have great name recognition here." In the 13th, former Republican Del. Dick Black is the favorite despite charges of carpet-bagging and a history of holding controversial positions on social issues (he once handed out plastic fetus dolls to reporters in the Richmond capitol to make a point about abortion).
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